On Monday night, stunning women of color with tattoos and piercings strutted through the hallowed halls of Manhattan’s Church of Ascension adorned in Renaissance-inspired ruffles and corsets. The sheer tops and luxurious bottoms worn by these women were reminiscent of garments that were once made exclusively for white royalty. And the church in which these women struck poses had the regal elan of a European court that they would not have been granted entry to in the era they evoked. Luckily, this wasn’t 15th century Europe. It was Slashed by Tia’s first solo show at New York Fashion Week.
The womenswear brand behind the “Baroque with Expensive Taste” spring/summer 2019 collection is helmed by 21-year-old Teni Adeola, who was born in Nigeria and raised in London. Although the New School senior is still in college, Adeola has managed to build a business and amass tens of thousands of followers on social media. Even before Monday’s show, Slashed by Tia was worn and hyped by style goddesses like SZA, Kali Uchis, Gigi Hadid, and KittyCash.
The quick rise of her brand has been an outgrowth of her seductively elegant designs, which draw from influences often ignored by her peers. “When I look for inspiration, I go back to my art history archive paintings or I go to the library at my school,” she told me. “I try not to go to Instagram and social media.”
With her latest collection, Adeola had classic paintings like Adoration of the Magi or Primavera on her mind. Both works are by Renaissance painter Sandro Boticelli, who often painted royal, mythological, and religious subjects in an iconic, natural style. While it’s easy to see Boticelli’s impact on Adeola’s recent show, one major difference between the two is that Boticelli’s subjects were exclusively white. “People of color are nowhere near royal (in the art of that era),” she said. “They wouldn’t wear ruffles. They would wear wool or cotton. So this fashion show to me was these women of color descending into the church, almost remaking those scenes.”
In the moments before the show, the hall was completely silent with no music and, more interestingly, no talking. When choral music started to play, the first model glided into the room gracefully in a short, deep-yellow dress with ruffles. Her hair was styled in blonde bantu knotted braids. She was so subtle, blending in with the ambiance of the room, it took a moment before I realized the show had begun. But with each new look coming down the aisle, the pace picked up. I heard gasps and whispers as standout styles made their way to the pulpit, like the silver corset Adeola paired with a studded face mask by Leila Jinnah, and the chandelier-esque jewelry by Monirath that was matched with a sparkling-sleeved black corset.
The models also brought their varied personalities onto the runway, helping demonstrate that Slashed by Tia’s clothes can suit different lifestyles. “I cast girls with tattoos, girls who can skateboard, girls smoking cigars. They still look good and it works for them,” Adeola explained. “I think it’s just my way of saying ‘No, this isn’t just for this one kind of frilly girl.’”
The show climaxed with all the models assembling one by one at the altar, gliding into position like puzzle pieces. The audience, which was seated calmly for the whole show, broke composure jumping from their seats to capture the artful way each of their skin tones and outfits patchworked together. With the cross hanging powerfully overhead and an 18th century biblical mural even higher, it was clear Adeola had created a portrait-worthy women-of-color renaissance. Only this time, there was no painting necessary.