INTERVIEW: ‘Toughing it out with Violeta’ by Modus Liberty
Australia has an amazing ability to draw the worlds most talented and creative minds, including founder of leather label West 14th. Four years ago, Violeta Tentomas created a small clutch of innately covetable and entirely chic leather pieces that has changed the way Australians perceive and use leather. Her thought provoking designs are designed to empower women. Violeta talks about the 40 day yoga challenge, eating dark chocolate daily and how she generally keeps well. The NY native also dishes up the healthiest and tastiest places to eat in NYC.
I wanted to live on the beach! I was visiting a fellow ex-New Yorker (aka… my bestie) for a New Year’s holiday and fell in love with Sydney. My initial plans were to live in Sydney for a few months, maybe a year, then move back to NYC…….. I’m still here! It’s 8 years later.
I was brought up in the tri-state area of NYC with family roots in New Jersey. My parents migrated from Greece in their early 20’s to NJ. My older sister and her husband still leave in NJ, and I normally take over their guest room during my trips back for West 14th.
I studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC and completed internships with businesses such as Henri Bendel, Nine West and Ralph Lauren. Post-graduation, I landed a role in Ralph Lauren’s buying offices for womenswear and so my fashion career began. I moved to Sydney and joined a contemporary-fashion boutique business called Pink Zebra as the Fashion Director. A few years after that, West 14th was born.
West 14th took shape in early 2012. After completing a 40 day yoga challenge and dedicating time to exploring what my next career move would be, it became very clear that I was finally ready and confident enough to pursue a life-long goal to start my own label. The aesthetics seemed to have been predisposed from my years of planning for this moment after rummaging old sketchbooks, inspirational images, and textile swatches. Leather has always been a passion of mine and so is the focus point for West 14th. Leather represents the investment element of West 14th. I want our customer to invest in a timeless piece with a twist that they could wear for years to come and feel confident and empowered. I had this vision of a leather collection made of a variety of textures and treatments worn as layers. Our first collection arrived to stores in February 2013 and the real adventure began!
I wake up at 7:03am. It’s a very random time – I know, but the alarm is set for exactly 7:03am! I check emails and instagram whilst I’m still in bed… most of the time have one eye open doing this!
I sneak out of the office for mid-day or late afternoon Power Yoga at least 3 times a week. My morning always start with a walk whilst grabbing a coffee. I should mediate more although haven’t nailed that discipline yet. My sister and I started ballet at a very young age. I ran track & field in High School and worked in a fitness center during university. Working out and being healthy has always been apart of my lifestyle. I am really keen to change things up this year, maybe try Pilates or Barre or even Cross Fit. As far as regimen is concern, I’m walking nearly every day and yoga-ing up to 5 times a week.
I drink homemade green and fruit smoothies most days. Walk most days. Those are the only consistent rituals in my life. Oh and eat dark chocolate everyday it’s my treat! (It’s an addiction that I’m okay with! ) My approach to wellness is simple. Try to eat well. Drink lots of water. Sleep more then 6 hours a night. Exercise daily.
I’ve just noticed more recently that it’s a bit harder to lose the winter-warmer-weight I’ve put on, that’s a first for me! So, paying even more attention to what I’m eating and increasing the intensities of my fitness is the focus. These days it’s all about staying as healthy as possible so when I’m 70 years old, I feel like a 30 year old!
Feels like no day looks alike! Besides for our daily catch ups with the team, each day’s focus changes during the season. Today started as normal; emails, instagram, walk, coffee. Now, I’m juggling answering this interview, reviewing business reports, and finalizing a marketing brief for our new collection’s launch. (Also eyeing-up the time for a swift escape to decompress at yoga!) When you have your own business you’re always on call. I try to get onto emails by 8am and finish up around 6ish, although calls come in anytime of the day or night and always make myself available. This year’s goal is to stop working weekends!
Running a small business in fashion presents lots of challenges! Right now, the focus is to share West 14th high-quality and personable marketing to a broader audience.We are redefining the perspective of leather in the market. West 14th creates a full RTW collection made of the softness, most butteries leathers. We are delivering designer-quality pieces at an accessible price point to make West 14th an everyday luxury in our customers’ wardrobe.
Interview has been edited. Photography by Titus Pengelly.
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Image 1: I’m wearing The Leroy Shirt and The Bowery Flare Pant.
Image 2: I’m wearing The Bridgette Tee and The Yvette Ostrich Skirt.
Image 2: I’m wearing The Park Slope.