Filipino Designer – Anthony Tentativa: Living his Parisian Dream

Anthony Tentativa – Creator and President of Les Tentativas

He’s worked as a part time designer for Bobby Novenario in the 90s, had a designer stint in a haute couture atelier in Bahrain and then moved to Paris to join his aunt. There, he worked as a bank clerk with PNB for eight years, while doing menial jobs on the side, just to be able to survive. But despite his humble beginnings and the hardships and struggles he has experienced in life, Filipino designer Anthony Tentativa has always kept his dream of becoming a full-pledged fashion designer in the world’s fashion capital, alive. 

Now that dream is a reality for the designer who won the fourth edition of Talents de Mode, the springboard for emerging designers in France, as he sits at the helm of a flourishing high end prêt-a-porter brand – Les Tentativas, positioned against global brands like Chloe, Paul & Joe, Vanessa Bruno and Isabel Marant.

Coming from a poor family in Samar, Anthony Tentativa says that fashion is his world and that his dream was always to go abroad – his eye set on making it in Paris someday.  The graduate of the University of San Carlos in Cebu said that he faced a lot of struggles before he was able to enter into fashion in France.

With a background in designing from the Philippines and in Bahrain, Anthony joined his aunt in 1993 in the Paris with the hopes of further learning fashion.  However, he took a clerical job at the PNB instead, and did domestic work part time to support himself.  “In France it is not easy to find a job, and because of the high standard of living, sometimes Filipinos have no choice but to accept domestic jobs regardless of what kind of profession we had in the Philippines.  Our professional experience back home is not valid at all here,” he says of his start in the country.

He also shares, “Hindi ko naman ikinahihiya ang trabaho dito proud pa nga ako dahil malinis ang pinangagalingan ng pera kahit ganun lang ang trabaho.”

Despite his financial limitations, Anthony, together with his wife, Sharon La Madrid Benson, whom he met while working at the PNB, were dead set about getting into designing.  They saved money and invested whatever they earned to get them into fashion school – a very difficult undertaking, especially considering that the couple already had two kids at the time.  “It was really hard for both of us because we were working while studying.  Talagang malaking sakripisyo ang dinaanan naming dalawa.  But thanks to God, di niya kami pinabayaan,” Anthony shares about their journey.

The two eventually earned their education from nothing less than the top fashion schools in Paris. Both of them graduated from ESMOD. Anthony continued his studies at the prestigious Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, the school of the Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt-à-porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de mode (French Federation of Fashion and of Ready-to-Wear of Couturiers and Fashion Designers) which counts global fashion greats such as Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Issey Miyake and Andre Courreges as their most popular alumni. There, he was one of the few students selected for the year-end show which took place at the Carrousel du Louvre Paris in June 2005.

Right after earning their diplomas, the two set about gaining professional experience and worked as trainees in different enterprises, including Erin Fetherston and Daniel Faret.  To complement their craft, the two also took up business studies – Sharon studied business and marketing while Anthony did fashion management.  Then, Anthony was chosen among many other young designers to present his work at the Designers and Fashion area of Texworld Trade Fair in September 2008.

Sharon and Anthony Tentativa with their associates.

All this meticulous preparation culminated when the couple launched their very own fashion brand, Les Tentativas, in April 2009 with the help of French investors.  Anthony who assumed the role of company president is in-charge of design, while his wife Sharon, the director, oversees marketing and production.  Anthony shares, “Thanks God, we found some good people who really believed in our project. With the help of our investors we were able to create a create prêt à porter brand in France.”

Les Tentativas is a ready to wear clothing line pegged for the high-end or haut de gamme market.  Anthony shares that the brand is meant to be a reinterpretation of the chic and elegant Parisian woman whose style is feminine, fresh, original and refined, and who appreciates fine fabrics like cashmere, virgin wools, fine cottons and silks. The designer says of the line’s distinctively retro vibe, “I like to play with the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s and I love retro-modern; I will always put a vintage touch to the design at all times.”

As a young designer label, Les Tentativas has gained some attention and support from the media and has been featured in French magazines such as Grazia, Public Look, Questions des Femmes, and Infrarouge, as well as Olga & Oliver, an Italian magazine.

To celebrate its first year in 2010, Les Tentativas opened its first retail outlet in the designer’s area of Forum des Halles in Paris.  Their biggest coup last so far was to win the fourth edition of the Talents de Mode last year where they won EUR22,000 (US$30,000), a free workshop for a year at the Village de Createurs at Passage Thiaffait in Lyon – which hosts emerging young brands; economic development support, as well as a stand at the Prêt-à-Porter Paris Trade Fair 2011.

Now with a steady clientele and about to embark on their fifth fashion season, Anthony credits patience and bravery for what he and his wife achieved so far.  He says, “We waited for just the right time to establish our label.”   He shares, “We all should just be brave, motivated and be patient all times; that’s the key and the way to succeed in life.”

The designer hopes to bring Les Tentativas eventually to other parts of the world.   Still, he holds another dream that is closest to his heart, “I’m still proud to be Pinoy and my other dream is to have my own boutique in the Philippines someday. Pinoy pa rin ako kahit saan man ako naroroon, at kahit ano pa man ang marating ko sa buhay.”

Judging by his resolute climb to pursue his aspirations, undoubtedly, Anthony Tentativa will turn all his dreams into reality.