In this special column called the “TLC x Fempreneurs Series”, we will be featuring inspiring Female Entrepreneurs (Fempreneurs) in short. You will be able to have a sneak peek at their mindsets and their daily habits.
Believe in the power of community. On some days when you feel big goals are impossible, or when you feel like giving up, you need to lean on your like-minded community. You can even “borrow” motivation, and in turn “return” with your own inspiring stories to pay it forward.
Meet Tessa Bailey-Lont (Lontessa)
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Tessa Bailey-Lont, the Founder and Creative Director of Lontessa. I graduated with a Degree in Industrial Design from Massey University, New Zealand, and also studied Apparel Construction at the New Zealand Academy of Fashion.
Lontessa is my eponymous fashion label that is anchored and inspired by my Māori roots, personal values, and my love for my native New Zealand. Each biannual collection that I create is based on stories that I wish to express and tell at the moment. At Lontessa, we elevate femininity, the richness of time-honored traditions, as well as the sustainability of the materials and fabrics that we use. Instead of fast fashion, we champion slow and thoughtful fashion, given the importance of longevity and quality that we seek to emphasize in our garments.
What got you started on your business?
Fashion and design was always part of my identity, ever since young when I would watch my grandmother (who was a seamstress for Swanndri, a New Zealand clothing brand) work on her craft. In 2010, my grandmother booked me to a local gallery showcase and we created a fashion collection from woven wooden fabrics based on the Polynesian Legion, putting on a show – and that was one pivotal event that informed my career transition, though I didn’t make the change from Industrial Design to Fashion until 2013.
I returned to study Apparel Construction and began creating clothes for friends and their networks in Auckland until establishing an NZ company in 2014 focusing on Maori-inspired designs as well as personal party looks. I had a lot of fun creating these garments and what became popular was my lingerie for nighttime performers.
Before you started on your business, what did you do on a full-time basis?
I was working in Portugal designing cosmetics packaging.
What were some difficulties you faced in your life and how did you overcome them?
As a fresh graduate, I initially aimed to land a job at Philips in The Netherlands. But it was difficult to find work post-graduation and my dream job did not materialize – it was admittedly challenging to confront these disappointments back then, but what I learned was to keep trying and finding opportunities to grow consistently.
I was also modeling part-time on the side, and while I did have exposure to the fashion industry, I wasn’t pursuing a full-time career there until 2010 when my grandmother encouraged and booked me for my first showcase. I took the risk and decided to venture into something I never tried before.
Who inspires you?
My grandmother was the first person to introduce me to the fashion industry. She used to have industrial machines at home, and when I was little I would choose fabrics and designs from pattern books, and she would make wonderful garments out of them. It really inspired me in the long run to enter the industry, and along with my Māori ancestry and heritage where we really celebrate the environment and ecosystems that support us, I wanted to do something that honored these influences in my life.
What excites you most about your industry?
I love how I am able to inspire my wearers through the garments I create and be able to fashion clothing that authentically captures each individual’s personality and preferences.
Moreover, the retail industry in Singapore is arguably oversaturated and wasteful, with many retailers and brands offering cheap garments created for a general population and poor service. Conversely, there are also so many high-end brands with exorbitant price tags – Money doesn’t always buy style! I saw this gap and wanted to fill the creative middle and offer personalized services to my clients – and this niche in the industry really encourages and excites me to continue with what I do.
What is your vision / personal motto?
Hei Honore – In Honour.
The Self. The woman. The World.
But personally, I like to remind myself: ‘Design your Life, and Create your Dreams and Don’t Take Everything so Seriously’
Do you have any word of advice for other ladies who are starting their business/ starting to pursue their dream?
If you love doing something so much…keep doing it! Even the failures can be fun because eventually, you will learn to master your passion.
How do you think you can help ladies to feel confident and empowered?
At Lontessa, we are on a mission to imbue body positivity and self-love in all our clients, especially the ladies. Every garment that we craft is tailored precisely to emphasize the best attributes of each individual; not to hide what isn’t desirable. We want to celebrate individuality and make every woman feel beautiful inside and out through the clothes that they wear. We even offer wardrobe makeovers in tune with what the wearer wants.
What have you learned recently that you hope the other ladies can take back?
Singapore can be a fast place, we put pressure on ourselves to keep up with the pace. Lately, I have been learning to be easier on myself by listening to my body and not over-committing – which is something I think that many women in this city struggle with.
What is one thing you are grateful for?
My friends, I have been lucky to attract good friends wherever I go. The loyalty, belief and support my Singapore friends show me and the Lontessa brand means so much to me.
What do you do in your free time as self-care? How do you unwind?
I need to find new experiences – something that is quite difficult to do in Singapore at the moment as travel has always been the easiest way to escape. I like my mind to explore new ideas. Then I’ll need to spend a few days alone with no distractions to organize my thoughts – preferably in a natural setting.
Let us know more about what you do!
Lontessa is a fashion label anchored in the Māori culture, New Zealand’s untamed beauty, and champions sustainability and femininity. We believe in a slow and personalized fashion, and cater to individuals who value originality and appreciate wearable beauty. Lontessa also extends clothing collections across Made-to-Order, Ready-To-Wear, and Intimate Apparel lines.
I’ve been featured in both local and international publications.
● Local publications include: Expat Living, Expat Choice, and Metropolitant
● International publications include: 33 Magazine, Trend Privé Magazine, Live Magazine, Kreep Magazine, Fashionz, Pacific Fashion Media, Fashion Week Online, Oxford Fashion Studio, Maori TV
Connect with Lontessa!
1 winner can stand a chance to win one Puanga Corset (worth $350). The Lontessa Corset (Puanga Corset) is fashioned out of sleek, recycled neoprene fabric, and is designed to accentuate one’s womanly curves without compromising comfort and agility. The corset can be elegantly dressed up, or styled casually.
For more information, please check out www.lontessa.com/shop/neoprene-corset
Are you a Fempreneur too?
Connect with us – we’d love to feature you! Say hi to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to us via our social media.
Read TLC x Fempreneur Series:
- Margaret Wu, For Beloved One
- Nerissa Low, Liht Organics
- Pearline Foo, Spring Breeze Marketing
- Maiko Makito, Pearl FALCO
- Maddy Barber, Madly Gems
- Ezza Yusof, 2morrow Official (Malaysia)
- Julie Yim, Lilin+Co (Malaysia)
- Nadia, HelloBello (Malaysia)
- Zairin Azman, UMMA (Malaysia)
The rest of the Fempreneur interviews can be found here.