Tara Davis believes that your clothes represent you, they represent your self-esteem and your character. Maybe that's why she's been dealing with clothes practically all her life first as a little girl who designed her Barbie's clothes, then to retail management and now as a local fashion designer. Her line, FLOW By Tara, is named for the types of materials she likes to work with, that which accentuates women's curves and flows around the body. And body types are what catch Davis' eye not trends. "Its not about following the trends its about creating trends for yourself, based on what youre inspired by and then from there making sure these trends match your customers' body types."
We sat down with Davis recently in her studio, located in the Hart Witzen Gallery in NoDa. Here's what she had to say.
Creative Loafing: What exactly is it that you do?
Tara Davis: Im a custom designer and also a retailer as well. Custom designing is what I began the company in; basically I create two lines just like any other independent designer. Instead of clients coming in and buying [clothing] ready to wear off the rack, what I offer my clients is the ability to buy it in their size. Its made to measure in their size. Different customers come in different sizes and silhouettes, so the opportunity to put something together that will fit their identity moreso than going to a store where you have the original sizes that you have to get tailored gives me a little bit of an edge. And I also offer ready-to-wear [items] and thats to boutiques.
So who's wearing your designs?
Ive had city councilmen's wives, I have VPs of companies, I have a lot of clients that are in the entertainment industry I mean, I have everybody. Even policewomen are some of my clients. My clients are a variety of women from ages 35-55 because I can offer that made-to-measure garment and when I do my collections I think about all the different types of body types, so there's something for everyone. As long as youre cosmopolitan, youre chic, youre modern, then youll like my designs. I try to do day and nighttime dresses, where you can wear them to work and then maybe take the sweater off, add a small purse or some sandals and dress it into the night.
Whats your ultimate dream?
Its to have a fashion house here in Charlotte. There are no fashion houses in Charlotte, you know like in Soho, in New York, where you can walk into Kenneth Coles fashion house and you know, speak with an account executive. They have their pattern makers and their seamstresses in the back, things of that nature. I would like to have something like that. Of course, I'd also like to grow the ready-to-wear side of my business and get it in quite a few exclusive boutiques. And to just continue my custom-based wear. I like dealing one on one with clients; I dont want that to die. A lot of times designers start out in customs and once they grow into the ready-to-wear side, they kind of forget that intimate relationship with customers and they stop customs, so I definitely want to continue that format and grow that and create a balance between both of them.
So I know you're working on your spring collection right now. What can we expect?
The last collection, the fall collection, was about a tailored, fit look; the concept was called "Protection," and Im going to still spin off that theme. This one will be a little more 1920s inspired, so a lot of flairs, a lot of chiffons, a lot of flowy materials, things of that nature. A little bit more girly-type of concepts.
The trunk show will be showcased at Aloft in Ballantyne on March 13, 5 p.m.-9 p.m., by the way.
Sometimes in the morning when I get ready for work, I stand in my walk-in closet and just look at my clothes. Its like Im waiting for an outfit to put itself together magically. No lie, I have been late in getting to the office because of this (Oh, please dont tell my editor!).
Recently we chatted with Horgan to find out more about what she does.
Creative Loafing: If a person contacts you and says theyd like to use your services, what do you do?
Catherine Horgan: First, I ask a lot of questions because I dont know what the root of their challenge is. Are they unsure of what garments work for their body shape? Do they want something new and they just dont know what to pick? Do they look at their wardrobe and cant find anything to wear? A lot of times, all it takes is a fresh pair of eyes. I can go into someones wardrobe and put so many outfits together that it makes their jaw drop, as they say, 'how did you do that?' I try to uncover what it is that they truly need. Most of the time, it entails purging their closet getting rid of things that do not serve them anymore and outfit coordination. Personal shopping is a huge part of what I do, as well, but 9 times out of 10 when a client calls, they begin with getting rid of things that dont work and having outfits put together for them from their existing wardrobe.
I saw on your site that you also do product reviews?
