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Journal

Spring Styles Survey - Results!

Crew Neck Tank

Thank you to everyone (literally hundreds of women!) that participated in the Spring Styles survey – it was so great to hear your voices after sampling some of these styles.

What is great about being a small manufacturer based in the US, is that I can tailor the orders just-in-time instead of making wild guesses about which styles and colors to produce a year in advance. Yesterday, I was able to push “GO” for the spring collection and I’m excited to see what you guys think in a couple of months!

Here is what you liked: Hands-down the winner was the Mid-Sleeve Scoop Neck Tee. Over 36% of you chose this style as your favorite for spring. And I couldn’t agree more! It is incredibly versatile – wear it with shorts for an easy day, or dress it up for a night out. The tighter half sleeve and blousy midline are a flattering combination. Many women commented that the sleeve hides the areas they might be uncomfortable with, but the neckline is a universal pleaser.

Here is what you didn’t like: The Crew-Neck Tank. Only 16% of women chose this as their top style and this style also received the most votes for least liked. For many, this style was too heavy and those with broad shoulders worried about this silhouette on their frame.

Because I hate to say no to anyone, I decided to make all four styles and skewed the order to reflect customers’ preferences. So, if you are interested in the Crew-Neck Tank, don’t hesitate! I didn’t order too many for production. The plan is to see how the initial order does, and re-orders can follow!

On color, white was the obvious winner at 57% of the vote. Black with 35% is the second choice. So, expect to see these colors (or lack of color) the most! The color choices for the write-in portion: Coral, pink and blue! I’ll see what I can do about a small color run for summer, but for spring expect some basics first.

Finally, I’m crossing my fingers, but I hope to introduce a stripe for summer – and I’m trying to sample that now! White with navy? Or white with black? Choices! Let me know what you think!

Spring 2017 Styles!

 Spring Styles                       

It’s official – two new styles have been sampled for Spring 2017!

First up, a Mid-Sleeve Tapered Tee for all you ladies who asked for more arm coverage than the cap sleeve. I sampled this one in both a crew neck and a new style of scoop neck since I realize that most women have a distinct point of view about which style suits them best. This style is by far one of my favorites. The tighter mid-sleeve keeps the look sleek, while the tapered long hem allows for the flattering silhouette we have all come to love.

Second, a Tapered Tank—because I was incredibly frustrated by the lack of substantial looking tanks on the market this past summer! Again, I sampled this one in a crew neck (for a more formal look) and a v-neck for a casual silhouette. The tank was a harder style for me to realize because in order to create the volume in the waist for our tapered look, I typically need to create that volume in the armhole area. Without armholes, this design became a challenge. So, I played around to create the loose look in the waist (without the sleeves) and the effect is somewhat of a reverse hour-glass look. I’m super happy with the results!

I sketched these styles here for you to see:

 Mid-Sleeve

Tank

 

Now, I need help determining which styles you like best! And colors!! I’m giving away a Tapered Dolman Dress to the first 10 people who answer the survey about spring styles and colors.  Survey closes Sunday, December 18th at midnight.

Click HERE to access the survey. Your input is valuable, as I can use it to define production numbers and colors. And, I love to hear what customers have to say!

The Christmas Market

Christmas Market

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to present Tapered Collection at our local church’s Christmas Market Fair. I’ve never attended a craft market before, and didn’t know what to expect! I was excited and nervous to set up my “booth” and pitch my wares all day long.

Set-up was crazy. Imagine one hundred crafters and designers with 10 times that many boxes converging on a single space at the same time. In less than an hour, the incredible happened—we created a fully functional, completely festive pop-up holiday market.

Doors opened at 10am and it was show time. At first, people milled around and just casually browsed my booth. Finally, I realized they were waiting for me to really introduce them to what I was selling. At first, I found it awkward to engage with each passerby. But soon I got the hang of it and felt pretty pro by the end of the weekend. It was great to see women’s faces light-up when I spoke of the brand attributes. As soon as I mentioned, “a nuanced look around the waistline,” many women instantly understood and reached for a Tee to try on. Many immediately bought one, and some came back the next day to buy more.

