TNT Unique De­signs up­lift plus-size women

Maryland Independent - - Business - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @JClink_En­qGaz

Mar­ket re­search from on­line re­tailer ModCloth showed that 77 per­cent of plus-size women say it is dif­fi­cult to find well-fit­ting gar­ments, 73 per­cent say siz­ing is in­con­sis­tent across brands and 81 per­cent say they would spend more on cloth­ing if they had more op­tions in their size. Even with some of the ex­tra pro­duc­tion costs passed on to the con­sumer, plus­size ap­parel still of­ten has lower mar­gins, or is less prof­itable, than non­plus size cloth­ing.

Stereo­types about larger women not want­ing to dress fash­ion­ably is some­thing Tavira Ni­cole Tap­ley of Wal­dorf has proven wrong with her own mo­bile bou­tique, TNT Unique De­signs. She started the busi­ness in 2006 to help out­fit plus-size women and make them feel good inside and out.

“I’ve al­ways co­or­di­nated ev­ery­thing from my jew­elry — hav­ing a neck­lace on, a ring, a bracelet, a hand­bag to match my out­fit. That’s just been me since day one be­fore I sold any­thing,” Tap­ley said in a phone in­ter­view. “I al­ways got a lot of com­pli­ments over the years about how I put things to­gether or match colors to­gether on my own with other peo­ple’s cloth­ing. So that’s what got me started; by hear­ing that over and over again.”

Be­ing a fash­ion lover her whole life, the Suit­land na­tive cre­ated TNT Unique De­signs based on the be­lief that her cus­tomers’ needs are of the ut­most im­por­tance. Tap­ley’s main goal is to have long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ships built on trust and sat­is­fac­tion, ac­cord­ing to her com­pany’s web­site.

“I’m plus size my­self,” she said. “A lot of peo­ple don’t know how to put things to­gether and co­or­di­nate things and what color goes with what. … I’ve styled so many peo­ple in this last year which is crazy. So now I’m be­com­ing a per­sonal stylist on top of sell­ing clothes be­cause peo­ple will call me.”

Whether it be cloth­ing, hand­bags, jew­elry, per­fume, cos­met­ics, sun­glasses, shoes, self-de­fense prod­ucts or even kids’ clothes, Tap­ley is all about fe­male em­pow­er­ment and show­ing her love for fash­ion through high-qual­ity and af­ford­able prod­ucts.

“I carry sizes 12 all the way up to a 26. I wanted to do it mo­bile be­cause I didn’t want the over­head of a store­front,” she said. “So far, ev­ery­thing has been work­ing good where I can keep [putting] my money into my busi­ness and that’s how my busi­ness has grown over the years.”

Tap­ley, who also goes by the name of “Miss Tee,” said her mo­bile bou­tique is equipped with air con­di­tion­ing, heat, lights, a tele­vi­sion, ra­dio, beauty par­lor and dress­ing room.

“It’s ba­si­cally a mo­bile store,” Tap­ley said. “We have one other plus-size bou­tique in the lo­cal area but I’m the only mo­bile one that ac­tu­ally has ev­ery­thing like a one-stop shop. I have the hand­bags. I have the jew­elry. I have body oils and I also have my own shea but­ter and su­gar scrub line as well. And I’m the only one that has my own makeup line.”

Tap­ley ac­cepts cus­tom or­ders and of­fers a va­ri­ety of ser­vice pack­ages which in­clude fam­ily events, fes­ti­vals, pri­vate par­ties, bar­be­cue bat­tles, wed­dings, cook­outs and even home par­ties. Depend­ing on the event, she posts where she’s go­ing to be and also keeps clients up to date on new ar­rivals via email, she said.

“My clien­tele is more con­ser­va­tive so my age range is from late 20s all the way up to the 60s … church wear, work at­tire, that type of stuff,” said Tap­ley, a mother of two who is tak­ing con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses at Prince Ge­orge’s Com­mu­nity Col­lege and has re­ceived cer­tifi­cates in busi­ness man­age­ment, photography and graphic de­sign. “When you’re plus size, you want to look nice. A lot of my stuff is flowy and ac­cen­tu­ates your size. I have stuff that fits ev­ery per­son.”

For Tap­ley, it’s not al­ways about mak­ing a sale as she is more con­cerned about her clients’ best in­ter­est and what suits their per­son­al­ity and in­di­vid­ual style.

“I’m hon­est and I talk to a lot of these women,” she said. “It’s more oneon-one and per­sonal. We have heart-to-heart con­ver­sa­tions. Peo­ple have cried with me, peo­ple have prayed with me — it’s just amaz­ing.”

Thanks to a high per­cent­age of re­peat cus­tomers and re­fer­rals, TNT Unique De­signs has be­come big­ger and better, Tap­ley said.

“Like I tell ev­ery­body, ‘You have to work your busi­ness. Your busi­ness will not work for you,’” she said. “I would love to get into swimwear. Hope­fully, next year, I will be able to do my own swim line fo­cused more on cus­tom styles. That’s pretty much it. I’ve done ev­ery­thing that I’ve wanted to do.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

A plus-size model shows off one of the pieces sold by TNT Unique De­signs, a mo­bile fash­ion bou­tique that spe­cial­izes in plus-sized fash­ions. The truck, which can be found at events in the re­gion, is owned by Ni­cole Tap­leyof Wal­dorf.

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