Who is Taryana?
I am a South Central Los Angeles native who recognized that the world was much bigger than LA. By the time I entered college I had already lived in LA, Atlanta and Boston. I was a traveler far before I even knew it. Boston University was where I discovered how much I loved to travel. I minored in Chinese Language and had the opportunity to study in Shanghai, China and it forever changed my perspective of myself and the outside world. Being a Black woman in China was a truly unique experience. My priority was to learn about their culture and they were equally as interested to learn about mine. I knew I wanted to experience this cultural exchange as many times as I could so I continued to explore the world. I would have never labeled myself a traveler, but that is what I am. A young, Black traveler trying to spread the love of travel to every single person around me.
In LA, you need a side hustle. I moved back to Los Angeles and used my wit and entrepreneurial skills to create a product I was passionate about. My life circles around my love for my hair and planning travel, so naturally my first design “Afros and Passport Stamps” was born. I wanted to create something that would start a conversation. When I visit the Philippines or Japan the first thing people ask me about is my hair. I love it. They want to understand the texture and learn how I get it to afro. I feel like a cultural ambassador for the natural hair community. I want to inspire more cross-cultural dialogue and eventually use my business for the greater good of my community.
What message do you want to send to the world?
Traveling grants you the opportunity to learn about the world, yes – but traveling is also a chance to learn about you. I want to show people that traveling is important for creating a more understanding world. To take it a step further, I want to encourage people to learn about different cultures by taking the time to talk to the locals of that country. It is easy to go to Paris and visit the Eiffel Tower and eat the finest food and wines but what is the takeaway? I find that when I take the time to talk to locals, eat in their homes, party with them, share my culture with them – I come home a lot more fulfilled. I have talked to countless people about traveling and heard far too many times that people don’t want to travel because they are comfortable at home. I see it in my neighborhood and within my own family all the time. But how much will we learn from life by being comfortable all the time?
What were some of the major challenges you faced starting Tees by T and how did you overcome them?
Exposure was definitely my biggest challenge and still something I work to overcome. There are so many t-shirt brands and the internet has made it extremely easy to make your design come to life. I have always been confident in my brand and knew it was a great idea. My family and friends quickly supported, but to get people who do not know you to believe in your brand is hard. I realized being consistent online was a big way to overcome this and also to be clear about what my brand stood for.
My proudest moment has been when I started getting messages from complete strangers who were rocking my shirt all over the world. Women were wearing my shirt with their natural hair proudly out in Greece and men were in Canada rocking their beards and passports. It was a confirmation that Tees by T was a global brand. I never thought somebody would be wearing my designs around the world. It was always the goal, but to see it come to fruition was exciting.
What can we expect next from Tees by T?
Tees by T hasn’t even been around for 6 months so the growth will be exponential this year. I want to start tabling at more events around the city and get more social coverage of my brand. I would love to start a brand ambassador program for people I feel like embody our mission. I also want to find meaningful partnerships that align with Tees by T mission. Our goal is truly to inspire the next generation to travel. I want to make sure I am always making progress, so that in the next 5 years our brand can plan meaningful trips for students around the world.
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