As it turns out, I was in great company at this market! Designers Sara Campbell (another Boston local), J. McLaughlin, Sail to Sable, and Katherine Hooker were nearby. I was able to shop for myself while also get great info on how these brands built-up from small to quite big! Some started doing the market scene and never stopped—it turns out markets are a great way to build brand awareness. Other brands like Katherine Hooker (the most divine coats and jackets, and Kate Middleton’s favorite designer…) sell only at events and have no retail presence in the US.

What became clear, is that markets, while generally crafty, are similar to trunk shows in that the clientele is coming because they want to experience a new brand. They are willing to step outside the big box brands and try something unexpected. The women I met this past weekend were happy to support something local, and also something started by a Mom trying to get back into the workforce in a relevant way.

It was great to meet some new “booth friends” and I have lots of contacts to follow-up with and exchange ideas.

 

Traveling trunk shows

Trunk Shows

Several weeks ago, I hopped on a plane at 7am and flew to California for a series of trunk shows to introduce Tapered Collection. It seemed like a long way to go, but it is the one place that I have lots of old friends willing to host a show, and invite their friends.  

Being an Internet retailer, I don’t get to see the tees on people. And while I’ve tried my tees on tons of friends, and received invaluable feedback, and I wanted to hear from women who didn’t have to worry about offending me with their critiques.   And so, I asked friends to invite lots of their friends, but no one that I knew personally.

First let me say that travel for work as a Mom is no joke. I am so impressed and in awe of the moms I know that travel regularly for work. For most families, including mine, the Mom is the default parent regardless of stay-at-home or working status. To add travel into our normal routine took 5 pages of typewritten outlines of schedules, a huge plea to my Mother-in-law to come stay with help out, a commitment from my sitter to work 3-7 each day to help out my Mother-in-law, and a variety of favors from friends for additional help when the schedules got really dicey (like the fact I forgot it was Conference Day that week and the kids didn’t have school…whoops). Oh, and the dog needed a manual as well. Because God forbid she doesn’t get out for a walk or potty breaks!

However, once I got in the air, I felt free of it all and laser focused on the task at hand. I flew with 2 boxes of merchandise and a rolling rack – ready to set up my mobile store within hours of landing.

Each trunk show was very different, but incredibly rewarding at the same time. I got to know many body types and fit preferences. Some like their tees looser, others like a more fitted look. By the end of the week, it was clear that every women has a type of neckline and sleeve length they prefer, mostly having to do with a part of the body they are trying to flatter or forgive. I can’t say one style did better than another, but the clear winners in terms of color (or lack of color) were Black and Granite.  

I got great feedback on the tees, and I hope that I’ve peppered the Bay Area with some Tapered fans to help spread the word about the brand. Mostly, I’m happy I had the chance to interact with all these ladies and learn about how they buy and what they are looking for in their wardrobe.

After three nights of 12:30am bedtimes and early wake-ups, I was happy to return home. The kids did great without me, and they really stepped up to help out while I was gone. It made coming home even that much sweeter. However, I’m not ready to get back on the road just yet…

 

Launch Party & Pop-Up

MFlynn

The journey to get the Tapered Tee brand off the ground has taken about two years. During that time, I’ve sacrificed time with my kids, family and definitely the gym. As well, I’ve been leaning on friends for help. Friends, and friends of friends, have provided valuable introductions, great suggestions, and hours of patient listening. What better way to celebrate the launch of Tapered Tee and thank everyone than having a party?

This past Tuesday, I hosted the Tapered Tee launch party and Pop-Up shop with Megan and Moira Flynn, sisters and owners of M.Flynn, a popular South End boutique that is the go-to establishment for killer jewelry and custom engagement pieces. Together, we’ve found that the Tapered Tee’s simple silhouette with gentle draping is the perfect backdrop for their custom necklaces and earrings.