When the Web site started two years ago, it was really a means to disseminate information. I had no idea it was going to take off. When I started [my] style files, I knew I wanted to get product information out there, and I wanted it to span fashion, beauty and skincare. So I started reviewing products that I bought, bringing awareness to them and directing them to the company website. Then companies started to send me things to review ... from accessories, jewelry, makeup, skin care and all things in between. Consumers trust the reviews and purchase based on them. Companies love promoting their products through the reviews ... it's a win/win situation. If we love a product, were going to talk about them, were going to Facebook them, were going to Twitter them. The word will get out. As the economy is what it is, companies are really starting to take a look at where theyre spending their marketing dollars. The only downfall for a company participating in a product review is that if I dont like the product, Im very honest and I will say that I dont like it.
What was your goal when you started up Closet of Style?
To help people express their style with confidence. The biggest thing I found was lack of confidence, or not knowing how to put things together. Or, when they tried something that they werent sure about they didnt own it. So, it didnt work. Everyone is different. Its always based on individual style, personal style. I want everyone that I work with to be happy and confident with what we've accomplished. Thats so rewarding for me. Thats always the goal.
Do you have any fashion tips for the fall season?
Oh yes. Fall is my favorite season. There are so many great things out there. I do what I call my top-10 plus list (because I can't keep it to 10).
Must-haves for fall:
The over-the-knee boot. Its limiting in how you wear it and who can wear it thats the only downfall to that.
Studded accessories, whether its handbags, jewelry or shoes. Studs are very big.
Electric colors. What I found at fashion week in February, transcending through all the different runway shows, were those electric colors the hot pink, the bright yellow, the cobalt blue.
Cut-outs, whether in clothing or shoes, are going to be big.
Ginormous jewelry. I say ginormous jewelry because it keeps getting bigger. Spring was all about the big jewelry and its getting even bigger for fall.
Some more things that I think will transcend time ... the camel coat. Trench coats are always in this fall, its more about the camel coat. Its a classic piece, so its not one of those things that will go out of style.
Straight-leg pants are another one.
I try to look at trends that arent so over the top that you regret getting it later. I mean, a fur vest, very big right now. I would probably pull out my fur vest five years from now, 10 years from now. I look at those things that are big now but you can make everlasting pieces in your wardrobe.
Interested in learning more? Check out the Closet of Style web site at www.closetofstyle.com.
Style Event heads-up!
On Oct. 1, Closet of Style teams up with Jeffre Scott Apothecary to talk about all things style at The Style Event. Enjoy hors doeuvres and prosecco while learning how to achieve and master impeccable skin, flawless make-up and fall fashion.
Thursday, Oct. 1
6:30 p.m.-8 p.m.
Jeffre Scott Apothecary in Piper Glen
6432 Rea Road
The days of ruling out those hot summer looks in the Cosmo magazine are over. There is a new makeup artist in town, and her name is Joy Randall. She believes it is simple: You just have to break through those self-made boxes, and embrace your flawless beauty.
Creative Loafing: So tell me about Flawless Makeup Art whats the company mission?
Joy Randall: Flawless Makeup Art is a company that is about the service of makeup, and the artistry of makeup, versus promoting a product line. Ive worked for MAC, Ive worked for all the big name companies, thats nice, but Im here to show the Southern region that makeup is more than just a specific product line; there are people out there who do this professionally. There is more to it than just lip gloss and cheeks. We do photo work we do a whole lot of different things. So, its not about you purchasing a product. Its about these artists who are here to give you the look that you want. Thats the service we provide.
Who is your target market?
I target an urban market. I tend to think that most African-American women are most intimidated; they have the least selection of information out there. However, we can do any race; we are not limited to that.
You are launching a new membership package. Tell me more about that.
