Business Name: Tenden
posted by https://www.themorningprint.com/
1. How did you get involved in this type of work?
My grandmother was a seamstress, some of my earliest memories were hanging out at her house, watching businessmen come pick up their suits that had been tailored to fit. My mother also sewed a few things here and there, she would take me to the fabric store as young as 6, let me pick out some fabric, and a day later I would have one of a kind shorts. I always thought this was pretty awesome. I think the idea was born that long ago for me to create.
2. When did you learn how to sew? Did someone teach you?
I taught myself a few things on the sewing machine as a young teenager, but really it wasn’t till my early 30’s I started to work at it. I am 99% self taught. I have searched out a few teachers at local sewing shops here and there for a little guidance.
3. How essential would you say social media is to your business?
Social media is a very large part to making my dreams a reality. Yes, i have tons of local
support, but the fact that i can promote my business worldwide for free is an incredible tool that I use.
4. We understand that you create your next product based on your mood and how you feel. That sounds like a liberating way of working. Can you walk us through your creative process? Do you need to have a plan well thought out or do you see where a design takes you?
I’ve always said, what I make depends on what I feel that day. I usually start with something I need in my personal life. Usually designs evolve over time. The ones i enjoy making and find useful to others, are the ones that stick around. I also believe that the fabric also chooses what it becomes. I will find vintage fabrics at estate sales, and maybe they will sit on my shelf for awhile, but eventually they become something one of a kind and unique.
5. On a related note, since you create based on your mood, your stock must be changing regularly. Your studio must be different almost every time a returning customer goes in. Do you find there are times when that process is a little more frustrating than it is helpful?
My products are always changing and evolving, but i have learned through time, that keeping a “permanent collection” is both helpful for the customer and myself. I would say i have 25 designs that have been around for awhile and are not expected to go anywhere anytime soon. I do on occasion get custom orders from someone that saw something years ago and would like one. I never say no, it may take a bit longer to re-draft the pattern and test it, but it’s always worth it to make a customer happy.
6. How does a typical work day look for you?
Other than my desire to create, I am working extremely hard at this so that i can stay home with our daughter Jeune. So my workday really depends on her. Like everything, she sets our schedule. Of course i have deadlines that require special attention, but for the most part, when she sleeps I work.
7. Besides a sewing machine, what is something you would consider a necessity to operate your business?
This is a boring answer, but almost as important as my sewing machine, is my iron. I’m pretty sure I’m behind that just as much as my machines. Then of course the internet. Social media, websites, and research all at my finger tips.
8. Which products are some of your most popular ones?
The waxed canvas Shop Apron and Utility Roll are my #1 and #2 sellers. The bread and
butter of this business for sure. Trends come and go, the log carrier was a great hit this holiday season. So far this year, its the selvage denim jeans by a long shot. Excited to see what this year brings!
9. Which of your products is your favorite?
My favorite part of all my creations, is seeing them in use out in the world. Apparel especially, seeing how they fit the customer, and how they style it is so rewarding for me.
10. We noticed you do custom orders. What type of custom work have you done in the past?
The list of custom work i get is crazy, from wedding dresses, to LP record box covers, etc.
I’ve started actually turning some custom work away. It is tricky to come up with a design from someone else’s imagination and get it right on the first time. we’ll see…. I’ll keep trying.
11. Your history of products shows a dedication of focusing on durability and practicality, but with a flair. While in the creating process do you have any difficulty marrying these concepts?
It has always been my goal to create products that last. One of my favorite emails was from a father expressing how impressed he was with his product, and excited to hand it down to his son when he was done with it. Most products I enjoy making have been around for awhile. Tried and true essentials to oneself. Putting my unique twist is the fun part. Sometimes barely noticeable, maybe hidden color contrast or construction, or sometimes a drastic break from the norm.
12. How many hours of work does it take to finish one of your creations?
Most of my work probably takes 2-6 hours. Some of course may take a week, with leather
cutting and dyeing, and construction all playing a factor.
13. What would be your advice to those wanting to enter the design industry?
This is definitely not my quote, but i’ll say it again and again. Don’t give up! When you put in the time and passion… it will never go unnoticed.
14. What information would you like perspective clients to know about your products?
All products are designed and constructed entirely by me in my Grand Haven, MI studio.
15. What was the point where you thought it would be good to focus on your studio work full time?
I worked in the restaurant business as I was turning my hobby into a dream. It was getting too overwhelming to balance the two. It was that leap of faith that needed to happen to be successful.
16. What was the most difficult hurdle you had to go through to start this business?
Being almost entirely self taught brings a million hurdles. No one has gone down the exact path I am making.
17. How do you find the leather and other material you work with? It all looks very high quality and well made.
A lot of research goes into the materials I use. When i started I didn’t put as much attention into this aspect, but it really pays off in the final product. Most of my materials are sourced from the U.S.A. There are other countries making quality products as well that I will use on occasion.
18. Do you have any big plans for 2018?
I am very excited about 2018. The first 2 items I made back in the early 2000’s were denim jeans, and button up shirts. I wandered from that path a bit over the years, until I could perfect the construction and fit to my standards. This year I am focusing mainly on menswear. I will still produce the products that have gotten me where I am, but most of my energy will be towards men’s timeless designs.
19. You recently shared a photo of an email that GQ sent to you on Instagram. Are you able to talk about that?
One of my favorite unique designs, the Grooming Roll, caught the eye of someone over at
British GQ, they will be spotlighting it in an upcoming issue…. and that might not be the last you see there from TENDEN.