The Mother of Invention: El Pasoan creates fashion line

We have all had the experience of wanting or needing something that seems like it would be the easiest thing in the world to find. We go looking. Nowhere to be found. And we say to ourselves, “I can’t believe no one’s making that. Crazy.”

Most of us let it go at that.

Amy Robison Graham, daughter of well-known El Paso business leaders and philanthropists Kirk and Judy Robison, didn’t let it go at that.

Designer: Amy Robison Graham

Designer: Amy Robison Graham

Amy is an energetic, vivacious, get-it-done kind of girl. After over 20 years in high-level sales and marketing roles for major corporations, this Dallas resident and mother of four decided to pursue her own business that reflects her love of fashion.

Amy told me that even though there are a million t-shirts out there on the market, she was frustrated at not being able to find the perfect t-shirt. All she wanted was a good quality t-shirt that was both flattering and comfortable. How hard could that be? When she checked around, she wasn’t the only woman with this frustration.

Left to right: Kirk Robison (Amy's Father), Amy Robison Graham,  John Graham (Amy's Husband)

Left to right: Kirk Robison (Amy’s Father), Amy Robison Graham, John Graham (Amy’s Husband)

Amy and Mother, Judy Robison

Amy and Mother, Judy Robison

So Amy started researching women’s clothing, fabric, fit and comfort, particularly with the ideal t-shirt in mind. Her work has paid off: this fall she launched a great line of t-shirts under the name of Southcott Threads, named in honor of her mother-in-law’s maiden name.

She didn’t just set out to make a great t-shirt for women just like her. After exhaustive research, Amy selected four fit models who had four distinct body shapes. She then experimented with the most flattering style for each shape. I love how she names the shapes with different cuts of diamonds: Emerald (slender and busty), Oval (curvy and voluptuous), Trillion (narrow shoulders and bigger booties), and Asscher (small frame and well-proportioned).

On Amy’s spring 2016 style sheet, you can tell which of the 16 t-shirt styles was designed for which body shape by the accompanying symbol for that type of diamond. For instance, an emerald appears next to a pretty v-neck and a sleeveless open neck tank and the triangular shaped diamond is next to an A-line scoop-neck. Sizes come in 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Finding the right fabric was critical. After much exploration she selected a fabric of environmentally friendly bamboo with cotton and a touch of spandex. The result is a line of luxury t-shirts that fit well, are comfortable, not clingy, not see-through, and made from great quality fabric. And the neutral colors – white, black, grey, navy, and tan – are just what we all need in our wardrobes.

What could be a better way to introduce a new line of t-shirts to El Paso than a t-party? Whether you remember Amy from her years growing up here or you have also longed for a t-shirt that looks good and fits well, stop by Tres Mariposas on Tuesday, November 10, between 10:00am and 5:00pm – and have a cup of tea at our t-party!

Westside stores and boutiques opening at The Fountains at Farah

Tres Mariposas at The Fountains

Today’s retail climate is exciting, fast-changing, energizing, and sometimes challenging. Part of the challenge is that shoppers have so many choices. They can shop online or shop when they travel out of town. They can shop at brick and mortar stores, where they can choose among big-box discount stores, national department stores, or stores that are locally owned.

I don’t have to tell you which choice your friendly El Paso retailers hope you pick!

To keep the customers coming in, experimentation has become the lifeblood of small business. People have often asked me how I learned the retail business because I certainly had no retail training or experience when I started running my own store more than 30 years ago. The answer: trial and error and experimentation. Try something new; see if it works. Repeat.

An experiment in the works

A couple of months ago, I brought in a new staff member – a savvy former Farah executive — to build on our success in women’s apparel, fine jewelry, and shoes. He suggested we open a “pop-up store” on the Eastside at The Fountains at Farah.

I told him that was a really dumb idea, and left it at that.

However, the notion wouldn’t leave the back of my mind. And other staff kept telling me they liked the idea.

As you may know “pop-up shops” are temporary retail spaces that began as a trend in urban settings such as Tokyo, London, and New York City. Pop-up stores can sell anything from art to fashion to tech gadgets. These short-term stores have generated a lot of excitement and can be really creative and engaging.

But I can be really stubborn. For the last two years I have told my friend John Folmer of RJL Real Estate Consultants in El Paso, the leasing agent for Paul Foster’s Fountains retail concept, there would be no way I would ever consider having a store at The Fountains.

In fact, my husband had already told John that if I ever tried to open a second store, we would probably no longer be married because I would end up too busy too stressed!

Well, guess what: Tres Mariposas is opening a pop-up store November 1 at The Fountains at Farah. And so far my marriage is intact!

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The Fountains welcomes locals

And guess what else: other Westside boutiques apparently like the idea, too. I hear that Ella Blu, J Luxe, and Ruby Lola have committed to temporary or permanent stores at The Fountains. You’re going to have an irresistible treasure trove of beautiful, interesting local shops all in one fun shopping center.

The Fountains has been unusual in its pursuit of local specialty shops to add spice to its mix. Why do you think that is? Three guesses!

Yes, the correct answer is owner Paul Foster, the community-minded Western Refining business leader who is behind the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, the Foster-Stevens Basketball Complex at UTEP, and the Chihuahuas baseball team partnership, to name a few of his projects.

From the outset, since even before the shopping center opened two years ago this month, Paul has pressed for local specialty store involvement and buy-in, to supplement the roster of national retailers. I now agree: what a great idea.

Soon Border-area shopping enthusiasts will have even more choices. So as the holiday season approaches, you can shop Westside stores, shop Eastside stores — just please remember to shop local stores!

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