Today we’d like to introduce you to LaParis Hawkins.
Hi LaParis, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
In April 2020, I was living in Brooklyn during the height of the pandemic. I was furloughed from my job and shut down the entire city, and I was beginning to get restless being in the house. I borrowed my roommate’s sewing machine, took old head wrap material, and made new throw pillows for my bed. I posted them on Instagram and put my phone down. A few hours later, I had so many direct messages from people asking if they could buy them. A week later, I ordered fabric and made a limited amount of pillows, and they sold out within minutes; I created tailored Pieces at that moment, and we have been growing for the past two years. Last year I moved back to my hometown St. Louis, and I’ve been here a year this month. The support from the community has been tremendous! I’ve recently taken on the full business time. I love creating for people! I hope that every consumer takes one of my designs and makes it their own. Whether it is sliding on a reversible bonnet after a long day of work to feel decompressed or wrapping a beautiful head wrap around your head during a bad hair day. I want my products to empower people to feel and be their best selves.
We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Starting a business during the pandemic with limited resources was extremely hard. Only a few websites were shipping during that time, and then there was the hurdle of the shipping delays. By August, I was back at work, and it had become challenging to sew and manage orders while working 40 hours a week. There have been ups and downs and customers requesting products I didn’t have time to make. It would take months, but then I started batching products and having limited releases on my website. Now that I am full-time and participating in markets around the city, I am so excited to see what is to come.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
I moved to Brooklyn, New York Memorial Day of 2012, a week after graduating from undergrad at Mizzou. I had a freelance Beauty Assistant position at EBONY Magazine for their September issue. The assignment was only for six weeks, and I was determined to figure it out afterward. After EBONY, I freelanced for ESSENCE Magazine and ESPNW, became a fact-checker for InStyle magazine, interviewed countless celebrities for blogs, and more. Working in media in one of the world’s media capitals at that time was exhilarating but not without its challenges. I learned so much and wouldn’t trade it for the world. As social media became more popular and magazine editors lost their zest with audiences, I started working in luxury retail between assignments to pay the bills. I have always loved fashion, and working in a fast-paced commission environment brought me out of my shell. I was so used to being behind the scenes and asking questions. Working in luxury retail taught me to sit up straighter, speak confidently, and believe in myself. Whether writing, interviewing or selling expensive clothing, the common denominator is that people are drawn to those who are genuinely themselves, a lesson that has helped me grow Tailored Pieces. My last few years in New York were spent working retail and writing two novels. I took classes, bonded with other writers who grew to be successful novelists, and learned the publishing industry inside out. Although I spend most of my day sewing, I still review books for the American Library Association’s magazine Booklist. Nearly every library around the country subscribes to magazines and reads the reviews to decide which books to order for the library. Retail, fashion, and writing go hand-in-hand in my DNA makeup.
What changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
I think retail has been undergoing a huge shift since the pandemic’s start. Consumers aren’t shopping at brick and mortar as often. There have been so many new businesses birthed online that consumers are now shopping with people and brands that align with their values. Social media has afforded them to feel closer to those behind the brand rather than the merchandise itself. People support people and their brands, so it has been difficult for larger companies to connect with consumers. With movements like shopping black-owned businesses or shopping women-owned businesses, marginalized business owners are getting more of the spotlight and a chance at entrepreneurship. There are also amazing resources to help those businesses scale and grow, but there could always be more, especially locally.
- Website: tailoredpieces.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tailoredpieces
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/piecestailored
Image of LaParis in green with head wrap and earrings- Photo Credit: Kuro Black