For the party, we prepped yummy treats and chilled champagne. For the Pop Up shop element of the event, Megan and Moira shared their expertise on setting up items for retail. The Tapered Tees looked beautiful against the backdrop of their modern yet inviting space.

The launch party gave me a chance to share the Tapered Tee concept and sell tees. But more importantly, it gave me the opportunity I’d been hoping for to thank everyone for standing by me, and cheering me on from the sidelines. I definitely could not have started this company without a husband and a group of friends and family who have supported me wholeheartedly.

Surprisingly, the party gave me something else … inspiration. Before the party started, a customer was in the store looking at jewelry and decided to try on some tees. She ended up buying two – without even hearing of the brand before. My intern Abby and I high-fived with happiness as she walked out with her bag of Tapered Tee’s. It’s one thing for friends to support you, but when a stranger tries on a shirt, likes it, and buys two – you know that you have something worth working on. So! While I love selling on the Internet, now that I’ve seen how wonderful it is to have a space, I think it would be great to have a more permanent Pop-Up for customers to try Tapered on in person. We’ll see!

Cupcakes

Meet Granite!

granite

When I started thinking about color offerings for Tapered Collection, I did a ton of research on companies out in the market. Besides the big basics like Gap and J.Crew who literally made the market in tees, I have always loved the more upscale brands like Splendid, Three Dots and Velvet. All of those brands, like mine, started with one basic tee and have since then built empires. (I’m patiently waiting for my empire, but I’m happy with a small cult brand)

What do all the brands do best? Simple tees with great colors.  J.Crew, to be exact, offers 19 colors in their perfect fit tee.  While it is something to aspire to, it is also scary to offer so many colors. 

I started with four colors in the Spring of 2015, and asked customers to vote on a fifth color for Summer. I was excited to see what people chose (It was coral!). I put in a limited wash of coral tees and waited. And then waited. As beautiful the color and perfectly in-season, the coral tees didn’t sell as quickly as I had hoped. My plan to offer more than just basic colors was quickly questioned. Lesson learned!

As I thought about it, I find that even I rarely go for the brightly colored tee in my closet. What I grab most is black, and white. It goes with everything and always looks classic.

What this means, is that I won’t be offering true “colors” in the near future, rather sticking to a more neutral palette. But I didn’t want to pair down the collection to just two colors – because I realize that navy and grey are also tried and true basics that won’t go out of style.

And so, for Fall 2016, I decided to test a cousin of the Shadow grey from Spring. It’s a steely grey called Granite. Paired with all-black for a city look, or white with brown accessories for fresh look, Granite gives off that faded style that is just so darn chic.

I hope you like it! Feedback appreciated.

Why a ¾ tee?

 3/4 tee

In the fall of 2014 I found myself in a friend's mini-van while we waited patiently for our kids to get out of school. At the time, I was struggling with which sleeve length to produce first for Tapered Collection. I loved how the dolman cap-sleeve turned out, but the long sleeve just wasn’t quite right. I was up against a deadline, and I had to make a choice to produce both, or just one. Since I had my friend’s focused attention (what else can she do in a car that’s going nowhere but listen to me), I decided to bombard her with a million questions about what she liked and didn’t like about her tees.

She said simply, “I like ¾ tees best. I can wear them year-round. Roll the sleeve up a bit, and it’s a short sleeve. Great for summer nights, under winter coats, and transitional weather."

Hmmm…I hadn’t thought of that. But it made sense. I rarely wear long sleeves. They either feel constricting, or get wet and dirty. They get caught up in jackets and add bulk in the arms where you need it least.

To say it was the most productive mini-van meeting I’ve ever had is an understatement. I went home, and cut off the sleeves on my samples right below the elbow. I was in love. For my launch in March 2016, I still wasn’t ready to pull the trigger on this style though, and wanted to wait until the perfect fall weather to bring it out. I’m so glad I did, because I was able to do it in the v-neck version as well – which looks amazing.

