By Nicole S. Daniel
The Birmingham Times
When Taylor Young held a recent grand opening for her clothing store in West Birmingham it was also a homecoming. The 27-year-old entrepreneur opened her location in a shopping plaza on 3rd Ave. West owned by her family.
Family, friends and consumers joined Young in October to celebrate Retrograde Dept., a high-end street wear store where shoppers can also buy, sell and trade. What made it more special was that her family once owned the plaza where her store is located.
“My grandmother had a restaurant in the first building at the very beginning of the plaza and my uncle had a clothing store called The Spot [in the plaza],” said Young.
“My uncle was very known in the city because he was considered a stylist. The ‘who’s who’ would come and shop there,” Young said.
She learned a lot about business and fashion from her uncle, who passed in 2011. “He knew I had it. I was going to take over the clothing store when I graduated high school. He was going to give it to me,” she said.
“When my uncle passed away it took a big toll on my family and it changed everything,” she said.
Young also learned a lot about fashion from artists of the 90’s.
“I used to see people like Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes [was a member of the R&B girl group TLC] and Aaliyah [singer and actress] on 106 and Park, [a music show airing hip hop and R&B videos, and their clothes were baggy therefore I used to wear my brother’s clothes for the same look,” Young said.
Young grew up in Ensley with her two older siblings Brielle, 32, and Justin, 30, but moved to Hoover when she was in the fifth grade and graduated from Hoover High School in 2013. She used $5,000 in savings from a fast-food restaurant job to launch her clothing brand website Stay Taylor Made, which started out as t-shirts and hats with Young’s logo, a picture of her with a Medusa head.
“I wanted to get my brand out there. I was big on my brand because I knew I wanted it to consist of my name and I am my brand,” she said.
While running her business she attended Jefferson State Community College for two years then transferred to Miles College in Fairfield, AL.
She left Miles to focus on her brand and to open a clothing store. She worked as a store manager at a clothing store in Fairfield, AL for about two years learning from the owner. “That’s when I told myself I can do this, I can run a store,” she said.
Learning The Business
Young said she learned the importance of building relationships while working at the store with brand owners whether they were high- or low-end brands. She also had the opportunity to travel to shows for example Las Vegas Market Week, that featured 250 different brands from around the country.
In addition, she also worked at a store that sold lifestyle clothing and footwear from brands such as Nike, Jordan, Levi’s temporarily to learn the business side.
“That’s when I learned how to do stuff like payroll, inventory, and audits. When I decided I learned everything I need to know that’s when I opened a clothing store.”
Her first was Shop Tay Way in October 2019 in downtown Birmingham connected to Thomas Jefferson Towers which catered to men and women and carried high end brands like Essentials, Bape, a street wear brand established in Japan, Chrome Hearts, Nike, and of course her brand Stay Taylor Made. Her clientele consisted of individuals between the ages of 17 to 40.
Just months after opening, the world was shut down with the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“If I would have known the pandemic was coming just months after opening my store, I wouldn’t have opened it. I only had four months with a clean slate. I didn’t know how I was going to survive but I ended up making changes inside of the store” that included selling mostly street wear, she said.
Asked her definition of street wear Young said, [It can] be sweatpants, t-shirts, hats, or socks. It does not have to be designer brands, but it can be owned by someone that caters to those everyday needs kind of like Supreme, a skateboarding lifestyle brand … and there’s another brand here in Birmingham called Broken Dreams.”
In August of this year, Young passed by the plaza in West Birmingham and learned a location was available.
She asked one of her uncles about letting her rent The Spot [where she is currently located] and “he kept telling me somebody else was bringing him a deposit to rent it. I had to keep asking him and finally the last time I asked, he said ‘if the person doesn’t come today you can get [the location].
Asked why she changed the name from Shop Tay Way to Retrograde Dept. she said, “I wanted to rebrand everything.”
At Retrograde consumers can purchase brands such as Chrome Hearts, a luxury brand based in Hollywood; Essentials, clothing brand that offers easy to wear pieces with a street inspired touch; The Gallery Department a unisex clothing brand based in Los Angeles, CA and more.
“I also have a vintage and consignment area in the store,” Young said. Some of the vintage pieces are new or have only been worn once, she added.
When shopping for clothes to place in Retrograde, it’s rare for Young to purchase multiple pieces. She doesn’t buy the same pieces of clothing twice.
“No one likes to look the same, especially here in Birmingham,” Young said.