ESSENCE’s “Boutique Boss” highlights dynamic Black women entrepreneurs who are independent shop owners helping to create more opportunities to #BuyBlack and #ShopSmall. Meet Farai Simoyi, fashion designer and founder of T.N.T Concept Store, a boutique located in Brooklyn, New York.
Simoyi has over a decade of experience designing and consulting for celebrity fashion houses like Beyoncé’s clothing line House of Dereon, Jay-Z’s Rocawear, The Nicki Minaj Collection, and Rachel Roy. In 2017, she opened T.N.T Concept Store to highlight global brands and master artisans in contemporary and luxury design.
What made you decide to open up a storefront?
[I wanted] to create a home for new emerging talent and to provide brands with visibility. The Internet can be a dark hole when emerging brands compete with established brands that have major financial banking and have big budgets for PR and marketing campaigns.
What do you specialize in?
We specialize in carrying emerging and established brands that are local, global and ethical. From apparel, accessories, shoes, home goods, books, every item in the store tells a story.
What are your favorite pieces in the shop?
My favorite pieces in the store are from The Narativ, a design company that works with African brands and artisans. The pieces they curate for our store are handcrafted luxury items made by some of the most skilled brands and artisans in Africa.
Who is your customer?
Our customer loathes shopping at big-box retailers [and is] looking for something unique…They want something that will turn heads and ultimately spark conversation with strangers or friends.
Is everything in your store your own brand or do you work with other designers?
Both. We carry my brand, Farai, which is an ethical line designed and manufactured locally and in Africa. Then we carry brands from all over the world such as Mary Jean Jewelry, Maria Mccloy, Gugu Intimates and MmusoMaxwell.
How would you describe your store or brand’s design aesthetic?
When we built out the store our main focus was figuring out how to incorporate tech and retail in one space… When you walk into our store you will see a minimal aesthetic as we only carry a few sizes or pieces of each item. You come in, see what you like, and then you have the option buying the product right then or self-ordering your item on our touch screen monitor and arrange for delivery to your home or our store for pick up within 24-to-48-hours. It saves the customer the hassle of having to carry the item and who doesn’t love having packages delivered right to your home! It’s a win-win!
What are your favorite shops in the world?
I love markets and design fairs, especially outdoor markets in South Africa and design markets in Brooklyn. That’s where you find the hidden gems. I love Guild Store & Gallery at the VA Waterfront in Cape Town South Africa. They carry innovative brands from Africa that have beautiful contemporary aesthetics from home goods to accessories.
How do you think your shop services the community?
In collaboration with The Narativ and my brand, Farai, we recently launched a project called Going Green Project that supports young designers at local universities. We take them under our wing and mentor them to design an ethical collection that will then be sold and featured in our store.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned as an independent business and as a Black woman entrepreneur?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in business is that plans change and when they change you have to be a chameleon and easily adapt. As a Black woman entrepreneur, I have to be flexible and adaptable in the way I run by business but also be steadfast in my ultimate goals and ethics. I need to be aware of my surroundings and know what’s happening in the fashion, tech, and the retail world. If I don’t come to the table well informed unfortunately there are still some people who may not take me seriously.
Being an entrepreneur can be exhausting; how do you make time for yourself to recharge?
For me taking time for myself is as simple as dancing around my living room listening to some great music, trying out a new recipe, or going for a walk. I like to incorporate time for myself in my everyday life. I don’t lose myself in all work and no play.
T.N.T Concept Store is located at 385 Tompkins Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216