Fashion 

Telsha Anderson's t.a. Is Redefining the Future of Fashion Retail

One year after launching her boutique, the owner reflects on risk-taking and the “religion” of entrepreneurship.

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494 Hypes

“There’s something to be said about having an idea and charging towards it,” Telsha Anderson says. The owner of upscale fashion boutique t.a., a bastion of emerging designers and buzzy indie labels, Anderson proves that fearlessness might just be the secret to success. In July 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, the 27-year-old opened her brick-and-mortar store in New York City‘s glossy Meatpacking District, a move that has solidified her status as fashion’s downtown darling.

Stocking names such as Christopher John Rogers, Ottolinger and Barragán, t.a. is a mecca for in-the-know shoppers looking for statement pieces rather than, say, a white T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Taking a customer-first approach, Anderson looks to the store’s very own patrons — the trends they’re wearing, the color palettes they prefer and “everything in-between” — for inspiration. “Our customer shops at t.a. because they’re looking to add to their already carefully curated closet…Our key ingredient as an independent boutique is applying thoughtfulness to every aspect of the business,” the business owner explains.

Thanks to Anderson’s fresh approach to experiential retail, a sector consumers are excited to return to after months of quarantine, t.a. continues to thrive. As the store celebrates its one-year anniversary, HYPEBAE spoke to Anderson about why risk-taking pays off, navigating fashion as a Black business owner and the future of t.a. Keep reading for our conversation.

When did you realize you wanted to launch a womenswear boutique? What did the process of getting started look like?

I can’t pinpoint an exact moment in my decision-making matrix when I thought, “I should open an independent boutique!” That being said, there have been a series of minor thoughts that led me to the moment I stand in today. Those “minor thoughts” include: how I was treated in the workplace, looking to break out on my own, what I felt the landscape of retail represented and ultimately looking to share the dialogue surrounding Black ownership. I took a step and allowed my hard work to guide me towards success. There’s something to be said about having an idea and charging towards it — regardless of the opposition.

In what ways did taking a risk and launching t.a. during the pandemic pay off?

Opening and operating t.a. in a pandemic has taught me the importance of adapting not only as a business but [also] as an owner. There’s always room for a shift and change when opening any businesses, but to do so in a pandemic and to thrive (based on my personal definition) has given me the motivation needed to work towards success.

The first year of any new business is a learning experience. What were some key learnings and takeaways you gleaned throughout the process? Is there anything you would have done differently?

There’s nothing you can predict — that’s the biggest takeaway from this past year, and a lesson I believe will follow me throughout my career. There are moments that have happened for me both personally and professionally that occurred sooner than planned. Similarly, there are moments that I expected to happen already that remain delayed.

There’s nothing I would have done differently. My story of launching in 2020 and finishing the year strong is unique to me and my journey and changing anything would take away from that. I heard a quote once that said “Entrepreneurship is a religion of pain and recovery.” I’ve never related to anything more.

What were some hurdles or challenges you had to overcome to allow your retail space to thrive?

The biggest hurdle and challenge was more internal than external. As a Black business owner, operating in the midst of racial injustice was hard. Operating while we saw our Black brothers and sisters murdered on national television was hard. Operating in a climate that ultimately aims for us to fail before we succeed is hard. Operating in an industry that often silences Black women is hard. And the list goes on.

Unfortunately, those aren’t feelings that I’ll “overcome” as a retail space. They are feelings, however, that I can vocalize and share in the safe space I’ve created with the help of friends and family.

Why do you think focusing on carrying independent designers and vintage finds has set your storefront apart from other retail spaces?

It’s often not done! Taking a different route than your competition is always the key to setting yourself apart. That being said, I’m looking forward to more independent boutiques launching and carrying brands from all over the world. There’s room for all of us and there’s a new brand discovery each day.

Storytelling has been the most exciting part of launching t.a. and because we continue to be transparent, a natural rapport has built itself. Our transparency is what continues to move us towards our level of success.

In addition to t.a., you also have an e-commerce site. Can you tell us about the process and creative direction behind launching your website, and how it has allowed you to cater to a wider audience?

We launched our e-commerce platform prior to opening our brick-and-mortar because of the pandemic. When building the website, we looked to incorporate elements of the store throughout. You’ll find similarities between our website and flagship — in our color scheme, texture, playful font and so forth. We look to be intentional in every detail in an effort to create a recognizable digital voice. It’s our voice that has connected us to a wider audience.

What have been some high points of launching and running t.a.?

Finishing the year! Nothing compares to making it to the end of 2020 with our doors open and positively planning for the next few years.

With the one-year anniversary of t.a., what are you hoping to achieve and what do you have in store for your boutique in the near future?

We’re currently crowdfunding on IFundWomen. The future of t.a. is expansion within our team and location. We’re looking to raise $100,000 USD this month and continue the conversation around debt-free capital, Black ownership and forming a space that caters to others outside of my immediate network.

There are so many other levels I’m looking to take t.a. [to], but my current goal is focusing on what’s right in front of me: meeting our crowdfunding goals.

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Danielle Combs
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