This twist on the commonly held adage rings true. Life is a culmination of circumstance, experience and choice. Without toil, how do we appreciate reward? Without mistakes, how do we improve? And without will, how do we stand up to the future when the past has made numerous attempts to sweep us from our feet?
“You’ve got to put yourself in a position for something to happen!”
For fashion designer, Tileasha Henry-Bailey, 2018 was the year to take risks. By adopting the ‘proper preparation prevents poor performance’ ethos for the past decade, she affirms she is now “in a space and place where my creativity has taken me to a level where I have the confidence to be published.” The result of her determination: 349AM. But we’ll get to that.
Her steady ascent into the corporate world of fashion begun on a part-time basis for Sports Direct whilst studying Drama at Liverpool John Moores University. From there, she was a Christmas temp for Firetrap, before securing a permanent position, ultimately being promoted to a supervisory role within a year of joining the company. Due to the tiresome nature of the commute, she transferred to the brand’s Mancunian House of Fraser concession (where she stayed for over a year), until she moved onto the Trafford Centre branch (based in Selfridges). Although she became manager, her time with the brand ultimately came to an end with Mike Ashley’s acquisition of Firetrap as stores and concessions began closing on a nationwide basis.
Nothing happens overnight.
Due to her resilience, all was not lost. During her time she had: “built a great relationship with managers of Selfridges who saw my passion for fashion”. Her diligence was rewarded when she was selected as Hugo Boss’s brand-specialist. An elevation which was graciously accepted. By now, her opinions held weight. Now, she had the ability to influence decisions regarding styles/products held in stores. Drifting into a reverie, she recollects the recognition received when, at her behest, the Levis 510’s were stocked for the Spring/Summer season becoming the most purchased style nationwide online and in stores. She understood her demographic.
Her tenure at Selfridges was adorned with multiple promotions – a testament to her “passionate” disposition towards fashion. After her stint with Hugo Boss, she was assigned Levis and True Religion’s denim department where she worked alongside key accountants. Next, she was again a brand-specialist, this time focusing on street-wear brands such as; Obey, Boy London, Champion, Billionaire Boys Club and Black Scale to name a few. Her progressive success brought her to men’s body wear where she was entrusted with reversing the mounting deficit. Working with Calvin Klein, Bjorn Borg, Hugo Boss and Ralph Lauren in an already under-performing department may deter one to request alternative brands. But not ‘Tilly’. By doing ‘out of hours’ reconnaissance, she became cognisant of the fact Moschino was performing well elsewhere. They were stocked, and after a few months, sales increased.
Having worked from high street to department stores, from street-wear to designer/luxury brands, she successfully segued the different facets of fashion. She understood public perception. More importantly, she gained an understanding on the machinations that propel trends which formulate guidelines to consumer habits.
Research into the area you want to go into is important.
Although this vocational route provided well-deserved accolades, something was missing. Referencing 349AM she states: “As much as I’ve always wanted a brand, I didn’t know where to start. I’ve wanted to do this for many many years, but I never spoke it into existence – I’ve been trying to find a way to make it work”.
Here’s how her universe aligned. Within reason.
A few years ago on a trip to Milan (you’re already intrigued), she visited the Armani book store. Browsing aimlessly, she happened across the spine of a book sticking out haphazardly amidst an otherwise symmetry of precision. Being the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’, she was drawn to approach. As she pulled it from the shelf, the adjacent book fell to the floor. But she only had eyes for what was within her grasp. Elisabetta Kuky Drudi’s – ‘Fashion Details‘. In her own words: “this is what I’ve been looking for!”. A resource book that depicted information relating to accurate technical drawings. Amazed by her discovery, she nonchalantly retrieved the forgotten text while her focus remained. As she was about to insert it back to its original space, she averted her gaze. Tamar Daniel’s – ‘The PANTONE Fashion Sketchpad‘ – A figure template and colour palette guide for designing looks. Ever since, she assigns time each day to sketch focusing on “fashion illustrations and print designing”. Last year: “I took a sowing course which I didn’t enjoy”. This venture was due to her need to understand the pragmatics behind the making of garments.
I think it’s unfair to hold back on what you’re destined to do.
Fast forward to the ‘year of risks’ and she now has the tools necessary to succeed. With 349AM (the name is taken from her time of birth), she has great aspirations for the unisex fashion brand. “I want men and women to have the same reaction about the brand and products they’re buying into. You have to own what you wear”. This ‘androgynous’ ideal stems from the secrecy that shrouded her mum’s pregnancy. Refusing to have a scan, her parents’ bought predominantly unisex clothes for their impending child. Maternal instincts assured her mum ‘T’ would be a she.
For Tilly, “fashion is a presentation”. It’s an engaging act which engenders confidence and inspires excitement. “Fashion shouldn’t be something people worry about – comfort should be most important”. I agree. The biggest challenge so far has been “actually speaking about it”. For a self-confessed “private person”, to present themselves to the world, you have to respect their fortitude. I think the self-assurance that Moschino’s creative director, Jeremy Scott exudes has rubbed off on her. ” I love him. He’s an extrovert. He takes fun as an element and puts it into his product”.
Everyone can follow a trend. But to set a trend, you gotta have style.
“Though 349AM is essentially a product, I want it to become a movement”. And it will. Launching in June, this is the result of a young woman’s personal growth, vision and sheer tenacity. Within two years, the aim is to be self-employed placing her sole focus on the cultivation of her labour. Within five years, she envisions “intimate” boutiques in Manchester and London (her ‘hometowns’). Within ten years, 349AM – ‘A Beginner’s Guide’ may be plucked from the shelves by an emerging fashion designer on the cusp of their own passage. And why not? Personal success is determined by the individual.
“I want to enjoy working for me”, she insists. “I think it’s selfish to yourself to do everything for everyone else and leave yourself behind”. For Tileasha Henry-Bailey, everything is happening.