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. "It’s not about following the trends — it’s about creating trends for yourself, based on what you’re 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: I’m 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. It’s 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 that’s to boutiques.
So who's wearing your designs?
I’ve 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 you’re cosmopolitan, you’re chic, you’re modern, then you’ll 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.
What’s your ultimate dream?
It’s 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 don’t 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 I’m 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.
Do you do anything else to contribute to the fashion industry here in Charlotte?
Because there are not any fashion design classes here in Charlotte (and then CPCC offers sewing classes and lot of times that doesn’t give inspired designers what they need), I offer beginner, intermediate and advance classes in the field on Mondays. The next class starts on Feb. 1. I’ll teach you how to sew in those beginner classes. I teach you how to drape your design in the intermediate classes, from conceptual ideas with your mood boards. In the advanced, I teach them how to draft. A lot of the things I’ve been taught in college, I just give them the fundamentals because it’s such a short 4 week time span. I just give them enough for them to decide, "Hey maybe this is for me, let me go ahead and pursue it even more," or “It’s just a hobby; I’m not really interested in it as a career.” [Classes run for four weeks and cost $80-$100.]
For your own style, do you shop locally at all?
I like vintage, so I like shopping thrift stores, Value Village, Goodwill, places like that, and you know I mix my pieces. So I’m a classic and modern person. But I love Rat’s Nest, Hong Kong Vintage on Central Avenue, and then Value Village, there’s like four of them in Charlotte but I like the one on South Boulevard and the one in Mooresville.
Pictured below are a couple of her designs. For more information on Flow By Tara, visit her site here. (photo credit: Leif Wombwell)