Sunday, June 14, 2009

My feature in Oak Cliff People

Issue Date: June 12, 2009, Posted On: 6/11/2009

For Fashionista, Sky’s The Limit
Designer adds airline-inspired clothes to her line of accessories
By Silver Hogue
Staff Writer

Photo: Shoshana Portnoy
Tara Tonini designs accessories and clothing on Tyler Street. With her platinum hair and bright red lips, Tara Tonini bares a striking resemblance to the 1960s stewardesses that inspired her new clothing line.

The 23-year-old designer opened a Tyler Street studio in January to showcase her line of “Tara to the T” accessories, some of which will debut at tonight’s Dark Carnival. In February, Tonini added her own vintage-inspired clothing line, Sky Girls, to the mix.

“I learned all of my apparel skills, like pattern making and design, at school in California,” she said. “I studied costume design, and that is when I got really interested in vintage clothing and construction.”

Tonini, whose wide array of hats, feathered barrettes, and headbands are inspired by fashions from the 1920s to the 1970s, said her foray into clothing has an aerodynamic feel.

“I used colors from different airlines in the 1960s as my color palette,” she said.

While she has found her voice as a designer, the road that led to her business was a long one. After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in California in 2005, she was hired as a lead fashion accessories designer for Tandy Brands Accessories in Dallas — a gig she felt strangled her creativity.

“I did it for several years and just wasn’t cut out for it,” Tonini said.

She decided to turn her love of period clothing and accessories into a business of her own just a stone’s throw from the Bishop Arts District.

“I just saw so much potential in the community,” she said. “It’s just one of those neighborhoods that really
sparked my interest and reminded me of home. I really enjoy Tyler Street. All of the artists that are in my building are super-friendly, they look out for each other, and they’re really making an effort to clean up the neighborhood.”

Tonini runs every aspect of her business herself — from the designing and sewing, to the packaging and selling — but admits to hiring a few interns from time to time.

“Tara’s work is timeless and classy without being dated,” said Oak Cliff designer Stephanie Hindall, founder of Etsy Dallas, a website where Tonini and others sell their wares. “You can wear anything she makes, anytime, anywhere.”

Tonini has been an Etsy member since it was established in late 2007. Hindall remembers selling some of her handmade hair accessories at Etsy’s first show.

“Ever since then, I’ve been a huge Tara fan,” she said. “I’m proud to call her a friend and fellow crafter living and working in Oak Cliff.”

Etsy artist Pamela Jackson, creator of Pamela Michelle designs, said the Bishop Arts area is great for independent designers like Tonini.

“The indie shops there, like Make Shop and Studio, are the first to welcome in the new, young talent,” Jackson said. “They aren’t looking for boring, repetitive, or safe items that line the walls of your typical craft show or shopping mall, but rather the unique and different.”

While she has had to get “really creative” because of the economic climate, Tonini said business has been fairly stable. She hopes to turn her studio into a boutique.

“It’s definitely a plan in the future,” she said. “Maybe next year when I’m a little bit more established in the neighborhood and we get some more foot traffic down Tyler Street.”

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