Tendai Phillips' inspiring journey from stitching tiny garments for Barbie Dolls in Zimbabwe to Global Runways

Tendai Phillips discovered her love for fashion and the magic of sewing at a very young age. Now a successful designer based in Indianapolis, USA, her fashion brand, Redefinition, established in 2017 has collaborated with Fashion conglomerate Shein. "I always have, like, 'pinch-me' moments, like, 'Oh my gosh, is that me'?" she said in an interview with IndyStar. "Are they actually wearing something that was in my head? It's nice. It makes me feel validated. I enjoy bringing my imagination to life."

Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Tendai Phillips grew up in a household where creativity flowed like a river. Her older sister crafted clothes for her to play in, while her mother and grandmother wove their own fabric stories. Tendai, with her sisters, even fashioned tiny garments for Barbie dolls, igniting a spark that would define her life's path. "I know it sounds like a cliché," Tendai says in an interview with indystar.com, "but we actually did."

Tendai Phillips' Inspiring Journey of Fashion, Dreams, and SHEIN Success
Tendai Phillips

Her journey into the fashion world began when she joined a high school class teaching the art of fashion and fabrics. From that moment, she was hooked, and there was no turning back. In 2006, she embarked on a new adventure, leaving Zimbabwe for the United States, where she pursued her fashion design degree at The Art Institute of Indianapolis, graduating in 2015.

Today, Tendai's dream has a home in downtown Indianapolis at the Circle City Industrial Complex, where she crafts her designs alongside an eclectic community of artists. Her fashion brand, REDEFINITION, speaks to urban fashion enthusiasts who embrace diverse influences from Afro-pop to hip-hop, K-pop, and Japanese street style. Her designs cater to all genders, often exploring unisex styles. 

One standout piece she recalls with pride is a jumpsuit, inspired by the idea of sharing a closet, bridging the gap between men's hoodies and the practicality of pockets in women's clothing. "One of my favourite pieces I did in 2018 was a jumpsuit," Tendai says to Indystar. "My inspiration came from sharing a closet. I played on both the idea of women taking their men's hoodies and a lack of pockets on women's clothes." she continues.

Tendai's journey took a remarkable turn when she joined forces with SHEIN, an online fashion company based in Singapore renowned for its stylish yet affordable clothing. "My best friend recommended I apply for the SHEIN X designer incubator program," Tendai shared. This partnership changed her life, offering her an opportunity to let her creative spirit soar. SHEIN X handled manufacturing and marketing, leaving Tendai to focus on her designs and technical concepts.

SHEIN X, which started in 2021, is a platform that supports independent designers like Tendai Phillips, giving them a boost in the competitive fashion industry. She not only participated in SHEIN X's inaugural competition but also earned her place on the global stage. "SHEIN X changed my future in the fashion industry," Tendai explained. "It gave me a platform to express and share my creativity with the world. This is something that would have taken me years to achieve on my own."

As an independent designer, Tendai faced stiff competition, especially from large brands with vast resources. However, SHEIN's support enabled her to see her creations come to life without worrying about manufacturing and bulk fabric orders. For Tendai, it's nothing short of a dream come true.

Tendai Phillips' designs are a celebration of diversity and a testament to what can be achieved when passion meets opportunity. You can explore her creations on Instagram and her website, RedefinitionClothing.com. Every stitch, every piece of fabric, and every design is a testament to the power of pursuing one's dreams and redefining the world of fashion. Tendai's story inspires us all to take that leap of faith and redefine our own aspirations.

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Mungwadzi Godwin

twitterinstagramI like sharing positive stories about Zimbabweans at home and abroad. I also write articles on Personal Finance, Fashion, Music, and Tech. Let's connect!

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