Because there isnt a clear understanding of what we do or a clear appreciation for it here in Charlotte, versus New York or California, this is a program that makes it more cost-effective for people who might not be an everyday makeup person. Instead of paying this $50 for a full-face, well you pay for the membership and you get it for $10 every time. You get brow-arching with it, you get seasonal consultations at $25 (normally $50 for the first hour), so you get plenty discounts on the services. And it makes people understand why they would need someone like me, because we provide it as a service, just like you get your hair done, just like you get your nails done, you can come get your makeup professionally done. In addition to that, we have a bunch of affiliates, people like Moazen Jewelry, YM Designs, and Eye/27 Photography who will offer different specials, as well. Although its just getting started, I feel its potential is limitless.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions involving makeup?
That it takes 10 minutes. Makeup does not take 10 minutes. Im not superwoman, nor do I create like that. Another misconception is oh that color wont look good on me. There is no such thing. I do not believe in people not being able to wear certain things. I think everything can be worn by everybody; you just have to know how to use it for your skin tone. Basically, I think people have to break down their own confidence sometimes.
The Grand Opening is approaching (Aug. 2). Tell me more about that.
This is really a re-opening. I have been here since April. Now, we have the perfect trio here with hair, makeup and photography. We also want people to know where Area 15 is located. So, its basically a meet-and-greet for people to see the space. Its a creative space; we love it. And we want people to come out and help us celebrate. There will also be specials the whole week after, so people can book their appointments that day.
The grand opening of the Flawless MakeUp Studio, located at 516 E. 15th Street, will go down this weekend, Aug. 2. Attendees will enjoy complimentary hors doeuvres and wine from 12 p.m.-6 p.m. while touring the studio. The space also houses YM Designs, a photography and graphic design studio and Locd Natural Hair Design, making the new studio a true one-stop shop. Those interested in purchasing a membership will have the opportunity to complete an application during the grand opening festivities.
For complete details about the Flawless MakeUp Art Membership program or the RSVP for the grand opening celebration, call 704-975-9526 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
[photo by Kate Robinson]
Velocity is fashion for your sole, and owner Darryl Hines portrays the perfect example of that sole-ful style. He has been working steadfast to bring his urban sneaker boutique into an area of Charlotte that is in desperate need of independent retail presence. His University area store sits in the midst of chain stores and restaurants, standing out with its fresh, clean appearance and hip-hopping, wallet-dropping merchandise. You wont find clutter and old shoe boxes here just bright colors, hot shoes and modern style.
Creative Loafing: Tell me a little about Velocity. What is its reason for being?
Darryl Hines: Velocity is a fashion-forward sneaker boutique. It differs from other sneaker and footwear boutiques by the simple fact that it is offering new styles, brands, colors, and patterns along with classic styles, brands colors and patterns. So if you come looking for something different or for something classic, this is the place you find it all under one roof.
How did you get involved in the sneaker business?
Its actually a longer story. Ive had an affection for shoes and sneakers for 14 or 15 years, actually probably younger than that. The sneaker business came when I began recognizing that there wasnt anyone targeting the mature urbanite, the person that maybe has a corporate day job but still likes to wear sneakers and casual apparel on evenings and weekends. Since there wasnt anyone offering unique sneakers to that particular market, that I consider myself to be apart of, I came up with the vision of Velocity to create an atmosphere and sales environment, with some very unique but stylish sneakers at an affordable price, and here we are.
You can tell Craig Stephenson loves what he does. When he talks about fashion, his eyes light up, his smile is wide and you cant help but be distracted by all of his hand motions.
Stephenson is currently the assistant buyer, store manager and creative director for Jordanos, a mens and womens clothing boutique in the Stonecrest Shopping Center at Piper Glen. When not helping customers put together fantastic looks, he also does some wardrobe styling for various photographers. Im always juggling all these different things and doing special events on top of it. I feel schizophrenic sometimes, he says.
Creative Loafing: Do you have any formal training in fashion or styling?
