How Designer of the Moment Rosenthal Tee Got Here

“As you’ll notice in my office, there’s no furniture! There’s just a table—a messy one—and a couch. I guess that’s the minimalist in me,” designer Rosenthal Tee shares. We follow as she tours us around her workshop-slash-studio-slash-ancestral home in Marikina. She takes a peek into her production room filled with busy seamstresses and quips, “Look, naka-falsies nanaman ako!” much to the amusement of her staff.

She surveys her rack of clothes and shares some bits about her creative process: her greatest inspiration is the sea; she sees it in the elaborate beadwork she adores, she loves to use pearls in her designs (but can’t imagine wearing them as jewelry), and she has penchant for Art Deco motifs. “I have a research book that I look at constantly,” she explains. It’s a massive compilation of printed, cut, torn, and glued photos of anything and everything, and it sits on her modern glass worktable surrounded by scattered beads, old magazines, and designer hardbounds—and even utility bills and random scribbles that she bashfully tries to hide.

Fashion design didn’t come first for Rosenthal; eventhough she finished an undergraduate degree in Management Economics from the Ateneo de Manila University, she set her sights on embarking on a more creative path. “I think that long ago even as a kid doodling on walls, I decided that I would definitely find a way to include the art of creating into my profession.” After graduation, she found herself in London and stayed in the city for three years, earning a masters degree from Istituto Marangoni and various certificates from the London College of Fashion and Central St. Martins College of Art and Design. “London taught me how to be a collaborator; as a visual, the city is so vibrant with different fashions and cultures that definitely give you an appreciation to explore.”

She fell into the wedding industry by pure chance, and it is with great hilarity she tells the story of her first bridal client: a couple had walked in to have gowns made for their mothers, but somewhere along the way, the bride’s off-the-rack wedding dress had been ruined by a bad repair job. Rosenthal decided it was unsalvageable, and her team had eight days to create a completely new one just in time for the wedding. “From that experience I found a calming thrill in doing bridal pieces, which I now feel is becoming a specialty.”

She proclaims that everything she and her team do—every delicate bead, 3D appliqué, and sheet of lace they work with—is a labor of love and consideration. And for every thread her needles sew, she creates a new story, one hand-finished masterpiece at a time. For Rosenthal, the beauty of evening wear is the sparkle—how to make it more contemporary is the challenge she gives herself.

“It’s not just a matter of slapping on embellishment and expecting a piece to look put-together, but rather it’s the control in balancing all these aspects that I believe is now becoming synonymous to the label,” she reflects. In three words, her design aesthetic is subtle, decadent, and refined—in carrying out this philosophy, she remembers a quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Photos by Tim Arafiles

Hair and Make Up by Nicole Ceballos