To say Telsha Anderson is an inspiration would be an understatement. The 27-year-old entrepreneur did the unthinkable during a year plagued with uncertainty and government-mandated shutdowns: She launched her first concept store, t.a. New York, in July in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.
Even under the best of circumstances, starting a business is no easy feat. Throw in limited-capacity shopping in a city that was once the epicenter of COVID-19, and Anderson's venture is even more impressive. She's achieved the impossible with grit, grace, and, yes, endlessly scrolling through Pinterest and Tumblr—all while staying true to her aesthetic. Her unique personal taste and design sensibility are embedded in her DNA, thanks to her mother.
"As I grew up, watching her was a first-row seat to home building and interior design," she says. "Every day I’m influenced by my family, friends, teachers, album covers, lyrics, and even random strangers. That’s the beauty of life. One thing can inspire your fashion sense and way of thinking."
Home to rare vintage finds, vibrant furnishings, and racks filled with indie designers, a visit to t.a. New York offers more than just physical products and a glimpse into Anderson's mind. In its first year, the store is already making a difference in the lives of Black artists through Anderson's Artist-in-Residence program. The initiative recently featured Nikki Terry's new solo exhibition, Indispensable: Drawings by Nikki Terry, and aims to showcase different Black artists each season.
Anderson recently sat down with A3 Mag to discuss starting a business in the midst of a pandemic and the cultural significance of accenting her store's clothing with in-store art installations.
A3 Mag: How does t.a. embody your identity? Telsha Anderson: t.a., the name of the store, are the initials of my mother, sister, and myself. The name represents sisterhood, motherhood, and community. Most importantly, it’s an accumulation of our style and other women's. The identity of the brand is individual style. At t.a., we’re not here to create your style but to add to it.
How has your mom influenced your curation? My mom has an incredible eye for home décor and fashion. Her ability to see a room prior to building it is remarkable. The creativity behind product research and color composition for every part of a five- to seven-bedroom house is unmatched. I took the same tools I learned from her and applied them in different areas when building t.a.
What experience do you hope customers have when entering t.a.? I want visitors to walk in and feel as if they have an inside look into my brain, closet, or living space. It’s one thing to piece together elements that generate an incredible experience, but it’s another to develop happy, long-lasting customer [relationships].
April 2021 will mark the first anniversary of t.a.'s online launch. What are some lessons you've learned as a new business owner? During these past few months, I've been reminded of the importance of faith and ownership. My faith, and the extension of it, showcased in those closest to me was one of the main reasons I saw success this year. As a Black woman, ownership over the store, my story, and my time have been the main drivers in not only my success but also my life.
Has your sense of community, particularly with being a Black entrepreneur, influenced your business goals Yes! I look to support other BIPOC businesses and talent. There’s power in the position I currently hold, and I aim to extend that power in everything I do.
Why was it important for you to launch an in-store Artist-in-Residence program? Starting the Artist-in-Residency program was a way for me to showcase a different aspect of my interests. Art and fashion comment on life in a way that allows for individual interpretation. When integrating art into homes or closets, both speak to the taste of the buyer and create a bond between the brand/artist and consumer.
It’s my belief that art from all around the world inspires the designers featured at t.a., and the same applies to my thought process and brand building. The clothes themselves are art and the pieces that hang on the wall are a solid representation of it. It’s important to me as an owner of a boutique in a predominantly white neighborhood in New York to showcase Nikki Terry's work and her perspective on life as a Black woman in recent times to educate [the community].
Regarding your first collaboration with BIPOC-owned handbag brand ASHYA (pronounced agh-shya), what was the creative process like?
It was a seamless experience, and I look forward to the next. Co-founders Ashley [Cimone] and Moya [Annece] allowed me to work alongside them and sell the Shema Slingback bag exclusively, which reflected their brand and mine. The process of creating the bag wasn’t so much the focus for me as the importance of Black collaboration and the success of it.
How has the Internet driven your creativity? I’ve met beautiful and encouraging people via Instagram and other digital platforms. Living in the digital age allows us to connect, share, and transform perspectives from miles away.
Do you dream of having other locations beyond New York? I’ve recently put my faith towards opening a store in Los Angeles.
What is your advice to fellow Black creatives and entrepreneurs who don’t know where to start? The best place to start is through sharing with those closest to you. The right people will not only encourage you to move forward with insightful questions but hold you accountable.
Words to your younger self? "Go! Do! Be!"
Words to your future self? "Job well done."