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Welcome to A Year in the Life, where we follow Bay Area entrepreneurs through the highs and lows of the fashion business.
J'Amy Tarr at 7 on Locust in Mill Valley. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie for Racked
J'Amy Tarr's clients need a lesson in Instagramming. As her outerwear business (and customer base) grows, she's starting to receive the best kind of feedback from delighted fans. "I'm getting stories like, 'I was at a party and there were five different people wearing J'Amy Tarr jackets,'" she tells Racked. Her response? "Did you get an Instagram? Did you get a picture so I can Instagram it?" In a pics or it didn't happen world, people have to learn to always be 'grammin. Then again, it's not the worst problem; at least gaggles of women are wearing her jackets.
When Racked profiled J'Amy for the first time in September 2014, her focus was on creating a line on her own schedule. In the fashion world, labels traditionally design and produce garments six months ahead of schedule. Until recently, J'Amy was producing same-season collections. But with media attention and interest from stores, she had to adapt. That meant making two collections in a three-month period. For Spring 2015, J'Amy has a smaller, capsule collection, which left her the time to design her Fall 2015 to sync with the traditional fashion calendar.
Her schedule isn't the only thing that's changing. J'Amy thinks of her first two collections as an opportunity for discovery, but now she's ready for more. "I think some people try to launch a product and scale it as a big as they can, and I do not agree with that. You need to figure out if you have a market and a customer, and who is your customer. For me, I've had these two seasons of making sure my product is perfect. Now, I can sell it to different stores and feel good about it. The last thing the world needs is more junk."
Confident in her refined product, she's starting to meet with retailers and explore wholesale opportunities. "I think I'm ready for that, and there are certain stores I'm looking to partner with; ones that share my values. Very edited stores with a high level of customer service. Kind, cool people— that's what I'm looking for."
Wholesale, however, will most likely necessitate hiring. Thus far, J'Amy has only had a PR firm to handle media requests and a design intern, so she has to decide where she will need the most help. With the wholesale option on the table, it may be time to add someone to handle sales and marketing in-house.
J'Amy admits that she's a product person through and through. Most of her current clients came by word of mouth. "There are these evangelical people who are believers. One person at a time, we're converting," she jokes. But there is truth to the sentiment of feverish followers: some of J'Amy's clients have bought as many as seven jackets in a week. At $438 to $588 per piece, that's not a small sum.
At the end of 2014, J'Amy was still making progress toward profitability; with a couple of wholesale contracts, she could hit her target in early 2015. Regardless of the financial timeline, the designer feels like she made the right decision in striking out on her own. "I'm still standing. I'm still happy. I'm still doing what I want to be doing. I'm still excited for the next season. I think I'm in the right place." And while they may not express their love through Instagram, her legions of clients would agree.
· J'Amy Tarr [Official Site]
· Will J'Amy Tarr Design the Perfect Outerwear Business? [Racked]