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Charlotte designers join forces for Charleston Fashion Week
Henderson, Tai compete for $40,000 prize
Published Thursday, March 15, 2018 8:22 am
by Ashley Mahoney

Charlotte fashion designers Patrick Tai and Terence Henderson.

Charleston Fashion Week has been Terrence Henderson’s Siren call.

Henderson teamed up with fellow Art Institute of Charlotte alumnus Patrick Tai to create a 12-look Fall/Winter 2018 collection titled “Sirens.” CFW announced the 2018 participants in November. Henderson and Tai enter as the only duo, and the only men. Thirteen designers will compete this week for $40,000.

Fashion design by Patrick Tai and Terrence Henderson.

“I’ve been applying to Charleston Fashion Week for the last four years, and never got through,” Henderson said. “We decided last year that we would enter together, because it felt like the right time for our own fashion voices. We’re the only duo, which was really scary, and the only guys.”

Said Tai: “I’ve met the other designers, and there is a lot of talent within the emerging designer competition. It just so happens that most of them are women, and we happen to be men. A lot of people seem to feel like when you’re a woman and you’re designing women’s evening wear, you seem to understand the clothing more. From a designer’s standpoint, Terrance and I really think about how the woman should feel when they’re wearing our clothing. There are so many aspects of clothing when it comes to fashion and style. There’s comfort, aesthetic, fit, color and texture, and we really try to put ourselves in the client’s shoes.”

Five of the designers competing in CFW have Charlotte ties. For Henderson and Tai, that stems from their days at the Art Institute of Charlotte.

“It’s funny that when we found out about Charleston Fashion Week, Patrick and I were going to team up then, because we went to school together,” Henderson said. “I started the second quarter that they had ever had fashion design. It was a completely new program, and he started a couple of quarters later. Everyone kept saying, ‘you’ve got to meet Patrick.’ When we finally met it was sort of this instant matching of both our work ethics, and the fact that we both thought outside what most of the people in the school were thinking. We weren’t thinking of mass market or ready to wear, we were having fun exploring art and fashion. That’s sort of the biggest hurdle that I’ve had to overcome, because I want to make really crazy fun stuff, and just have fun with it, because it’s the only expression I know.”

Tai’s love affair with design began with his grandmother, Mony Yai. The Long Beach, California native and later Las Vegas resident moved to Charlotte following high school, and still calls the Queen City home.

“She used to sew these amazing pillows for charity,” Tai said. “She would use sequins, bead work, amazing silks. Being so young, I wasn’t able to play with the needles. I filled in my time by sketching clothing. I didn’t really think too much into it, but it wasn’t until high school when I started sewing through one of my classes that everything started to make sense for me.”

Henderson’s journey to Charlotte didn’t require a cross-country move, as he is a Lexington native.

“There’s a certain creative group that are kind of born into it,” Henderson said. “I’m in that group. When I was a toddler, kids would draw, but I was drawing people with clothes and their shoes, buttons and collars. Entering preschool, the doctor said, ‘he is very detailed about clothing. That’s something you don’t see very often. You should let him keep drawing.’”

While the presumption that Henderson’s creative expression would veer onto strictly an artistic path, it became a passion for fashion.

“I just kept drawing clothes,” he said. “It wasn’t until my teenage years that I realized you can be a designer.”

Henderson’s goal is to reach out to urban youth to ensure that they have opportunities to express themselves creatively.

“That wasn’t an option for me,” he said. “Sewing wasn’t an option. I love the stories of people who started sewing when they were younger, but for me, it never occurred to me that being a fashion designer would one day be a possibility, because of my circumstances. I had great support from my family, but I didn’t know that you could go to school for design.”

While life in a small town presents challenges, contemporary technology offers endless opportunities to share designs not only within a community, but with the entire world.

“The best part of growing up in a small town is that everything you come up with as an artist is really kind of instinctual, and it’s not coming from a lot of outside sources,” Henderson said. “I didn’t start reading Vogue or looking at fashion shows until my late 20s. It’s so far removed being in a small town.”

Being a young black gay boy in the South, I didn’t understand a lot of it.

“Social media hadn’t become this huge campaign of being able to find and locate people with similar interest, and being able to connect with designers from all over the world, and being able to see fashion from all over the world. That’s where my left of center thinking comes from. My Rolodex wasn’t met with seeing other things, and that becoming a part of my Rolodex. It was all inbred from me.”   


I knew Terrence was talented and that Art in all forms was his anointing...he picked up a crayon at 10 months and drew on the wall, I knew then to give him paper and more crayons and I did, putting him on the floor with me and just letting him play. By the time he was 5, he was drawing people fully clothed with glasses, watches, etc. We always supported him and still do, I am so proud of my son.
Posted on March 16, 2018

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