Every journey begins with a single step, and Tenneal McNair just couldn’t wait to take hers.
After a year and a half of planning, the Washington, D.C. designer had everything ready a week ahead of yesterday’s official launch for her new label, Sojourn Lingerie. So why bother waiting?
Instead, Tenneal opened her online webshop last Monday, sent out a notice to her Facebook followers and had her first order in less than a day — an encouraging start for any nervous newcomer.
Sojourn begins its journey in the lingerie market with a mid-price selection of six bra and panty styles in contrasting shades of black and magenta — bold modern looks in comfortable stretch fabrics that feel like swimwear.
“A lot of what I do is based on me and my tastes,” Tenneal told Lingerie Talk. “I’m not a lacy kind of girl. All the ruffles and bows are not who I am.
“I need things I know I can live in, something that moves with the body and doesn’t cling. If I’m wearing it throughout the day I can be comfortable in it.”
But Tenneal doesn’t expect customers to wear her fashionable undies for long. She chose the name Sojourn, she says, because it refers to “a small journey, a temporary stay, somewhere you go for a little while.”
“It’s lingerie. You’re wearing it and taking it off. If you’re in an intimate situation it’s probably going on and off really fast.”
There’s also another meaning behind the Sojourn name, one that students of American history will spot quickly (especially as we mark Black History Month in February).
The name is also a tribute to iconic African-American civil rights activist Sojourner Truth, the former slave whose “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech became a pinnacle of the abolitionist and suffrage movements more than 150 years ago.
“A lot of what inspires me in the design process is African-American women of color who have had to do extraordinary things,” Tenneal said.
To get that message across, the brand will use its blog and social media to profile inspirational black screen icons, jazz pioneers like Lena Horne, Joyce Bryant and Hazel Scott and contemporary African-American stars such as Lupita Nyong’o and Uzo Aduba.
Sojourn joins a growing list of independent brands, such as Nubian Skin, that are responding to the market needs of black women, as well as other lingerie brands that embrace diversity by using black models in their marketing.
There’s nothing about Sojourn‘s sleek minimalist styling that is meant to appeal to any specific group of customers, though.
“A lot of people think black people have a different style, that they don’t have a sense of sophistication or refinement,” Tenneal said. “But it’s just not true. It’s ridiculous is what it is.
“We’re all the same. It’s not a stretch to think we would like the same things as other people.”
Tenneal studied apparel design at FIT and operated a womenswear label called Noemi Studio out of North Carolina that did R2W collections and custom clothing.
While participating in Charleston Fashion Week two years ago, she realized her real passion was in both the construction and design of lingerie and decided to phase out her apparel line.
“I felt more connected to lingerie,” she said. “It felt more personal, more authentic to my design style.
“If you have a 30-look ready-to-wear collection, there’s always going to be something in there that pops out for someone. But with lingerie you have to make a statement. It feels more authentic.”
Sojourn will be available exclusively through the brand’s webshop for the first year, and offers a bespoke service that draws on Tenneal’s broad background in fashion design.
Below are some more great images from Sojourn Lingerie‘s debut lookbook, photographed by Lauren Ashley and featuring Washington model Dri Haskell.