Craig Stephenson: My formal training is in fine arts. I went to Baltimore School for the Arts and I was trained classically. I was trained doing sculpting, doing photography, painting, drawing. Here with the fashion business, Ive always had a passion for fashion. Ever since I was 12 I used to watch Style with Elsa Klensch on CNN. I used to love it and Ill tell you a funny secret. We had this long living space at our house in Maryland, and when no one was around, Id get up and do runway up and down the room. I absolutely loved fashion. I loved the supermodels of the 90s.
How did you get involved at Jordanos?
I was working across the way, where Marble Slab is now, there used to be an interior design store called the 8th Wonder. I noticed all this commotion over here and paper on the windows and everything so I pulled open the door and was like Hey! and introduced myself. Me and Karen [Mangeney, the owner] instantly hit it off. She was like Youre fabulous; I wish you could come work for me. Eventually I cut my hours down to part time and I worked at 8th Wonder in the morning, took a two-hour break, then worked here in the evenings. Then over time I just got more and more into the store and what I was doing here and kind of changed my creative direction from interior design and home design into fashion.
T-shirts and shorts made out of plastic water bottles? Sounds like something you'd wear to an Earth-Day-themed Purgatory event many outfits worn at the local bondage and S&M event (that's no more) leave very little to the imagination.
But the apparel company Dirtball Fashion has the right idea. Not only are they producing eco-friendly clothing and products, but they're producing all that exclusively here in the States. No "Made in China" tags here.
Joe Fox, president and founder of the Hickory, N.C.-based Dirtball Fashion, chatted with us about his company, their mission, and how 10 water bottles can make you a single pair of shorts.
Creative Loafing: So tell us what Dirtball Fashion is all about.
Joe Fox: Well, we make apparel and products that are produced in the United States and utilize eco-friendly materials. Our skate decks are made here in the U.S. and use selectively harvested maple. Our snowboards, which will be available online in the fall, are made in Utah in an ISO-14,000 certified facility, which means its a full-grain faculty and they get their power from wind energy. Our T-shirts are made of 65 percent recycled cotton and 35 percent recycled post-consumer polyester. The cotton is a zero-waste product, so it doesnt go into landfills. The recycled polyester means that for every T-shirt, two and a half 16-ounce water bottles dont go into landfills. And every year in the United States, 51 billion plastic water bottles go into landfills, and it takes 700 years for a water bottle to decompose.
Sporting a shiny silver pair of Supras (that arent even scheduled to release for another month), Kelvin Wright, of Fresh Exclusive Sneakers, dishes all about his popular shoe company and, of course, his love of hot kicks.
Creative Loafing: So tell me a little bit about what you do.
Kelvin Wright: I take the latest and greatest sneakers from around the world and bring them to Charlotte. I sell everything from Nike SBs, Dunks, Jordans, and Supras, to Vans and Reeboks. I also sell hats and possibly T-shirts in the near future. But sneakers are definitely my main thing, and I love finding very rare shoes and bringing them here to Charlotte.
How did you get into this type of business?
Ive just always had a love of sneakers. I wear a different pair every day. When I go to pick out an outfit to wear, I start from the bottom up. I pick out the shoes, then the shirt and so on. But I was living in South Carolina at the time, and I had to travel to Atlanta and New York to get the shoes that I wanted. When my mom moved to Raleigh, I came to Charlotte because I wanted to live in the city. I found that there were only a few stores here that sold new sneakers, and even then, they were shoes that everybody had. So I just wanted to give Charlotte what it needed.
It wasnt until about two years ago that I really started thinking about starting a company. I started from the bottom, just researching and talking to people. Im a very fast learner and I got advice from a lot of my friends who own their own companies.
Three months ago, I got my Web site up and running, and business has just been crazy. Everybody had told me that when it happens its going to happen fast, but man, they werent kidding.
What is it that sets your company apart from others?
Exclusiveness! I have what no one else in Charlotte has: sneakers that you cant get anywhere else. There are sneaker heads out there that will do just about anything to get their hands on certain pairs of shoes, and Ive got those shoes. I get a lot of business around Charlotte; Ive even sell to a lot of the football and basketball players in the area.
