It's a blazing July afternoon, and Andrew Bayer and Doug Voisin are almost settled in their new workspace. Tara Tonini is back from Los Angeles, and the guys are preparing to close their Bryan Street vintage shop and studio House of Dang at the end of the week. They've joined Tonini, the designer behind Tara to the T, at her Tyler Street studio to focus on their women's wear line of the same name. The trio has painted floors, moved adjustable walls and transported racks of designs to join forces at the Oak Cliff space. M.I.A. is on the stereo, and for five minutes, at least, they can rest -- and giggle at cheap fabric samples.
Voisin and Bayer talk confidently about their decision to shut down their retail space, where they worked closely with other lines like Squid Ink Kollective whose braintrust has since moved to Austin. The local artists and designers House of Dang carried have moved on in their own ways, nursing their own shops and designs, Voisin says. It's time for he and Bayer to do the same for their bold, function-friendly women's wear in a private showroom.
"People didn't even know we had a clothing line," Bayer says.
He'd later tell D Magazine, who totally knew Bayer and Voisin had a clothing line, the same thing for a feature on 11 Dallas Style Setters You Need to Know. The list includes Project Runway contestants Louise Black and Shirin Aksari.
Tonini studied at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in L.A. and did time in a corporate setting. She's found her niche as a Dallas-based designer, informed by other scenes with the freedom of a central location and boosted by a lower cost of living.
"It's right in the middle of America, just two-and-a-half hours to each coast," Tonini says.
She shows us the Bridget dress from her '60s flight attendant-inspired Sky Girls line and runs her hand down the exposed zipper in the back. The skirt of the dress is actually a skort, an example of something House of Dang and Tara to the T have in common: wearability. Tonini also designs Fitzgeraldean headbands and hats for girls she says "appreciate period pieces" in their wardrobe.
Tonini motions across the street to Oak Cliff Bicycle Company and explains how Studio Four Eleven will co-host public events like art shows and movie screenings with the fledgling business in an effort to brand Tyler Street as a community-oriented drag. One good idea has already led to another: the designer had bicycle hats ready to sell at OCBC's grand opening last month and she'll throw 10 percent of her sales from the open house tonight to Cyclesomatic, a week-long bicycle festival in North Oak Cliff being planned for October. And that event is sponsored by Bike Friendly Oak Cliff, a group that offers discounts for bicyclists at spots like Make and Oak Cliff Pizza & Pasta.
The burgeoning neighborhood already has a kind soul and solid legs (or wheels) to stand on with the rise of the Bishop Arts District. Bayer, Voisin and Tonini are just dressing Tyler Street for the ride -- one that could take the designers exactly where they want to go.
"The risks that I'm able to take here, I couldn't afford to anywhere else," Tonini says.
Studio Four Eleven's Open House and Trunk Show is tonight from 5-10PM, with drinks sponsored by Sake2Me. Shop the House of Dang and Tara to the T spring/summer collections and preview their fall 2009 lines. The showroom is located at 411 N. Tyler Street in Oak Cliff.