For this week's installment of "How I'm Making It" we'd like to introduce you to Kimberly Taylor. The 25-year-old Brooklyn native has her own store in the Meatpacking district and her eponymous line is sold by over 100 luxury retailers across the globe. Here's how she got there.
How did your line come about? I started about two years ago with a line of silk tanks. I had no formal training. But I consider myself more like an editor. The aesthetic of the line was really simple. I take a style that I like and strip it down so the pieces all lend themselves to personal style. That’s why I have such a broad range of people who wear my clothes--because they’re able to have fun with them. So I found these factories through lists and Google and I’m actually still working with the first factory I walked into. They produce for Rag & Bone and all these amazing lines made in New York. I think that made in New York means something in the industry and it definitely means something to me because I’m from here and my whole process has happened here.
How did you raise the money? My capital was raised at this trunk show I held in my parents home in Gravesend, Brooklyn. I had 400 units, and I sold everything at retail. So I started with a few thousand dollars that I had saved up and after that sale I had about $30,000. It was crazy. It was just family friends who were excited for me and interested to see what I was doing. They were really supportive. What was the scariest thing about going out on your own? The scariest thing for me was putting my name on a brand. If it failed miserably, that’s my name. I couldn’t chalk it up to some other company. I made a decision when I got my Shopbop order and joined with my showroom that this was something I was going to put my whole heart into. It was the same kind of leap of faith I took when I opened my store in the Meatpacking--because I should not have had a store yet. But it made me rise to the occasion. Now it’s been a year since my store opened and it helped me from a line of tanks and tees to a collection. It’s been a long road but you have to take that risk and go for it and somehow someway things fall into place.
What's your fashion background? I went to Gallatin at NYU--which is individualized study. My self-designed major was fashion editorial and media studies. So through NYU I got these great internships at Teen Vogue and Alexander McQueen and I learned that this was an industry I wanted to be in. My family has a background in the industry: My brother’s a designer for childrenswear and my dad was in retail for a long time.
After school I started working for this jewelry designer, Janis Savitt, right when she was launching her own brand. So I was there at a pivotal time for her and she really taught me to have that go-getter attitude. She was already really accomplished yet she was working out of her apartment and she showed me that if you want to get it done you have to do it yourself and put yourself out there.
What's the ballsiest thing you've done for your career? I’ve dropped off garment bags at major New York City stores' offices. I got Intermix that way. They wouldn’t give me an appointment so I Googled them to find their business address. I found a listing with a suite number so I figured that must be their offices. I looked at the list at the front door, filled out a sticky note at the top of my garment bag and handed it over and hoped for the best. And that’s what you have to do, you have to take that chance. And then Intermix emailed me. I wasn’t with a showroom at the time, I didn’t have a line sheet, and I barely had pricing.
I'll also sell clothes off my own body at trade shows if they like what I’m wearing. There are no boundaries. You have to be your own cheerleader and hope that it pays off and you don’t look like an ass.
Who has helped you the most along the way? Janis Savitt was an inspiration to me to be able to watch her do everything on her own and see that it can work. But my dad has really helped me the most. After an article about me came out in WWD, my dad said ‘OK, you’ve proved yourself, you’ve proved that this is something you really want to do, and I want to make it happen for you the right way--you need to get incorporated.' I don’t think he ever thought that he’d be as invested as he is right now. He’s in my office with me every day right now. He’s with me 100% and he runs my retail operation so I can focus on design and wholesale. I feel lucky.
Do you and your dad ever fight when you're working together? It is touchy at times working with my dad, but we’re all on the same team and he’s just trying to guide me with his experience. He still is my dad--I can’t speak to him like he is a partner and I wouldn’t because I have that respect for him and his experience.
What are your biggest challenges now? At the moment my biggest challenge is the website. I don’t know many individual lines that have an e-commerce sites that are successful. So keeping up with that has been tremendous and time consuming and it tests me everyday. But it has opened so many doors for me thus far. I’ve seen the results. I’m doing e-commerce, a blog, my personal Facebook page is my company now and I interact with everyone there and I get a lot of feedback from people messaging me, and I’m very active on twitter.
Where do you see yourself in five years? I want to open up more retail stores, starting in New York. There are enough neighborhoods here where I'd love to be--like the Lower East Side or Nolita. I'm inspired by a lot of personal style that you see in downtown New York.
Ok, last question. Are people ever surprised by how young you are? People are always surprised--there have been numerous occasions when I got mistaken for my own intern, but I love that! This is an industry that thrives on youth and I try to use my age to my advantage to better represent my brand and relate to my customers.