Meet Armah Shiancoe, a senior marketing major at Queens University of Charlotte who has recently partnered up with two close friends (and family members) to launch their very own clothing line. The line, called Lastdays, is a socially and environmentally conscious line and is already pretty buzzworthy around Charlotte.
Creative Loafing: How did Lastdays come about?
Armah Shiancoe: The brand began around 10 years ago when my cousin Bart started designing and selling T-shirts to make a little extra cash. He was working as a graphic design teacher at the time and would come up with different concepts, draw or spray paint them on shirts and then sell them. He decided to start a business and thats when me and my other cousin James joined in.
We decided on the name Lastdays because of its biblical connotation with the end of the world and because the line deals with reality based issues. Whoever wears it is aware of whats going on around them. The clothes are also eco-friendly.
What are some of the designs like?
The clothes address many controversial issues that society is currently faced with. We have T-shirts that depict everything from conflict diamonds to the attacks on 9/11. We also recently designed a T-shirt for the school shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech. The clothes are all very high quality, kind of like Ed Hardy, but we wanted them to be affordable.
Also, the new 2009 line is environmentally friendly. All the clothes use organic agriculture alternatives and water/soy based ink rather than conventional chemicals. So people can not only look good, but feel good in what theyre wearing. We also give back by donating 1 percent of all sales to different environmental organizations.
Meet Kymm McLean. If you're fast enough. This woman works seven days a week, doing everything from wardrobe styling, hair styling and makeup for models to makeup lessons and makeovers for girls' birthday parties.
Creative Loafing: Tell me a little about what you do.
Kymm McLean: Im a freelance makeup artist and hairstylist, but I also do wardrobe and styling. So when a photographer is going to do a photo shoot with a model, or an agency needs a model to work on their portfolio, Ill do her hair, her makeup, and put together her wardrobe, then Ill go on set and actually style them and pose them.
I also do makeovers and teach makeup. Ive taught classes at Aveda and the Art Institute. I work in all different kinds of environments. Ive even done kids birthday parties for little girls.
I've also been to peoples houses, like if theres a big gala at the Mint Museum, a lot of the attendees in Myers Park, theyll call me and Ill go to their house and do their makeup. A girl had a birthday party and I did her and all 10 of her friends before they went out to the club. I've been to hotel rooms and do people who are in town for special events. I literally get such random phone calls all the time. Im doing NASCAR guys for a Tylenol commercial this week. Theres really nothing that I dont do. And thats another reason why Im as big as I am because I am very diverse.
So you pretty much do everything?
I actually make clothes too. Its crazy. I use to sell my stuff in boutiques on Melrose in L.A. I make hats and jewelry. What I really like to do is buy like a pair of already made shoes or jeans or a shirt, and I like to deconstruct it and add things to it and kind of redo the whole thing.
Maybe Charlotte doesn't get big names like Armani or Marc Jacobs to color our city personally with their fashion designs, but that certainly doesn't mean we're floating in a fashion black hole. Originally from Peru, Couture Designer Luis Machicao has been in the Charlotte area for eight years. He specializes in women's clothing but is now getting into men's swimwear, and his work has most recently been seen in runway shows for the Catawba Care Coalition and the Junior League.
Creative Loafing: Tell us a little about your background.
Luis Machicao: I have designed for theater, opera, a couple of movies and TV programs back in Peru. I was also the fashion designer for the former presidential family.
While I was studying sociology in school, I visited Paris where I discovered the fashion world was ruled by men. I just fell in love with the runway world. I moved there to work as a designer. About 11 years ago, I moved to the U.S. and opened a house of high fashion in Houston, Texas. There, I did some beauty pageants and bridal gowns. Eight years ago I moved to the Carolinas.
What brought you here?
Because of the weather. Its phenomenal; you have four seasons here. I love the people here too. My customers are so nice, very warm. The people here made me feel welcome.