“Romance is the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze. ”
― Elinor Glyn
Romance means a lot of things to a lot of different people and on the eve of Valentine’s Day 2016 I’m dedicating this year’s romance to my lifelong love affair with the tutu. Whether spangled in sequins, twinkling with glitter or whispering sweet nothings between layers of tulle, the tutu is that one enchanting item of dress to be able to conjure up the romance of the ballet, a magical walk down the aisle, a sashay down the runway; everything that is fabulous and magical and romantic in this oft-ordinary life. Passing my love for these colourful clouds of perfection onto my daughter, it felt rather fitting to celebrate the most romantic day of the year by shining the spotlight on one of our favourite tutu creators, Nicki Laureanti, the maker of TinandElla.
Born and raised in Arizona, Nicki’s own foray into motherhood is what set her on the path to launching her brand. Discovering the variety of beautiful wares being made by small business brands run by fellow mothers, and learning her first child was to be a girl, Nicki was determined to find a place for herself in the mum-made community. Equipping herself with the tools and knowledge to make her business dream come true, she says, “Styling has always been a big thing for me. I’ve always really loved it. But I have self-taught everything I do. Even braiding my girls’ hair!” Marrying her resourcefulness and creative talents, it is this dynamic combination which has proven the key to her success. “I taught myself to make tutus and have been working on making each one better since I started,” she says.
Taking her cue from the names of her two girls, Tinley and Stella, the brand’s name was born and in November 2015 TinandElla was officially open for business. It is to her daughters that Nicki credits much of her inspiration, “My kids and the girls on my team have been a huge inspiration,” she says. “They help me come up with new ideas all the time. We try to keep things clean and fresh, but also have little edge.”
Crafting unique designs that always seem to exactly match the individual personality and style of her customers, Nicki admits that her favourite orders are those that come with collaborative potential. “My favourite thing is when they give me an idea of what they want but let me run with it,” she says. “It’s hard to please everyone all the time, but so far, most people have really been happy with what comes out of my brain.” As well they might, looking at the exquisite array of colours and blends that lend themselves to tutus long and short for girls tall, petite and even smaller all created at the tips of Nicki’s sartorially-savvy fingers.
There is one girl with the world’s most enviable hourglass figure whom the designer would have loved to have custom made a tutu for, Hollywood siren and style icon, Marilyn Monroe. “I have a tutu named after her,” Nicki says, in lieu of being able to dress the world’s most famous blonde bombshell in real life. Marilyn knew a thing or two about working the trends and while Nicki asserts that many names in the big fashion leagues have inspired her along the way, she states unequivocally “The small shop brands have my heart.” Matters of the heart are what everyone is focused on today so I have to ask how love and romance translates behind the scenes at TinandElla? “I love romance,” admits Nicki, “It’s a big deal to feel loved. It’s so important. My husband leaves me notes ALL the time, all over the house. And I think it’s so unbelievably romantic.” It sounds like the stuff of fairytales, and with her very own Prince Charming by her side to boot.
There is a distinctly fairytale feel to the TinandElla aesthetic, though of course Nicki’s customers add their own flair for the edgy, tomboy or glamerina in how they style their tutus, but on that note, who in the fabled history of happy endings captures Nicki’s heart? “Sleeping beauty,” she confesses. “It’s so romantic to me that Philip fights all the odds to get to the princess.” A timeless classic and one very much with fashion at its core, it is a fitting choice for this designer who’s style lies somewhere in between that beautiful girl and her brave prince cutting through a forest of thorns; girlie with an edge.
The original home of the ombre tutu, created by layering different shades of tulle, Nicki credits the inception of TinandElla to her own leading man, “My husband pushed me to do new things,” she says. “So I have to give him credit.” Speaking of new things, it seems another Disney princess may have provided the source of inspiration for a new line of TinandElla tutus in time for the American summer as Nicki reveals “we are coming out with a whole line of mermaid inspired tutus.” So water babies don those fins and seashell accessories because under the sea is where it’s at.