After forming a friendship over their love of running and starting on 7th Avenue in Manhattan in their "pre-children days," Darien residents Michelle Mauboussin and Tara Vessels found something missing in the world of bathing suit cover-ups, so they started Tara Michelle.
"There wasn't a beach cover-up line that was flattering and also well-priced," Vessels, former owner of Ta-Da in Darien, said.
Mauboussin was quick to agree.
"There was nothing we could go into the store and buy that we really liked," Mauboussin said. "We would literally try on every cover-up from every manufacturer and nothing really looked that good."
Vessels said Tara Michelle is "beach to street," meaning the cover-up can be worn to the beach and then to run errands.
"We found that a lot of the fits were difficult, so we spent a lot of time on our fit," Vessels said, adding that pretty much any woman can wear one of Tara Michelle's cover-ups.
"Anywhere from high school, to college, to young mom, to Michelle's mother," Vessels said with a laugh. "We're crossing a lot of generations."
The ladies said they plan to sell the cover-ups, which are priced under $100, in only one store per town.
"We've gotten such an amazing reception from the stores," Mauboussin said. "Every store we've shown it to loves it and plans on buying it."
Vessels said she thinks that's because the two of them are price conscious.
"We're fashionable but we're fair," Vessels said. "We're definitely not moderate, but we're fair."
The duo has been all over New England and the tri-state area to visit with clients. Thus far, they've managed to speak with Darien Sport Shop, Soleil Toile in New Canaan, Snappy Gator in Wilton and Fairfield, and some stores on Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and Newbury Street in Boston.
While the cover-ups aren't in stock in any specific store yet, Mauboussin said the shops are buying for spring and Snappy Gator will have the cover-ups for sale in Wilton and Fairfield in December.
Tara Michelle will also be having a trunk show featuring their cover-ups at Darien Sport Shop, 1127 Post Road, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23, and Saturday, Nov. 24.
"We went to stores where we thought our brand would sell," Mauboussin said. "We made a point of going to stores and saying they would be our `town person.'"
Vessels added that they are strategically positioning on busy, main roads.
Maubisson said they had planned to start small, but the overwhelming response has the business "growing very quickly."
"There's a lot of takeout dinners involved now," Vessels said.
According to Mauboussin, the second delivery is doubled in size compared to their first. "We've gotten some of these orders in and we don't have enough so we'll have to go back and recut," Mauboussin said.
The cover-ups are 100 percent cotton and manufactured in India, according to Mauboussin. They're embroidered and crocheted. Along with the cover-ups, Tara Michelle offers sarongs of varying lengths.
As for the business itself, the women have managed to keep it all in the family.
"We've recruited everyone in the family," Vessels said. Mauboussin's daughter, Isabelle, and Vessel's son, Chase, worked on the website and Vessel's daughter did the modeling.
"I think it's really great for the kids to be involved," Mauboussin said.
In fact, all of the pieces the women offer are named after their children. Michelle has five children -- Andrew, Alex, Madeline, Isabelle and Patrick -- and Tara has three, Callan, Madison, and Chase. So far, they have the Madeline, the Madison, the Isabelle and the Callan, but they plan on coming out with more, such as the Andy, the Alex, the Chase and the Jamie for Patrick James.
"When we run out of family we'll start on friends," Mauboussin said.
The two women are having fun, though, despite the overwhelming busyness.
"Sometimes we have to be two different places at two different times but it's a good problem to have," Vessels said.
For information, visit www.taramichelledesigns.com.
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