So, Allow me introduce you to Tennille McMillian, the designer behind naKiMuli and Shanae. Tennille is also the blogger behind naKiMuli inc: america's funky sweetheart.
Tennille Mcmillan is a former dancer turned clothing designer. The names of her lines, naKiMuli (meaning flower) and Shanae are taken both from her middle name. Both lines provide straight and plus sizes alike with wonderful clothing. Tennille’s design ascetic is certainly not for the faint of heart; her mixed prints and bright colors will certainly get you noticed. Also, the quality of her work exceptional; her pieces are store quality and will not leave you disappointed. Tennille keeps updated on the progress of both her lines through her blog naKiMuli inc: america’s funky sweetheart. My favorite quote from Tennille was "Inspiration...Everything inspires me!!! Diane von Fursteberg once said "I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew the woman I wanted to become." You will have to click read more to see what else in store.
Can you tell us a little about your background? Did you go to design school or are all of your talents and skills natural?
I started sewing + designing in 1999. I have taught myself
What was the “spark” or the “light bulb” that went off and made you want to start your naKIMuli and Shanae?
I started teaching myself how to sew in 1999. I would make those denim a-line skirts Lauryn Hill was rocking; those were my specialty. lol I would make them by hand. Then for Christmas my mom bought me a sewing machine and I would just make stuff. Then people would say "Oh you should design clothes." And that is how naKIMuli was born. Shanae has always been a part of naKIMuli...I began to notice that I had 2 styles + 2 customers. I would design these funky, colorful pieces + one type of customer would purchase it. Then I would design these basic garments, which were still funky but a little more for every day wear, and I would get another type of customer who would buy that. So I decided to try to separate the 2 + see what happens. Shanae was 1st set to be a dance-inspired line since I have been dancing off + on for most of my life. But now I would say it is more of a line inspired by creative types of every art form who wanna wear "basics" but not have them be "basic."
Your current clothing line features a lot draping and African inspired prints. Can you tell us the inspiration behind your clothes currently on sell?
Inspiration...Everything inspires me!!! Diane von Fursteberg once said "I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew the woman I wanted to become."
I can totally relate to that since I didn't go to school for this. I didn't have much direction except knowing how I wanted to dress + how I thought women should dress. But I also think that the draping comes from my background as a dancer; I like things that flow...
Recently your designs have been embraced by the plus size community in a very positive way. Did you create your clothing lines with the intent of creating for plus size women or was it a supply and demand situation? Like, plus size women were asking you to make clothes to fit them so you delivered.
In the past I have dabbled in creating custom plus size designs because the boutique I worked for right out of college was catered to a plus size afrocentric older woman clientele. But I was always intimated; I was not really comfortable designing for plus size because it was mainly older women who wanted me to make things + they would always edit me ideas, saying hings like "Oh that's too short" or "I can't wear that." But over the past year, more + more plus size YOUNG ladies would see my designs + ask me to make something for them. And my assistant + looooong time friend Tammi, (known her since 1st grade), is a plus size gal with great style + she has given me the confidence to move forward + design fly clothes in plus sizes.
When you create clothes now do you think about the cut and how they will fit on plus size women or do you simply just create first and worry about the rest later?
I think I do a little bit of both. Now that I have incorporated plus sizes into my labels, it is something that is on the forefront of my mind. But I still just create what I want + figure out out how to interpret it into plus size later. But I am currently looking for a plus size fit model to help me with proportions to make sure I get things right.
What made you decide to sell your clothing on etsy as appose to other web sites like ebay?
Etsy is based in Brooklyn, where I am from, + when they first started out, they would frequent the "artist scene" in BK and give out their cards so I just thought I would give it a try. But I have currently began to move my items to my own online store outside of Etsy; it is easier for customers who do not want to register on Etsy to buy from me online + it is more professional. I will still have select items on Etsy since they have a huge following but with my business rapidly growing, I feel that now is time to move on.
Often times people see clothing and accessory lines and don’t realize the amount of work involved in the production of those items. So for consumers and aspiring can you please explain the amount of work it takes to create your clothing? Are you a one women operation or do you have help?
Yes, I am a 1 woman operation! I mean, I have an assistant + soon an intern but they just handle the clerical work. So I am doing everything else; coming up with the design, creating the pattern, making the product, taking the pics, putting it online, answering emails, buying fabric. It is a lot of work but I love it!!!
Have you ever approached or have you ever been approached by a retail store to sell your clothing? If so, would you include plus size options in your line?
I have been in several retail stores over the years, mostly local + some online, but it never has been a good fit for one reason or another; mainly you wind up doing most of the work + having to share an unequal amount of the profits or having to compromise in some way just to get your "name" out there. And most of the time the store is not promoting you as well as you could promote yourself. But selling online has been great to me! My goal is to expand this year, first with my online "mega store" (that's what I call it in my head lol), then with a showroom and/or storefront in BK so that women can come + try on items since I have recently been getting a lot of private appointments to come see the collection in person.
Many designers are already featuring their spring/summer lines in the form of look books. Will you be featuring spring/summer clothing? If so can you give us some insight into your inspiration from your new line and what we can expect from it? Clothing, accessories, bags or jewelry?
Yes, I am teaming up with an amazing photographer + we will be shooting a lookbook for the very soon! It will be clothing + accessories + that's all I will say! lol oh and the name of the collection is "Lock U Up in Luv for Days." ;) mmmmm, yummy!
Do you have any plans to expand your clothing line the future? What are your long term goals for both NakiMuli and Shanae?
I am looking to expand into jewelry in the very near future and also include some handbags + partner with like minded artists/entrepreneurs...Long term goals? To take over the world! lol and to continue to inspire young women to think outside the box; to truly embrace their individuality. Of course I want grow the business into a powerhouse, but DEFINITELY on MY terms!!!