Tall Girls, Rejoice: TTYA Designs for the Height of Fashion
It’s kind of obvious that a helluva lot of girls are taller than average, right? So it’s no mean feat that Irene Agbontaen has created the ultimate wardrobe for girls with their heads in the clouds, and dubbed it Taller Than Your Average (TTYA). Jourdan Dunn recently tweeted: “To my fellow lanky ladies, you gotta check out TTYA no more maxi dresses swinging around our ankles!!” I caught up with the exuberant Londoner while she was in New York to launch TTYA at Barneys.
What’s your fashion background?
I started working as a stylist back in 2008. I met the fashion editor of Complex magazine on a trip to Barcelona for the Bread & Butter fashion trade show, and we hit it off. She gave me the opportunity to move to New York by offering me an internship at the magazine. I took it, obviously! While there, I found myself working with such great people and assisting on shoots for the style pages, with everyone from Freida Pinto to Pharrell Williams.
What’s been the most rewarding thing about creating your label?
Just getting it off the ground was incredible. Having Selfridges in London believe in me and become my first stockist has been instrumental in the brand taking off. It’s so funny, as Selfridges was one of my first retail jobs back when I was 17. I worked there for four years, and it really opened my eyes to the fashion world. To now have my brand stocked there feels incomprehensible sometimes.
What’s been the most difficult thing?
It’s not as easy, or as fun, as it all sounds! There are a lot of late nights involved, which come with a roller coaster of emotions. But it’s all worth it. At the outset, there was a lot of trial and error involved in the process, like anything else. I’m always learning and thinking of new ways to improve. The feedback from customers is the biggest boost. They are so pleased and grateful to have a niche brand catering to them.
What’s the experience been like to launch in such a stockist such as Selfridges?
Last fashion week, I took over the shop floor, encouraging tall girls to stand tall and be style conscious, not self-conscious. Designers such as Cassette Playa, Martine Rose, Fred Butler, and Margot Bowman, customized one-off TTYA pieces, and these were exhibited in-store. We had WAH Nails on hand to give the girls TTYA mono manis, as well as work it, and Charlet Duboc providing the tunes for a full day of long-limbed appreciation!
What advice would you give someone who thinks they have an idea, like you did, for a new fashion label?
Go for it! I’ve had the idea of creating a tall brand for years, but something always kept me back. Don’t let fear or excuses hold you back. If you’re sure about something, do some research, branch out, speak to people working in that industry, go to the library, take a class or a course, look at brands and companies online, do everything in your power to get to that next step.
What’s next for the label?
We have just launched in Barneys, with a wardrobe-staples collection, those pieces that are the foundation to any woman’s wardrobe. I am currently working on a collab, out September 2014, full of fashion pieces to team with TTYA staples to create even more tall-women wardrobe essentials.
Tell me about the parties you host.
I also work at The London Edition Hotel, hosting functions within their Basement venue. Located in London’s Fitzrovia, Edition is the brainchild of Ian Schrager, who’s partnered with Marriott.
How did you get involved in London Edition?
I previously worked with Seb Chew, Leo Greenslade, and Dom Prosser at a night called YOYO, which ran at Notting Hill Arts Club for over ten years. Everyone from Mark Ronson, Q-Tip, Nas, and Lily Allen played there, and it was a London hot spot for creatives within music, art, and fashion for several years. Seb is now in charge of all the music programming at Edition, and Dom runs Basement.
What’s your trick for working hard and playing hard?
Juicing and Bikram Yoga! Maintaining a good work-life balance is the key. I go to yoga every morning, for ninety minutes of meditation. I’m obsessed with juicing. It recharges my body. I swear by it!
What are you listening to in your studio?
It’s my good friend FKA Twigs all the way, with “Water Me,” “Hide,” and “Papi Pacify” on rotation.
What’s a great place to eat on a budget in London?
Satay Bar, in Brixton, for great Thai food and two-for-one happy hour cocktails from 5 till 8 each night.
What do you love about New York?
I fell in love with New York the first time I came here, eight years ago. It has so many similarities to London, yet it’s also so different. I love spending summer here. The vibe and atmosphere in the city is amazing around this time of year. I love the West Indian Caribbean Carnival, in Brooklyn. The colors, outfits, food, and music have to be experienced!
Where do you like to go in New York?
For food, I love Miss Lily’s. I literally live there every time I’m in town. To party, it depends what’s on, but I usually head to Greenhouse or WIP.
What’s your styling tip for summer?
Monochrome! It stands the test of time—effortlessly chic, yet bold. Céline, Alexander Wang, and Diane von Furstenberg all showed great monochrome pieces in their Spring shows.
For more information, visit tallerthanyouraverage.com.
Photos: Courtesy of TTYA