London-based fashion stylist and entrepreneur Irene Agbontaen decided to create Taller Than Your Average, an apparel brand offering simple but high-quality pieces that are specifically cut for women who are 5’9” or taller after years of difficulties finding standard staple pieces for her wardrobe. Life + Times spoke with the 5’11″ leggy designer to talk about the difficulties tall woman have when it comes to fashion and dressing and her one-woman mission to change it.
Life + Times: What is the most frustrating thing about buying and finding clothes for someone who is taller that 5’9″?
Irene Agbontaen: Having ankle or wrist swingers; which is when your wrists and ankles are on show because your clothes come up too short.
L+T: People always seem to wish to be tall. Do you think that makes the fashion industry overlook or under estimate the difficulties in shopping as a woman over 5’9″?
IA: Models are tall and what most people are un aware of is that samples for the catwalk will be made to fit tall ladies, however when clothes go into production it is a whole different story. Clothes are made by standardized measurements which unfortunately does not fit my tall frame.
L+T: Was there any specific moment or situation that made you decide to create TTYA ? What frustrations have you encountered with launching the brand?
IA: I travelled to Asia for eight months and I needed staples and layering pieces that I could throw on and I really struggled. At the end of my trip I headed state side to NYC and over some girl talk with my best friend and a lot of Hennessy and edamame beans, the seeds were planted and TTYA was born. Some of the biggest frustrations are trying to convince stockists that tall fashion is relevant, as a business it only applies to a small segment of income so at first they were a little reluctant. The way I got around this was to offer them smaller units on a trial basis to see the sale through then if it sold they could reorder larger quantities which it did.
L+T: You are still a relatively new brand but all ready stocked in Barneys, Selfridges and ASOS amongst other outlets. You have also received amazing press from the likes of Vogue, Glamour, The Daily Mail and more. How have you found the response to TTYA?
IA: The response has been amazing, not only from press but most importantly from the women who I created this for who know the struggle. The emails and tweets I receive push me to do better and really help you when you sometimes lose focus as your dealing with every aspect of the business.
L+T: You have had amazing support from fellow tall beauties like supermodel Jourdan Dunn. Who are some of the tall woman who are muses for TTYA?
IA: Yes. Jourdan is fab. She was spotted in London and Paris during fashion week rocking TTYA which was amazing – perfect off duty staples. Supermodel Elle Macphereson tweeted her love for the brand which literally struck a personal achievement as she’s such an inspiration and business mogul to me.
L+T: Who are some of the dream people you would like to see sporting the brand?
IA: I made this brand for everyday women like me, to allow tall women to be style conscience, not self conscience. I love checking the Instagram page as women often tag me showing off wearing TTYA.
L+T: What is the dream for TTYA? Where do you see it growing?
IA: Eventually I would love to have a store but more of a sub-creative hub where I could do screenings, talks and presentations, and of course fashion week is every designers dream!
L+T: What are your biggest tips for dressing tall woman?
IA: Accentuate the bits of your body you love.
L+T: You have just launched your second season, what is your head space like right now?
IA: Crazy (laughs) but I try to uphold a good work and life balance which is the key. I go to Bikram yoga and juice everyday so my mind and body are on the same page.
L+T: And finally any personal goals outside of TTYA?
IA: Travel the world more! So much to see…and time waits for no man.