Telsha Anderson is filling an Opening Ceremony-sized gap

A woman sitting on a chair in a clothes store.

The 27-year-old New York member talks opening her store, T.A., in the midst of a pandemic, becoming a viral hit and the designers she’s loving right now

By Jess Kelham-Hohler    Above image: Telsha Anderson in T.A. (Christopher Tomas Smith)   Wednesday 12 August, 2020   Long read

To those familiar with T.A., a vibrant store in New York’s Meatpacking District with neatly organised racks of treasure-trove clothes, it may be a surprise to learn that its founder started her career selling guides to national parks. Freshly graduated from Syracuse University, Telsha Anderson was desperate to become a fashion buyer, but found it impossible to get an entry-level job. The other goal was to move to New York City by any means necessary – it turned out those means were park guides. Cut to five years later and Anderson, thanks to her first solo venture, is becoming one of the most talked about women in New York.  

After years spent working in content and social media for brands including Hypebeast and Atlantic Records, Anderson was ready to return to her original dream. But rather than try to find a job with one of the big retail names, she decided to strike out on her own. 

‘The combination of school – I’m doing a graduate degree at NYU for brand management – my work in social media talking to consumers and not being able to find a store in Lower Manhattan that offered me the one perfect thing to fit into my closet was what sparked my interest,’ says Anderson. ‘I started doing more serious research and began looking at spaces around the city, before finally settling on the idea.’

The result was T.A., a concept and clothing store that offers the city’s female community a fresh perspective on what constitutes modern-day luxury. Think vegan leather pants with contrasting panels, a 1990s-esque take on the little black dress and jumpsuits in bold grid prints. Anderson signed the lease last August, and spent the past year sourcing pieces from around the world while designing the details of her bricks and mortar space – a childhood spent with a design-enthusiast mother gave her a unique advantage.  

‘I knew that there would be a level of support from my community, and that helped give me the confidence to jump from idea to practice,’ says Anderson. ‘And I talked about the idea for the store with everyone. I’d be at Soho House New York and if someone started chatting to me, I would ask them about their shopping experience, what they felt was missing; it was the perfect market research.’

The carefully curated selection at T.A. reflects the joy Anderson finds in fashion, as well as her dedication to finding interesting – and often overlooked – designers, whose craft and distinctiveness sets their pieces apart from much of what Manhattan has on offer.

‘The perspective that fashion provides from all different types of designers is what I find so fascinating,’ she explains. ‘Even before I opened T.A., I had a document of more than 500 brands that I’d found through friends, social media or people I stopped on the street, which had the kind of fun clothing I’d want to own. That was my starting point for finding what I’d like to stock. I wanted to be a part of the conversation that was being led by Opening Ceremony and Totokaelo, which were the two places that pushed those quirky, unusual pieces.’
Books between two curved green pipe bookends.
A copy of Vogue magazine next to a model snake.

‘I was so crushed when it was confirmed the store opening couldn’t happen that I just thought, OK, someone is going to know what T.A. is, somehow'

Above images: details from the T.A. store (Justin Boone)

For some, the idea of opening a physical store in today’s retail climate might seem daunting, especially considering that the aforementioned brands who inspired Anderson were both forced to permanently close their doors this year. But she was adamant that the shop was central to her mission of T.A.

‘For me, it’s the experience of it – when you walk in, what do you see on the walls? Who’s greeting you? In Paris, all the shops have their own distinct aesthetic, and I wanted to bring that idea over to New York.’

Her dedication to the physical space was so strong that she even decided to hold on launching a website until six months after the store opened. Then in March, the very same month that T.A. was scheduled to open its doors, a COVID-19 lockdown was announced. While for many stores — including Totokaelo — lockdown marked the end, for Anderson, it marked a turning point that ended up making her and T.A. go viral.

‘I was so crushed when it was confirmed the store opening couldn’t happen that I just thought, OK, someone is going to know what T.A. is, somehow,’ says Anderson. ‘Up until then I hadn’t really talked about it, even on social, but I decided it was time to show what we were about.’

With help from her sister, who luckily works for Squarespace, Anderson built a website from scratch in 24 hours. It didn’t take long for stock to start being swept off the virtual rails.  

‘After a few outlets picked it up and started writing about us, it really snowballed. We also benefited from being featured in a number of lists about Black businesses in the wake of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor tragedies. It’s terrible that that’s what had to happen for there to be this shift, but that’s when the support of Black businesses really took off. I was lucky to be a part of that conversation.’ 

Much to Anderson’s joy, the doors to T.A. finally opened in early July, with customers able to drop in or schedule appointments. While purchases can still be made online, Anderson is excited for those who discovered her online and stumble upon her store to now experience the space that she describes as a representation of the city as well as her brain, her closet and her living room. 

‘I wanted to give consumers – and even myself – the retail opportunity we deserve. And I think we deserve the opportunity to learn about the brands, the employees and the clothing they’re going to invest in,’ she says. 'The personal touch is, I think, what a lot of people miss. They want to know the people behind the brands.’

As for plans for the future? After Anderson finishes her graduate degree, the next stop is worldwide expansion, with dreams of T.A. locations in London, Paris and more – none of which seems beyond the realm of possibility. In the meantime, we asked Anderson to share four of the designers that have caught her expert eye.
A model standing in the sea in a skirt with flowers on her head.

Courtesy of PH5