Tammy Silver – A Designer for This Generation

Clothing plays a role in our everyday life. It is used to tell stories, make statements, and let those who interact with us know something about our values. For many years, fashion and faith have worked hand in hand to help people position themselves in society. Priests, Sisters, Pastors, Pastors’ wives, and others use clothing to convey a message about their faith and role in their community. The kind of message we get from Tammy Silver designs, though, is different. She is taking a stand against fast fashion by offering ethical creations while staying true to her personal style and brand. In doing so, Tammy is, indirectly, sending an important message about labor and exploitation in the fashion industry.

Tammy Silver, the brand, is also the creator’s name. Based in one of the vibrant capitals of fashion, London, Tammy was born to Nigerian parents. She studied Media and Communications at Goldsmiths University where she graduated with a first-class degree. Her story exemplifies well one of the things we like to emphasize, here at Femmes d’Espérance, a University degree is good but stepping in your destiny requires more. Faith and obedience are what you need to work with God and then the degree becomes a set of tools that you can use to impact people’s lives. As we move forward in getting to know her, you will see why Tammy’s decision to be an ethical designer is inspiring.

 

Why is ethic so important to you as a woman and as a Christian?

Was my first question when I was referred to Tammy’s Instagram and blog.

Here is her unedited answer:

‘It wasn’t until I started sewing my own clothes that I realised all the work and talent that goes into making garments. It is sad that to the majority of people, garment workers are nameless, faceless, overworked and underpaid people who pay the price for fast fashion. The mistreatment of workers in the fashion industry was something I did not want to participate in. Whilst there are no easy answers to all the problems in the fashion industry, I at least want my conscious to be clear when conducting my own business.

As a Christian my desire is simple: to earn a living with the talent God has given me. Ultimately, as he is sovereign, I know that He gives failure or success and I must trust in his guidance and his desire for my good. It’s a bit scary as I naturally want to have control of everything in my life. Finishing university, I had expected to get a graduate job straight away and when that didn’t happen, I had a great thing to fall back on which was my sewing.

I enjoy making clothes for women, my personal stye incorporates all the quirks of modern feminine style. I enjoy making easy-going looks with an abundance of colour and volume for over-stated but wearable looks. My personal style is constantly evolving as I learn more about myself and develop my sewing skills.’

As an educator in Higher Education, I often meet students who have a single view of what they will do once they graduate. Those who study law want to become lawyers, those who are in nursing school want to become nurses and so on and so forth. There is nothing wrong these types of statements but is there a way to think more broadly? Is there a way to focus on developing the talents God has placed in us and trust His vision of our lives instead of curriculums?

Believing you have what it takes

The more I work with African women, the more I realize that we must overcome cultural limitations if we are to be competitive and influential in the workforce. The most common of these limitations, in my view, is age and Tammy experienced it as well. When I asked her what was the biggest challenge she’s had to deal with, Here is what she said:

To be taken seriously is an unexpected challenge that I had to face. When I started sewing for customers, I was 22, people always challenged my ability, my price and the way I wanted to run my business. Saying it was frustrating, would be an understatement. I worked really hard to develop my skills in order to be confident of the service I provide to my clients. To be honest people still underate me, but a lot less than they used to, so it is progress.”

It is unfortunate but seriously when is the last time you met a young African entrepreneur in their 20s? As a community and consumers living in the West, I think we need to do better! We can begin with recognizing these talents and take it upon ourselves to encourage them by buying their products and promoting what they have to offer. In my conversation with Tammy, she said that ‘starting a business was an overly-complicated task, that only smart or rich people could do’. Thankfully being rich is not everything! She started sewing as a hobby in 2016 and a few years later, her passion was generating profit. What I loved about Tammy’ story is that she is a woman of action. She created the necessary conditions to grow her talent and when opportunity presented itself, success was inevitable.

Investing in your craft

It is no secret that being passionate alone will not be enough. Tammy invested time and money into her gift. She took sewing lessons and practiced long before her creations became accessible to the public. She also started with being her own client… yes, your read that right. She worked to design and create outfits that she could wear and be proud of. To me, working with a designer who enjoys their own creations is like walking around with a piece of their dream.

Another way of investing in your craft is knowing and articulating what you want to do. You would be surprised how many people God has placed on your way to invest in your project, support you or simply pray with you. For many people, the first investors are likely to be family members and friends.

My mum and sister are my biggest fans and supporters. Then my friends started recommending me to their friends, steadily increasing my workload through word of mouth.” Said Tammy

All this to say, if you have a dream it is important to communicate it, not in the Joseph (see story of Joseph Genesis 37-50) kind of way but enough to see if your idea is viable. Also, you will need help and sharing your work with others will open opportunities for you to grow.

Being a problem solver

If you want to change your idea into a business, be prepared to be a problem solver. The journey will bring many challenges but your survival will be determined by how you overcome these challenges and your ability to take the best out of it and move on.

Tammy tells us that when covid hit, her work dried up instantly. Then, she found a way into ‘the online fashion community as a Content Creator’. Just like that what was an issue became an opportunity, in her words… ‘I occasionally find work on paid collaborations (as a content creator). Then in 2020 I began researching about social media marketing in order to understand how to reach new customers on platforms such as Instagram. I started designing my own clothes and sharing my creations online and I was definitely overwhelmed by the positive feedback.’ Soon after putting in all this work, Tammy’s Instagram followers has now grown to 6k.

On 27th May, 2021, Tammy was featured in Mollie Makes Magazine for their Kindness Issue. As her website reads, Tammy was commissioned to do a tutorial, showing readers how to sew their own self-drafted flare trousers. Read more here.

The way forward

Mollie Makes Feature of Tammy Silver
The Kindness Issue: Click on image to read more

At Femmes d’Esperance, we love to end our interviews with tips and tricks to inspire women. Tammy’s advice is that unless you start, every other tip would be useless.

‘So, the minute you finish reading this article go and start your business! Fear and doubt are not something that will magically go away because someone tells you to believe in yourself. Work through those problems whilst building your business.’

To discover Tammy Silver’s work and philosophy please visit

Her Instgram:@tammy_silver and Her Website: www.tammysilver.com

By Josie Ma

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