The same elements from the original tapered tee apply - dolman sleeve, tapered body, longer hemline, and great fabric. Dressed up or down, the 3/4 tee is a closet staple for years to come. I hope you like it, and can’t wait to get feedback!

 

Mommy's Excellent Adventure

 

Molly's cooking lesson 

Looking back on my college days, I am fairly certain I dreamed of backpacking through Europe like many other kids. The romance of the backpack. The freedom of the Eurail pass. The opportunity to use the grammar and vocabulary I’d memorized in Mrs. Gonzalez’ Spanish 3 class. The chance to truly experience the food. The promise of adventure.

What happened to this dream, this sueño? I’ll tell you. I graduated. I took on jobs as a substitute teacher, a research assistant, and a waitress. I began making life-plans with my soon-to-be-husband and then-to-be father of our two beautiful children. Odd jobs turned into a full-time job. Parenting took up all my free time. Two week paid vacations were spent organizing closets (sigh) and spending time with family.

Fast forward 21 years. I was sitting in the pediatrician office while my 15-year-old got her sports physical for dance. Turning the pages of Parents Magazine, I learned how to sneak vegetables into my child’s diet. I studied details on how to pick a family car. When I looked up and saw a Mommy and toddler playing with the trains, it hit me. This is not “me” anymore. These are no longer my worries. I have a daughter who is about to graduate from college and another who will soon have her driver’s license. “Mommy” is about to become an independent woman for the first time in over two decades.

Closing the magazine along with its helpful advice, I decided it was time to be bold. Rather than allow the sadness of saying goodbye to my daughters’ childhoods creep up on me, I decided to focus on coming up with an adventure. My own adventure. Something small enough that I wouldn’t disrupt my job or our still busy family life, but big enough that I would feel independent, fulfilled, and ready for the “what’s next.”

I spent the following month weighing my options. With the support and encouragement of my husband and daughters, I decided on a trip to Spain. I set some personal goals. My trip would be solo. I would take Spanish classes to refresh the language I’d nearly forgotten. I would be more than a tourist. I would meet people, take cooking and language classes, learn about olive oil, and experience mystical sites like the Alhambra and Mezquita de Cordoba.

After a year of planning and studying, my trip plans looked good – possibly a bit overzealous. My Spanish … well, it had come a long way, floating somewhere between beginner and intermediate.

Two weeks before my trip, I made the pilgrimage to our local sporting goods store to pick out my “pack.” Turns out, even a forty-plus Mommy can feel cool while buying her first backpack for her first big personal adventure.

Once home with my new travel buddy, I discovered that I would need to pack even lighter than I’d originally imagined. My pack list whittled down to a few t-shirts (2 white and 1 navy Tapered Collection Tee), two pairs of jeans, two light sundresses, pretty sandals, sturdy walking shoes, and a few scarves (to mix-up my look without adding laundry).

When I finally set off, the nerves hit. Waves of panic ran through my head with flashing signs that read, “How will your family survive?” “What if you get mugged and thrown in a river?” When did the dreamy “I’m going to Spain this summer” turn into the very real “I’m leaving right now!”?

Madrid set me straight. I was gifted precious time with my new sister-in-law. It was our first time together, so staying up late sharing stories was the top priority. Over the next two days, I was treated to a Madrileña’s view of her city. She whisked me through Spain’s greatest plazas; past massive museums, monuments, and statues (lots of men on horses); sat me down in one of Madrid’s oldest tapas bars for chicharrones (fried pigs ears); and ushered me in front of a “bomba” (a cream-filled pastry) at La Mallorquina -- “the best” pastry shop in Madrid. Amidst touring, she taught me how to navigate the grocery store, the bank, and trains and buses. I am forever grateful. After three days in her care, I set out solo, to Toledo. Over the following two weeks, city by city, I discovered Andalusia.

