Taylor Jay on entrepreneurship + pivoting
Taylor Jay is the founder of the Taylor Jay Collection, a sustainable designer brand specializing in elevated comfort. Taylor had signed a lease on a permanent retail location in Oakland right before shelter in place.
Taylor talks with Phoebe about her growing mask business and her Work From Home Collection. She shares inspiring advice of what she’s learned from starting her brand, pivoting during Covid, and on “opening the doors for others.”
Taylor talks about the start of her journey opening up a shop in SoCal. Her body changed from being a size 2 to 12 in 6 months. “What can I make for women that works for all women throughout their body journey?” She played around with some samples and would wear the clothes in her store. She started to sell them in her store, and customers would continue to come back talking about how much they loved the pieces they bought from her, not the other pieces she was selling instore bought from wholesales, but HER pieces.
In 2014 she decided to take a chance and do pop-ups and festivals. And the first festival she did she sold about 200 dresses. And she said “Oh wow, this is something I should really be trying to get into. These dresses are moving”
In 2015 she retired from the boutique world and ventured out to learn more about fashion design. She is completely self-taught! She knew what women would like and what works for specific body types, and that is how Taylor Jay Collection was born.
Her pieces are “so simple, they are not over-trendy, simple silhouettes that work with so many different kinds of bodies. You can wear the pieces when you’re pregnant, or to a wedding. You don’t expect to find so much comfort in pieces that aren’t athleisure wear, these are pieces make you feel really good.”
“We have such a strong community of women that are committed to the brand, they recommend it to their friends, their coworkers, they are what makes the brand the brand”. It has made such an impact in these women’s lives. It’s a comfortable elevated look.
Taylor Jay is into recycling. She re-uses scraps for repurposing and makes one-offs. She uses deadstock fabric in her collections. In-house and factory sewing is local in Oakland.
Her lines are season-less, and she can absolutely get away with that in California, where conditions (especially in Oakland where our temperature remains between 50 and 80 degrees). They are staple pieces, they may change up the color, but these pieces are for your life journey.
“These pieces are just a part of your life. Women can truly count on these pieces. A lot of our customers travel, they are mothers, they’re entrepreneurs, they’re professionals. They need pieces they can rely on.”
ON RETAIL DURING COVID
Taylor’s space was supposed to be just a pop-up initially, and then they signed up for a lease, right before shelter in palace. Obviously all their calendar events, and the store was not allowed to be open. She talks about there being a week or two full of anxiety and stress, right when the closing started. Lots of tears, and the questions “What are we going to do?” And she says, these questions still exist.
Her initial thought process was getting the word out to the community and sharing the actual community. She teamed up with other entrepreneurs to share each other’s networks, calling out to those who were still working to support small businesses.
And then with all the equipment shortages, she thought she should make face covers. Initially these covers were supposed to go on top of N95 masks. At the beginning they were making, selling, and also donating. That was the immediate pivot, and essentially it turned into a whole new business! And that was the distraction from the fact she had a store that she couldn’t even open.
The face covers now serve as an intro to the brand. They get a little sample of what Taylor Jay is all about, as the masks are just an extension of what they have been doing for so long, providing comfort to people.
“It has been an emotional rollercoaster, but we are pushing through.”
WORK FROM HOME EDITION
In comes Taylor’s Work from Home Collection. Because now, other companies are going to try and pivot to what they’ve been doing, this whole elevated comfort thing, so she had to make sure she was doing it the best.
She decided to highlight customers and how they have been working from home. They would actually go to these houses and shoot the customers in Taylor Jay from the outside of the house and interview them about their resilience during the pandemic while wearing Taylor Jay.
-Never get too comfortable
-Always be ready to make shifts, and don’t be afraid
-Trust your intuition
-Don’t be stuck in your ways
-Now is the time to tap into your old notebooks, you probably have some great ideas there
-Doesn’t have to be perfect, just has to be done!
-Don’t be afraid of failure
-Consistently do the work
ON BEING BLACK IN THE FASHION INDUTRY
Taylor says she’s had to work really hard to be seen, and sometimes she just wasn’t seen. She hopes that this lifting up of Black designers continues. She speaks of one instance where she reached out to a Boutique several times to have her items carried in the store with no success, and during this month’s heightened awareness of Black Lives Matter activism, this store tagged her in a post as if her items were carried in the store. Which they still weren’t.
“You want people generally from their core to learn to be good people.”
She uses her position as a Black woman and leader in the design space to lift up other Black designers + makers. When she talks with retailers + press she mentions other Black designers always.
“Let’s open the door for others too.”