The Right Fluff

Tara Jane Grier Creator of Fluffy Layers

 

dsc_2420Chickens are humble, lacking the grace of the swan, the subtlety of the pheasant. To make matters worse, chickens are associated with hysteria and even
cowardly behavior. Tara Jane Grier, however, sees things quite differently, as most entrepreneurs do. When gazing upon her first two Rhode Island Reds in 2014, she was blinded by their charm, their beauty and, yes, their fluffy layers.

Two years and eighteen chickens later, her feathered friends adorn Fluffy Layers, her chic line of aprons and apparel based in Millersville and sold online at Homestead Gardens and other retail outlets across Maryland, the country and Canada. Her sturdy Egg Collecting Aprons are composed of fine fabric. Printed with hand-drawn whimsical chickens, flowers and farm animals, the patterns transcend the clichéd “country” styles permeating much of America.

Tara is able to sense the complexity in a chicken’s plumage, the pied beauty of a breast. Her chickens do not just look cute and lay eggs—they are clucking works of genius. Yet her fascination with form is not surprising. She has a closet full of Italian shoes, fur coats, unusual jewelry, vintage finds and specialty high-fashion pieces including the Sherri Hill gown she wears on the current cover of Looking Good Magazine. “I like designer clothes, traveling and great food, but I also like to get down and dirty! From whitewater rafting to camping, I really like it all. I’m a strange mix of a person, but most people are. I wanted to bring that to life with my company. Poultry products don’t have to be boring and beige—they can be loud, and trendy and fun. The best things in life don’t fit into a box—there is so much genius in being authentic.”

The ability to set goals and work at lightning speed are facets of her “strange mix.” The stylish tomboy sprang into action the moment when she and her husband Chris Grier, head football coach at Sherwood High School, moved to a home with 3 acres in 2014 along with Colton, aged 2 and Cash, still an infant. “I set up my chickens in their hutch before I bought furniture for my new house,” she recalls.

Then, a country fair in Frederick changed her life. She observed a crafter making an apron with rooster fabric. “A lightning bolt went off in my head that night and I thought, “I am going to create an apron line.”

Wasting no time, she hired a young fabric designer and Parsons School of Design graduate in New York, Annie Lim. Together they worked weeknights drawing whimsical hens, roosters and flowers. Tara sent her first email to a factory in China on October 2, 2015, and had her first working sample in mid-November to show to her retail partners. “Then
we ordered some inventory,” she says, and Fluffy Layers took flight.

She realized her capabilities quickly and had a breakthrough early on. “What helped us grow financially was the private label collection we did for Chip and Joanna Gaines, hosts of the popular HGTV series Fixer Upper.” Also, she is currently developing a private label collection for Tractor Supply, a substantial chain of farm and feed stores that will launch in March 2017. Her clothing line includes “mommy and me” aprons, full and half body aprons and aprons with egg pockets sometimes bordered by whimsical ruffles. In 2016 the line has expanded to include tote bags, dishtowels and oven mitts, with many more serviceable creations in development.

Tara, it seems, has been preparing her entire life for this venture. After graduating from West Virginia University with a degree in Textiles, Apparel and Merchandising, she worked in wholesale for two large Manhattan-based handbag companies Whiting & Davis and Tri-Coastal Design.

Yet, Fluffy Layers, as exciting as it is, has a price. Besides being a mom, she heads the marketing division of a national retirement planning firm, a demanding job necessary to help pay the family’s mortgage. She occasionally works 15-hour days, weeknights and weekends.

Fueling her endeavor is the quest for financial independence. “It’s not that I want material things. I want to buy my freedom. I don’t want to have to work in an office like a drone every day and be told what to do. I want the freedom to control my time, run my own life, but to do so and have my own company means I must give up some freedoms,” she says.

Tara is a mixture of beauty, grit and creativity, an ironclad blend of “the right stuff.” Today, her aprons are flying off the shelves yet she has higher goals: “I want to be the Vera Bradley for the American farm girl. I want people to crave our patterns. I know there is a space for us.” It is this kind of primal energy that will make this young company soar.

For more information or to purchase items, check out fluffylayers.com.

 

Credits

Gown designer: Sherri Hill, sherrihill.com; gown purchased from
Déjà vu Boutique, Mount Airy, MD, shopthevu.com

Chickens supplied by Janet Garman of Timber Creek Farm, timbercreekfarmer.com, and Savannah Windley of Ellicott City, MD

Fluffy Layers fabric designer: Annie Lim

Hair by Jamie Myrick, David Alexander Salon & Spa

Makeup by Renee Kaplan, David Alexander Salon & Spa

Shoot assistant: Marissa Bunting

Jewelry: West Annapolis Antiques