How a Young Designer Got Rihanna To Rock Her Line After Just One Year
Tizita Balemlay, better known as @theplugsdaughterr, has managed to take the fashion industry by storm in just one year.
At the age of 22, Tizita has been able to start her own clothing line, PluggedNYCStore, while still in college. The line shows off Tizita’s unique aesthetic and has already been worn by stars like Rihanna, Keke Palmer and Lil Yachty.
We sat down with Tizita to learn all about her and her army of “plugged” up social influencers. After talking to her we shot some of her “street chic” pieces from her latest collection with photographer Lumia Nocito. Check out the interview below and go to Pluggednyc.com to keep up with the brand and purchase pieces.
What made you want to get into design? Did you always see yourself as a designer or were you first interested in doing something else?
I would always, like even when I was in high school do like really weird things with clothes, me and my sister both would. We would dye them or cut off the arms of things, we would even make like our sweatshirts ourselves and our dad would always say, “You’re not going to a fashion show, you’re going to school,” because we would just always do the most.
Even when my sister was like a sophomore, we would be wearing like Jeffrey Campbells to school, like heavy high heels, people would think we were crazy. So I always knew that I liked fashion but I never really thought I was going to be a designer. I thought I would end up creative directing, because even when my friends would break up with boyfriends and stuff I would always be the one hooking up shoots for them and everything, so I was really more into creative directing and making things look good, not really designing at first.
How did you come up with PluggedNYC as the name for your brand?
Well my name on social media was already @theplugsdaughterr so I started this whole slogan, “plugged by theplugsdaughterr.” Every time I would style somebody I was like, “Oh, you just got plugged by me,” and then I was like, “Hey, let me start a brand called Plugged.”
But there’s already a lot of things with the name “Plugged” like I looked it up and “Plugged” was already taken, so I was like “PluggedNYC” because I am in New York right now, so I did PluggedNYC and Plugged New York and it just sounded good.
Your line came out a year ago and has already been worn by stars like Rihanna and Keke Palmer, rappers like Lil’ Yachty and influencers like India Love. How were you able to market your brand to these kinds of stars so quickly?
Well I have a cousin, Brianna, who’s in public relations, and she really is doing a lot for me, like reaching out, getting addresses and stuff for me and were really doing it the professional way honestly. We really have it down pat as far as making the garments then getting them on celebrity clientele. I also feel like my brand’s aesthetic is causing a lot more attention and the people that I’m using as models all have a significant social media following so I feel like that’s also helping to spread it faster.
You have created such a large social media presence for your brand and for you personally, how do you think social media played a part in the success of your brand?
I think social media is the reason why my brand is even where it’s at right now, honestly. Before I used to tell people social media is not life and it really isn’t, but it honestly can change your life. Especially with the generation that were in right now, people don’t even watch TV as much, they’re mostly on their phones. So social media has just been one of the biggest outlets for the success of my brand.
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What was your favorite outfit as a kid and what does it say about who you are now?
I really was a tomboy growing up, like really really a lot. I hated skirts and I never liked showing my legs, I honestly loved like sweatpants and sweatshirts and Airmaxes. I was really like a tomboy with a big full head of curls, like old Teyana Taylor — that was really me.
So what do you think that says about you and your brand now?
I think it says a lot, because that’s where I get my whole street and edginess from. I’ve always been a tomboy but as I’ve you know matured, I’ve gotten more sexy especially now that I’m in my 20’s so now I’ll pair my tomboy pieces up with more sexier choices and I think that’s what my brand represents also, like “streetchic” you know? Like girls can dress street, but when they want they can also look bad.
Tell me a little bit about your Pluggedarmy?
It’s a movement that I started for my brand, because I really wanted every girl that was in my clothing to be able to look at my girls and be like that’s me, or find a girl in my army that they could relate to, and I really didn’t want to use traditional models that all have similar body types. I wanted to have everyday girls because I feel like especially now, the real models are social media models. Those girls are the most relatable, so I just got a few girls together that are all social media influencers and I just got a whole bunch of them together to come together and just be powerful.
Who are some of your biggest style inspirations?
Solange, Solange is one of my biggest style inspirations, I just love everything about her. Like that’s my goal, to creative direct for Solange, because she gets it. That’s just it, she gets it, her whole aesthetic everything is just crazy different, there’s nothing else like it. So she would definitely be one of my biggest inspirations.
Do you have any others?
Of course Rihanna with the whole tomboy thing, I just feel like if I were to have a similar style it would be towards Rihanna. I feel like she’s a little edgy, and all of the clothes that I make I can see her in them.
When did you first know you made it as a designer?
I still haven’t felt like I made it, and even though Rihanna wore my pants, that did not do me any justice. My family thought I was crazy because I was so not satisfied, because to me, until Rihanna posts a picture and says #PluggedArmy or #PluggedNYCStore my job is not complete. I send her stylist care packages every time I have a design and it’s all about whether she wants to wear it or not. She gets like a billion packages sent to her per day, you know?
Describe your freakum dress, it can be real or imaginary. It can even be a freakum pantsuit.
I would probably have a see-through mesh bralet with a corset see-through top and some bell bottom pants with it, and that would probably be my freakum dress.
You’ve already accomplished a lot in such a short amount of time,where do you see yourself and your line in the next 5 years? 10 years?
Well my brand is not like a Balmain, or another high end brand. I’m more interested in making it like an e-commerce website. Even this week I’m going to be adding fragrances and stuff on it, my goal is to really make it like a Topshop type of thing, so that means even adding other brands and designers on my website. That’s kind of my goal for 2017, to really expand my brand and make it like an outlet for other brands and designers to be on too.
Right now, I feel like a big problem is everyone has brands but as a shopper I’m not going to want to go on every single one of your websites to find stuff, so instead I want to have like one website that has everyone’s brands on it. I want to market it to other designers almost like a Macy’s and then in the future I do want to open my first storefront in New York and then extend to LA and have PluggedLA and Plugged NYC.
What advice would you give to other designers just starting out in the fashion design industry? What was hard for you?
The number one thing that designers need to understand is, it’s so sad for me to say this but it’s not even really about how intricate your design is and it’s not even really about how bomb your design is. You could be the best designer in the world, they’re still not out here and they’re still not getting recognized.
Marketing is the number one thing, like you could have a paper towel and as long as its marketed right it could go so far you know? So it’s just marketing and advertising is the number one important thing and your aesthetics. And at the end of the day, if you have a great aesthetic and a great marketing plan, the rest will all just follow along.
Photography By: @lumia.nocito