In Toledo, I met up with the Spanish teachers of Aula Toledo, who I’d been Skyping with for the months leading up to my trip. At a favorite restaurant, we enjoyed lomo de orza, carcamusas Toledana, and tinto de verano (a typical southern wine cooler) followed by a meandering walk to find the city’s El Grecos. Along the way, I heard stories of the city’s history, legends, and superstitions. As well, I got a feel for the architecture, frescos, and stunning patios. Perhaps most memorable, were the breathtaking vistas from the top floor of a library and a hill on the outskirts of town.

My Spanish improved with each passing day. Traveling alone forced me to communicate with others to get directions (getting lost was half the fun) and engage in conversations with people I met in classes, tours, and shops. One evening, while enjoying cerveza and a flamenco guitarist, I befriended two boisterous women from Central America who were traveling with their families. After learning about my big adventure, they decided I needed to add “learning Flamenco” to my bucket list. Nervous at first, I quickly committed to just letting go and having fun. We danced Flamenco in Sevilla’s Casco Antiguo bars until 2:00 a.m.

When it came to olive oil and cooking classes, Spain did not disappoint. A tour of Cortijo Espiritu Santo, a rural olive oil making facility in Ubeda, showed me the beauty of a Spanish family working together. Owner María Molero Villar taught me how they achieve incredible flavors using extraction by centrifuge (a technique that’s even more modern than cold press). We walked her property and soaked in the panoramic views of Ubeda’s mar de olivos (sea of olive orchards).

In my cooking classes, I met amazing chefs, including Manuela Monsalve, a celebrated Sabiote chef who is famous for her tapas. I learned to focus on technique, minimal spices, and simple combinations of ingredients to create typical Spanish tapas, soups, stews, tortillas, and paellas. I appreciated learning how to properly handle ingredients to bring out the best flavors, like removing the little green sprout inside garlic cloves to prevent bitterness in raw soups like Gazpacho and Salmorejo.

The sights, sounds, and tastes of Spain dominated my experience. Wandering through each city on foot, I saw Spain’s regular and spectacular alike. From apartment buildings and busy shopping districts to cathedrals, hillside castles, palaces, and mosques. The moments that I had dreamed would be magical, like seeing an El Greco for the first time, touring Granada’s Alhambra by starlight, or walking amidst the arches of Cordoba’s Mezquita, were more than that – each was intense, spiritual, and beautiful.

Back home, weeks later, my newly licensed 16-year-old talks me into accompanying her to the orthodontist so she won’t have to go alone (turns out the transition to independence happens in baby steps). As I wait, I pick up Parents Magazine. I laugh a little as I recall my previous waiting room epiphany.

I expertly flip the pages. Turns out, a lot has happened in parenting in just one year. The writers advise that I firmly hold my small child’s leg while using the EpiPen (lest he need stitches); that to avoid dehydration, I should download an app to remind me to drink throughout the day; and, most excitingly, that there is a new app I can use whenever I need to text a real-live counselor who is “trained” to help me with any 911-Mommy moment that might arise.

I close the magazine and smile. This time, I know for sure. This isn’t ME anymore. In just one year, a lot has happed in my life as well and I’m ready for what’s next.  

 

 

Responsible Fashion

 

When I set out to design a perfect fit t-shirt, I didn’t plan on starting an eco-friendly apparel company. However, along the way I found that I had a choice in shaping my small business. As it turns out, when given choices at the beginning of a venture, its pretty easy to make good ones. I don’t consider Tapered to be at the front of the eco-apparel movement. However, after watching a recent movie about the apparel industry, The True Cost, I am much more conscious about how my decisions for Tapered affect the world in general (even if it is in a very small way!)

Slow, responsible fashion is en-vogue. We are coming off a huge and exciting binge of fast fashion by the likes of Zara and Forever 21. Want a new top to wear tonight? And only tonight because it will be out of style and/or fall apart? Great – get it NOW and throw it away for the price! I was a victim to this marketing, and after my major closet purge I realized that I really didn’t wear those cheapie pieces very often. But, they were super fun to buy in the moment.

