There are some people out there who just bring people together. My dear friends Eliezer Santiago and Tiphani Benbow are those people. I’m not even sure how it came up in conversation, but I’m sure it was related to the fabric I was designing - Elie mentioned “you’ve got to meet my friend Tea.” So there we were at Koffee? On Audobon St in New Haven and I just felt like it was the right moment for all of this creative energy to meet. Tiph and Elie ended up buying a one way ticket to Thailand, but Tea and I have continued to grow and develop both our friendship, but also this collaboration.
With a tag line of wearable art created to empower and inspire, I knew this was the perfect fit of a designer for me to work with.
Upon meeting Tea, I felt like I was taken aback by this air of coolness that engulfs the space he takes up. As we have continued to get to know each other and continue our “business meetings” we have really grown into forming a beautiful friendship. A friendship and partnership of designer and his muse. His humble nature paired with a presence that just makes a statement wherever he goes is something to reckon with. We make a good team. I think I’m a little more outgoing with making the connections and networking where as Tea literally has to do nothing and it just happens automatically.
I can’t exactly remember when we met or how he picked out some fabric to buy from me, but it just always flowed nicely. He’s bought many yards of fabric from me now over time and I’m always playing a game of “where’s waldo?” But instead “where’s studio strata?” with searching for my fabric.
Recently, we both attended the Essence Streetstyle Festival in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for New York Fashion Week. Tea and another friend Jason were both wearing outfits designed and constructed by Tea with Studio Strata fabric. I threw on a Threads lace cardigan with my Erica Zapp necklace, and hat from a clothes swap and was ready to take on this event in the dreary grey rain. Damn, did we make a statement and a little bit of noise. We were getting stopped all over the place for people to photograph us. At first I definitely felt a little shy, but a little bit into the event I think I found my groove and got into it.