Necessity was the mother of a T-shirt collection for Dana Taylor. When her beloved long-sleeve top started to unravel after seven years of wear and she was unable to find a shirt with the same soft hand, she decided to make one for herself.
Taylor began her project in February of 2015, buying some soft cotton fabric at Mood, N.Y. She put some contrast stitching around the neck, sides and sleeves, which she ruched, added a stitched-on appliqué and began wearing the top. The compliments kept pouring in.
“All my friends asked where I got it,” Taylor said. “I started making the T-shirts for friends and my stitching got better and better.”
One of Taylor’s friends, Lisa Jackson, who operates L.J. Cross on Madison Avenue put some pieces in her boutique. “She is a jewelry designer and has some curated fashion,” Taylor said. “She put one of my T-shirts on a mannequin and it sold that day. She said, ‘You better start working.’”
Taylor branded the shirts Made on Grand. Prices range from $295 to $395 at retail.
Since March 2015, Taylor has sold more than 200 units by word of mouth and at small specialty stores such as Performance Ski in Aspen, and boutiques in St. Barths, Geneva and the Hotel du Cap in Cap Ferret on the French Riviera.
Her later-in-life career has come at the right time. “I’d been wondering what I could do,” she said. “I’m a mother with 13- and 14-year-old children. In the beginning it was all about the children. It still is,” but they’re more independent now that they’re older.
“Production was getting challenging,” Taylor said. “I still stitch every one of the T-shirts, but I do have some help now. My housekeeper has become a really good stitcher and a friend of hers helps. I cut and put the shirts together and they just finish them up.”
“I have to think about expanding this and getting serious,” she said. “I hired a sales team. We’re putting a collection together for wholesale, which will be very unique and individual. It will be hand-sewn and come in four or five colors with different appliqués in the shapes of flowers and crosses and some embellished with Swarovski crystals. There will be different colors of stitching. The beauty is the imperfections.”
Taylor said she might consider machine-made T-shirts in the future. “We wanted to test the market a little bit,” she said. “This is the very beginning for me.”
Taylor is branching out in terms of fabric and categories. She designed a sweatshirt in a soft, heavy cotton and created a simple one-sleeve dress in a cotton and silk blend or cotton mixed with cashmere.
While Taylor, who was born and raised in Bucharest, earned a degree in business administration, she said that fashion isn’t really so far afield. “I grew up with my grandparents,” she said. “My grandmother’s dream was to have a fashion house. She never achieved her dream, but I learned how to knit and sew from her.
“One dream of mine is to open a store,” Taylor said. “It’s really challenging, but you’ve got to start somewhere. I have to be authentic and follow my instincts.”