TNT Unique Designs uplift plus-size women
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.”
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.