Fashion Designer — Couture By Tess Bridal & Tess Mann Haute Couture
Former US Federal Officer
Hello Tess, Tell us about your journey so far.
Overall, my fashion design journey has spanned decades, and I could write a novel about it. This year, in particular, has been a whirlwind. Owning a bridal boutique and carrying a curated, luxury bridal gown inventory sourced from fashion designers around the world while at the same time showcasing my two latest collections at my first self-produced fashion show has been exhilarating, sometimes exhausting, and highly rewarding.
Before we move on to fashion, can you please share your experience as a former US federal officer?
My education is in psychology and criminology, which led to a successful career as a federal law enforcement officer with the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation lasting over twenty years.
How did the transition happen from being a federal officer to a fashion designer? Was it all planned in the back of your mind or just an instinct that after I retire from being an officer, I’ll start with Couture by Tess Bridal? How did it all start?
I founded my boutique, Couture by Tess Bridal, in 2013 before retirement from the US Federal Bureau with prior authorization subsequent to a complete vetting process granted by the FBI. At that time, I ran the boutique out of the top floor of my home in Collierville, Tennessee, right outside of Memphis. My husband, Joe, and I knew, upon retirement, we would move to Cookeville, Tennessee, where we wanted to find the perfect building for a storefront. In addition to my own designs under the Couture by Tess and Tess Mann Haute Couture labels, we also support and carry other designers’ work in our boutique. The other designers we work with have been carefully selected and hold the same standard of excellence that the Couture by Tess and Tess Mann Haute Couture brand stands for.
When was the first time you thought about designing clothes?
My fascination with fashion design started when I began participating in the Miss America preliminary scholarship competitions as a young woman. I subsequently realized I needed a formal evening gown. Not being able to afford a luxurious competition gown, me and my mother began designing. I continued to sketch designs throughout my college education and designing for fun throughout my life.
What is your biggest dream for Couture by Tess Bridal?
To be the ultimate destination for luxury bridal. My dream is to have more brides from all over the world travel to us to purchase their wedding dresses from Couture by Tess Bridal. Currently, we are sourcing stockists for my own labels to be carried in strategically placed locations across the country and, hopefully, one day, around the world.
How does your design process work? What is your design philosophy?
My philosophy in design is one of true custom couture. From the initial sketch to the selection of textiles used to drawing the artwork for my own custom lace fabrics, every step brings joy to the creation journey.
How do you stay inspired and creative?
This can be a challenge, especially when life gets very busy. I stay inspired by watching trends yet remaining true to my own classical style. My entire New Discovery collection, which was released this year, was inspired by our previous bridal clients. This is an exciting collection because it is all about listening to brides and changing various aspects and elements of a wedding dress that didn’t quite sell well or became popular because of previous flaws in the design-thinking process. All good designers learn from their mistakes by changing fabrics, switching out lace patterns or beading, changing necklines, adding or removing straps or sleeves, and in some styles, changing to a different silhouette, which may better highlight luxurious laces and embroidery.This collection was a nod to please those brides who felt “if only…”
What is your favorite part of fashion design? Tell us about your passion for fashion design and bridal. What drives you?
I enjoy the entire process of designing, from the initial sketch to the final product to the beautiful bride who will wear a gorgeous piece of artwork on the most special day of her life.
What do you think the future of fashion is?
The future of fashion is what designers tell the world it is. It is like holding up a mirror, and the public looks to designers for direction.
Out of all the accomplishments, what is one thing you are most proud of?
I have dreamed of producing my own fashion show for years, and we finally did just that this year in Nashville, Tennessee, where I showcased my latest two collections, Nostalgia and New Discovery, in front of a live audience curated by my team.
What do you believe are the characteristics of a good fashion designer?
A creative mind, a strong work ethic, and a heart that enjoys making people happy and feel their best. Dare to be courageous and boldly step outside the box when it comes to fashion.
What skills do you think are necessary to succeed in the fashion industry?
The fashion industry moves quickly. Things are constantly changing, so if you want to succeed in the fashion industry, be prepared to stay informed and change course when needed while staying true to yourself and committed to influencing fashion trends with your own nuances of style.
Tell us about your recent collections and fashion show
My two latest collections, Nostalgia and New Discovery, were launched at the Travel Through Fashion Time Fashion Show at OZARI in Nashville, Tennessee. The fashion show featured models with Premiere Model Management agency debuting brand new couture bridal gown designs under the Couture by Tess and Tess Mann Haute Couture labels. Nashville fashion, lifestyle, and wedding industry editors and VIPs were in attendance to experience the collections’ release. Followed by two fashion shows and a meet-and-greet style mix-and-mingle.
The Nostalgia collection presented is a new collection donning various fashion techniques from different eras while assimilating modern touches. New Discovery is a smaller collection that has utilised designs from previous Couture by Tess collections and been reimagined based on clients’ feedback over the years.
What advice would you give to somebody who is interested in pursuing a fashion design career?
Practice as much as you can and never stop learning and growing.
Your favorite quote ?
“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” – Coco Chanel
About Tess Mann
Tess Mann is the owner of bridal salon, Couture by Tess Bridal, and designs her own line of gowns under the same name. Tess has been in the bridal industry since 2012. Prior to her formal entry into the industry, she had been designing since she was a young teenager however chose a different career path in order to serve her country for over 20 years as a federal officer. In September 2018, Tess became a US Trademark Designer with her designs being protected by the US Patent Office. After serving the Memphis area for a little over 6 years, Tess and her husband, Joe, opened Couture By Tess Bridal on 31 W. Broad Street in Cookeville, Tennessee in November of 2019.
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