Nothing beats a good well-fitted T-shirt and a pair of jeans…Simple swag at its best.
But how about pairing those jeans with a T-shirt that helps you rep 100% for your country, showing your patriotism and love of all things locale.
Well, Tiantees is here to provide you with just that.
Created by Erica George, Tiantees is a fun local brand, which aims to be your “be all and end all” when it comes to local items.
Erica, who hails originally from Bournes Road, St James, and currently resides in Valsayn with her French Bulldog, Gigi, said “I always knew that I wanted to do something to represent and celebrate Trinidad, as I am an avid Carnival lover.”
However, “I do not consider myself your ‘typical creative’ and was unsure of how and where to begin.”
But, one day, that mental lightbulb switch went on, and Erica said she came up with an idea to create this brand of Tees, that represents that really unique aspects of our Trini-culture and what is more unique than the way we speak.
When it came to naming the brand, Erica said she cannot take credit for the name Tiantees.
“My friend Keevan Lewis, who everyone will know as KeevoTV, he was the person that actually came up with the name. Tiantees being a play on T&T – Trinidad and Tobago.”
She said: “When I officially launched in June 2017, it started with a line of T-shirts called the “Vernacular Series,” which highlighted some of the words we use in our everyday speech, like ‘steups,’ ‘saddis’ and ‘hoss’, giving the actual English definition of those words.
From there the series grew and they adapted more vernacular speech and “trini-isms.”
“In 2019, for our second anniversary, which coincidentally is June 16 – my birthday, I decided to do a pop up in New York which was thankfully a huge success and in doing that pop-up, we decided to branch out into other products. So instead of doing the Tees, we offered hats, baby onesies, and coffee mugs.
Unlike most startups that have to face a number of challenges, Erica told us that for her, it was actually quite easy.
‘My everyday style is most times pretty casual, I do wear a lot of tees. I love local tees and supporting local brands and it was just easy.
“I already had a T-shirt supplier, I already had a printer and people were ready to represent and have their culture branded on their chest.
“What sets Tiantees apart from other local brands is that we actually use our local dialect and lines from local soca songs.
“We have a Christmas line, which is quintessential Trinidad and Tobago, and we have lines celebrating our local heroes, our unique food and even a Trinbago drinks line.
Erica said “Tiantees is a brand that is just focused on celebrating all different aspects of our Trinidad and Tobago culture and we have kept the brand very solid, as we only use red, black and white…what gets more Trini than that.”
Tiantees is an online business, but Erica revealed to us that they do have hopes of taking the business Duty-Free in the future, once the borders reopen.
She said not having a storefront has been a bit of a challenge, but so far, they have been successful.
With Covid-19 affecting hundreds of business throughout the twin-isle, we had to ask Erica if she too has been affected.
And like many, her answer was yes.
She said “Tiantees imports all our T-shirts to maintain a particular type of quality and with the restrictions with Covid, it has been kind of hard getting supplies in a timely manner, but other than that, no serious challenges business wise.”
However, she said it did take a toll on her personally.
Erica said: “The pandemic did temporarily kill my motivation and drive to continue pushing the brand.
“You have to continuously create content and in the middle of the pandemic I just fell flat and was not as active as I usually am in creating new designs and new content and keeping the page relevant and interactive.”
But thankfully, “That has changed and for Christmas, we’ve actually added sweaters to our Christmas line and depending on the feedback from that, we’ll know if we will make it a permanent item.”
She said “Tiantees has the power to print on anything, so the public can look forward to Tiantees water bottles and key chains and notepads – anything that we can display our Trini brand on.”
“I think Trinbagonians are seeing the value in the products that we have for sale and on offer and this is not just apparel, this is everything, in terms of food go up the ladder.”
“At the end of the day, a Nike is a Nike, a Gucci is a Gucci, and those things just have value because of the years they have been in business, but I think that Trinbagonians are more proud now to rep local and support local, that shift has happened over the last few years, and I think it is on an upward trajectory for brands such as Tiantees.”
The brand boasts of clientele that is far and wide, with a 25 – 55 age group.
And that’s not all.
Their demand on the international front is very high.
Erica said “We currently have a huge demand from people outside of Trinidad and Tobago, within the Caribbean diaspora, and within the US, Canada and UK.
“We’ve been seeing this demand grow over the last 2-3 years and we are working feverishly in providing the best delivery to our customers abroad at the most affordable price.”
“I want to broaden our product line and satisfy people who may not necessarily want to wear a T-shirt but definitely want to rep for Trinidad and Tobago.
“From the time I started this, I wanted to make Tiantees the “go to” Trini brand. I have always likened it to being the Cooyah of Trinidad. (Cooyah being a T-shirt brand out of Jamaica).
“That’s basically where I want to see the brand.
“I would love to have a much more active social media presence , I also definitely want to get into the duty-free space and have that store front available to people when they travel in and out.”
“I want when someone decides to give someone abroad a gift that provides a connection to home, that Tiantees would be that brand they choose to fill the gap.”
To anyone looking to start any kind of business in this economy right now Erica said DO NOT DOUBT YOURSELF FOR ONE MOMENT!
“Get started, put your ideas down and put a structure to your business from the beginning.”
Just because you have a small business and you are doing things on a small scale, that does not mean its going to remain there forever.
“So put your systems in place, take your business seriously, make sure it is registered and you have a bank account, and make sure you are doing your books and accounting.
Tiantees can be found at https://www.tiantees.com/
FB: Tian Tees