Profiles, Stories

Rosenthal Tee: a Chinoy conquering the world of fashion design

Rosenthal Tee is making heads turn in the highly competitive world of fashion as she is one of its youngest designers–and one of the very few Chinoys to do so. 

At 29-years old, Rosenthal has already taken her signature pieces into the international stage, like the Mercedes Benz Stylo Asia 2015 as well as the prestigious New York Fashion Week in 2016. 

Get to know more about this Chinoy rising star and how she reached great heights and continues to conquer the industry today.

Diverse Chinoy family

Tee’s is the more diverse type of Chinoy family. Her parents both manage their respective businesses, one in automobiles and the other in office supplies. Her brother is in the retail industry while her sister is a medical practitioner.

Growing up, they were not enrolled in a Chinese school although their parents attended Grace Christian School and St. Stephen’s High School, both prominent Chinese schools. Rosenthal and her sister attended Saint Pedro Poveda College while her brother was enrolled in Ateneo. 

Choosing to enroll them in non-Chinese schools was their parents’ way of molding them into well-rounded individuals not confined to Chinese culture. “They really wanted us to attend non-Chinese schools just so we could kind of broaden ourselves,” she shared.

Budding passion for the creative field

As a child, Rosenthal identifies herself more as an introvert and kept to herself, especially growing up and attending school surrounded by non Chinoys. She remembers being bullied for looking differently from her classmates, as she was the chinky-eyed, white girl with just three letters for a last name. 

Although it did not last long, Rosenthal found an outlet and unleashed her individuality through creativity and art. It was her mother who noticed her inclination for the arts, saying that “I had an interest in drawing and coloring. Like every time she would make me stand in the corner, I would start getting crayons and just color the walls while I was standing in the corner. So I found ways to entertain myself. And [my mom] discovered that I had this tendency to draw, to doodle. And so from the get go, she entered me into art and painting lessons that I would do practically every summer,”.

Eventually, her interest in art translated into fashion when she would thoroughly enjoy shopping with her mother and grandmother. “I was practically never interested in shopping for myself, but I did always enjoy that feeling of seeing how pretty my mom and my grandmother would be once they dressed up and donned a certain frock by a certain designer. And so that kind of creative expression did lead me into this interest in producing wearable art,” she said.

Although she finished her course in Management Economics at Ateneo, Rosenthal’s parents were fully supportive of her continuing education in the creative field. “They were the ones kicking me out of the whole house na parang leave this place and study, go away. So [I had a] very good conversation with them. Very encouraging, very supportive. And it was the best decision that I’ve ever made,” she shared.

Even Rosenthal herself is aware of her privilege to pursue her education in what she truly is passionate about, even though it is not the typical Chinoy path. “I do know a lot of Chinoys and they were actually leaning towards the arts but were never quite encouraged to pursue it. So it really made me so much more aware of this privilege. And I don’t ever take it for granted,” Rosenthal shared.

Flourishing as a Chinoy fashion designer

The fruits of her labor eventually bore as after going abroad and completing her fashion studies, Rosenthal was able to start her own thriving couture brand here in the Philippines. Just as she had envisioned, every Rosenthal piece is always a collaboration between her as an artist and her client’s to ensure that every design goes beyond everyone’s expectations.

Seeing her clients’ joy during final fittings is what keeps her motivated. “When they are really, really ecstatic that this is for me, the winning moment. It’s really when I know that I’ve made them feel and look good, then I know that I did my job and that is what gives me the most fulfillment and happiness ever,” she shared.  

Rosenthal makes sure that each of her creations is always “elevating the woman wearing it. So any Rosenthal piece, I would say, is definitely strongly feminine, highly attuned to her confidence, her strength while at the same time being also aware and open to accessing her vulnerabilities and her femininity as a woman”.

Despite her success as one of the names with the biggest potential in the Filipino couture and fashion industry, she never forgets to keep herself grounded at all times through the values and character she embodies as a Chinoy. She believes in the potential of the community to go beyond its traditions and traverse stereotypes to elevate the view of the Chinoy community and what they have to offer. “Chinoys are quite the talented bunch. We can be very creative and we can monetize from creativity. And without losing who we are, we can create products that people will love,” Rosenthal shared. 

Be sure to catch Chinoy fashion design star Rosenthal Tee on Chinese by Blood, Filipino by Heart on CNN Philippines! The series airs every Sunday at 8PM. Stay tuned on CHiNOY TV’s and CNN Philippines’ Facebook pages for further updates.

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