Traci Evans is a celebrity stylist, designer and owner of Meow and Barks Boutique.
Meow and Barks, which has locations in Atlanta, and Jacksonville, Florida, provides exclusive and stylish fashions, accessories, and shoes. Evans’ latest production is a global fashion collection, which pulls inspiration from cultures of countries such as Cuba and the United Arab Emirates.
Evans and Meow and Barks’ influence continues to grow as does the popularity of her pop-up shops across the country.
How did you become a fashion designer?
I’m a third-generation seamstress, so a sewing machine was always around me growing up — and my family, particularly my grandma and mom, were always into fashion. As I came of age, I began to create and come up with my own styles. I would design clothes for myself, others would ask about them, and I began providing for others — and my fashion business grew from there.
What separates you from other designers in your field? What is unique to the pieces that you create?
I’m a designer/seamstress, as well as a stylist and boutique owner — so what separates me is being able to service a client from the beginning phase of an initial design concept, to eyeing and customizing styling options, all the way to the retail side in consistently and conveniently making trendy looks showcased at fashion weeks all over the nation, available to the market at an affordable price. What’s unique to the pieces I style and create is I like working with fabrics that you would normally walk past, but I use them and put them into wearable forms. This includes various [types of] denim, chiffon, and other unique textiles. In addition, Meow and Barks Boutique caters to the entire diversity and beautiful curviness of the African American woman in fashion, and we find unique ways to showcase it within our lifestyles and culture. I bring the fashion looks that we like and what’s relevant to where we live at.
For those considering entering this arena, what skill sets do you recommend mastering? What traits are most conducive to success?
I recommend learning and mastering the different weight of textiles and the various blends on the fabrics and material, because it has a lot to do with the way the fashion looks fit, feel, and flow on a woman. I also recommend doing trend reports for each season to know what’s going on, and to begin developing the art of forecasting fashion. Being fearless, and having the ability to be ok if things don’t work out, but being determined enough to do the task until it gets done [will lead to success].
What motivated you to start your own brand?
In fashion, I didn’t see what I liked or what my peers wanted, because it wasn’t available. It either wasn’t fashionable enough, or it was too high of a price for the ideal fashion. I began to find exclusive fashions for me, and others would ask, creating a demand and opportunity for launching the Meow and Barks Boutique brand.
How do you believe you are revolutionizing the fashion industry?
Meow and Barks Boutique is revolutionizing the fashion industry in numerous ways. We are driving an ongoing “Fashion Statement Dialogue” through our social media platforms, combining visuals with lifestyle and culture for provocative engagement. We also match celebrity fashions with comparable looks at a price point ideal for the everyday woman, while also providing celebrities with couture looks that emerge within the core lifestyles of the influential fashionista that sparks new trends within the culture as well. At our boutique, we showcase the lifestyle that goes with why we want the fashion — through pop-ups hosted by celebrities, happy hours, social meetups, travel theme fashion collections, and girls night out events. We are also contributing to driving the culture as a Black owned brand that caters to the African-American Woman’s entire lifestyle through fashion, by offering women garments and fashions from all over the world — that caters to us. Whatever a woman is into, Meow and Barks Boutique can provide desirable options of that look.
Do you think that there are any widely held misconceptions about what you do?
People think that it’s easy to start a successful fashion business — as if one can just make a social media page, post, and start selling. It’s not that easy to sell a garment consistently to a customer and brand it. Meow and Barks Boutique is special because we have an online presence, as well as a physical brick and mortar store, which requires the execution of solid business practices, inventory management, marketing, and rigorous day-to-day operations — all while keeping a smile on the customer’s face. That’s a 24/7 grind!
How do you map out your goals? How do you measure your success?
I map out my goals based on the organic growth of my company. I think about what the consumer wants and build all of my goals around them. I constantly want to make sure I’m growing in a way that’s 1,000 percent in sync with the customer, so they can clearly see how we are growing to fit their needs as well. I want the customer to constantly grow into fashion forward new looks and trends that keep them on point and make them feel good. I measure success by measuring if my customer is happy, and if they’re returning. I ask myself, “Are my customers from when I was styling 10 years ago still wowed by the things that we bring in?” Am I still wowing my core and making them wonder “when is she going to stop?” Then I deliver on every fashion goal possible so they know without a doubt that answer is “Never!” We will never stop going hard for you!
Who do you consider to be your peers in your field? Who do you see/use as examples for you to emulate?
Anyone who operates in excellence and provides the best experience for their client, and is a visual trendsetter for their followers and the fashion marketplace. An example is Andra Hall, who is the owner of Cami Cakes. She started her business off in my home city of Jacksonville, Florida, and has expanded into Atlanta and eight locations with a great business model and brand that has grown exponentially. She represents the fearlessness of a great entrepreneur in her ability to take risks to pursue her dream and continues to fulfill her growing customer base with an incredible product and service that is truly inspirational to me.
Who or what motivates you and why?
My motivation is leaving a legacy for my son. I want this life to mean something, as long as there is life on Earth! I ask “What will my son and his kids say about what I’ve done for them? How can I make my work here on this earth last forever?”
What are the do’s and don’ts for young women in business?
Do invest significant time in your craft and make major investments in your craft to gain the necessary confidence and expertise to become great. Also, having a man on your team gives you a great advantage in business. I grew up with a father that made me feel fearless, and men are very good at inspiring that. Don’t be the last person to tell yourself ‘no,’ as long as you never quit on yourself, you always have a shot to turn anything around and succeed. Don’t undersell yourself – know your worth and charge your rate (very hard to take a person from free to the rate that you’re worth)
How do you successfully grow from business failure?
By starting over with a clean slate, allowing for that failure to be over and done with. If you continue to carry that failure around with you, you will always feel defeated. Let the failure go. It takes time and a lot of self-coaching, but let it go and see how you can grow your business another way.
Name two of your top role models: one from your industry and one from outside of it.
Beyoncé — she outworks her competition and continues to provide and over-deliver for her fans. She also shows time and time again that no one can limit her. Ralph Lauren — he created a classic brand and a classic piece (one shirt style, one logo, standard colors). It’s magic that we continue to buy it, and how he has convinced the consumer that you still can feel elite wearing a polo shirt you wore as a kid, even as an adult.
What are the three most important factors of being a successful woman?
Balance, faith and persistence.
Ultimately, where do you see the future of Meow and Barks going?
In the near future, I see Meow and Barks Boutique becoming a place for independent African American designers to have an outlet to sell and present their fashion to the world. I also want our store to become a high-glam affordable luxury boutique and the “creme de la creme” of fashionable ethnic shopping. I also look forward to launching an exclusive Meow and Barks Boutique fashion line and collection very soon.