By Alessia Grunberger
Every childhood memory Latoya Brown had would include the sound of her mother’s sewing machine and the sight of clients congregating in her house in Jamaica, waiting for their fittings or pickups. Brown’s mother, a seamstress who worked at home, had a room where all her fabrics and sewing supplies were stocked. In there, all the magic happened.
“I grew up with her sewing for me, for my cousins, and for other people,” Brown recalled. “The attention that she used to pay to the fabric and to detail was impeccable.”
Her mother’s work as a seamstress, as well as her very close attention to detail, inspired Brown to invest in the world of fashion and retail.
In late 2012, Brown, 31, created StyleSurrender, an online clothing store catered to women. After over a year of maintaining an online presence, Brown decided to open a physical store on College Avenue.
“I wanted to have a retail shop because it’s more personal,” Brown said. “Being online, you send off items to customers that you’ll never see, you don’t know how the garment fits them and you didn’t see how the customers looked in it.”
Brown gets items to stock her inventory from designers and vendors in various locations – including New York City and Atlanta. Brown’s garments range from approximately $20 to $50 a piece.
“I take special care when I find items for the store,” Brown said. “I’m not only looking for pieces that are cost effective for my customers, but also pieces that will stand the test of time.”
Since the store’s grand opening, the retail owner said College Park city councilmembers have warmly welcomed her to the community; and Brown has taken the opportunity to immerse herself in her new environment.
A few weeks ago, Brown participated in Alpha Epsilon Phi and Kappa Sigma’s Slimefest – a philanthropic event filled with games, food and a theme reminiscent of Nickelodeon’s Slime Time Live – and attended an on-campus farmers market where she raffled off a gift certificate and other cool incentives.
While Brown has engaged with the university community, there are still large groups of students who have not heard about the newest College Park retail addition.
Senior Caitlin Morahan said she has never seen the store or advertisements. If she saw advertisements, though, Morahan said she might check the store out if she walked by.
“I would much rather go to a mall than spend a lot at a boutique or get poor quality at Rugged,” a low-end store in the nearby shopping center, Morahan said.
Brown said she accumulates the most traffic for her online presence from social media. Yet, the sorority women, who live merely minutes – or even seconds – away from the retail location are the majority of the store’s customers.
“I definitely think that girls in Greek life know what StyleSurrender is because they would pass it [on their way to their respective houses],” Katie Ta, a junior, said. “I know that my sorority sisters have gone to look for formal dresses there.”
“StyleSurrender is trying to cater to college students because of the sales that the store always have, unlike On Cloud 9 [the previous retail shop],” Ta added.
“I really hope, one day, when we become bigger, I’ll be able to have students – whether they are part time or full time – that can work in the store,” said Brown.
“I think it will be ideal to hire from the community. Since I am online, I need models – so I would love to use models from the university, photographers, people to help me with my website.”