Instead of two seasons (Spring/Fall) these manufacturers deliver an overwhelming 52 mini seasons – new arrivals each week lest we get bored of seeing the same stuff. Fast fashion has a price, and we are paying for it even though we don’t see it. Apparel waste, low-paid workers, bad working environments, and over-farmed lands are just a few ways this trend leaves its mark.

Rather than jump on this fast fashion mouse wheel, I chose to build a company sloooowwly, using elements of the slow fashion movement. Here are some of the things I focused on:

  • A primarily online business with POP-UPS to keep retail footprint at a minimum
  • Timeless designs that would become closet staples – not trendy trash
  • Small production batches to keep inventory tight
  • One fabric at first, to get to know it really, really well (cotton was desirable because of its wonderful qualities)
  • Keeping notions to a minimum (or none) – This includes zippers, buttons, hocks, etc.
  • Garment dyeing each piece so that I could respond to demand and keep inventory low
  • Local production to ensure workers/environment meet standards
  • Eco shipping products and packaging

Many people ask why I started with only one design. The answer? I wanted to test the market with a small batch, get feedback along the way, and listen to customers to see what they wanted. Also, I’m a bit of a chicken. The idea of creating a huge collection without any proof of concept didn’t work for my risk profile!

With the success of the original Tapered Tee, I was able to add on the V-neck Tee. Both designs, I produced in small batches, so that I wouldn’t be stuck with huge inventory levels that create MASSIVE mid-season sales. The next several designs were also requested by customers, and again, they were produced in small batches to get a feel for the product.

I realize that Tapered Tee’s are in the middle price – they are slightly above a JCrew but well below some of the designer tees out there. Producing in the U.S. under good conditions and using premium materials is part of the price, but I hope that you will continue to see the benefit of these attributes for years to come.

For more info on how your clothes are made, and what happens after you discard them, please take a look at THE TRUE COST, available on Netflix. After watching this movie, I am happy that I continue to build my company in a slow and responsible manner. Mostly, I appreciate the customers who also support this style of business and keep the design suggestions coming.

Solving the Wardrobe Malfunction

white tapered tee on grass

The t-shirt is such an important part of a woman’s wardrobe -- it’s our basic, our easy casual outfit. It shines as a stand-alone piece in the summer and is the perfect layer under a jacket in the winter. As the weather warms, I tend to trade in my round neck tees for v-necks (who wants so much fabric when it's 80 degrees!). But lately, I noticed that my v-neck tees were lacking in what I’ll call “coverage.”

How many times have you looked down while wearing your low v-neck tee and noticed that your bra was literally hanging out? For me, it happens constantly. The slightest crossing of my arms, slinging my handbag over my shoulder, or grip of a child on my hip whose hand just happens to grab at my shirt and pull it down. Like all the way down. My favorite of all? When I was bending over last summer and looked down to realize my boobs were on display for everyone to see. I mean, come-on t-shirt designers!

So! Inspired by my love of the low v-neck and challenged by its inherent wardrobe malfunction issue, I began work on a v-neck that had the flattering shape of the original Tapered Tee, but with a softer v-neckline. First, I raised the neckline about 1 inch higher than my current favorite v-neck tee (the one that constantly over-shares my body with others). Second, I used binding around the neckline to give it a more elevated look and this created a soft versus hard “V” neckline which can lead to fabric instability at the seams.

And so…Hooray! This week, the v-neck Tapered Tee arrived at the warehouse and is ready to ship. I have been wearing samples of this style for the last few weeks, and I’m so pleased with the result. I dyed the lot in white, black and navy for summer and only made small batch to test it out. If you like it, I’ll plan on more for fall with some great new colors – I really love the steely Granite I’ve been testing.

I hope that my hard work will pay off – let me know what you think!

 

 

 

 

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