By LORI D. R. WIGGINS
While most of us went about our day last Friday, Raleigh clothing designer Rick Moore Jr., was at Macy’s in New York delivering a pitch that could catapult his NYLA Elise Clothing brand into a viable retail line for the Great American Department Store.
Moore is a finalist for The Workshop at Macy’s, a 4 1/2 -day intensive, business-development training course aimed at nurturing the success and growth of minority–and women–owned retail businesses already poised for large-scale success by giving them exclusive access to industry experts, information and tools. Ultimately, the program creates a pipeline of potential partners in the Macy’s community of vendor.
“This is the pinnacle,” Moore said. “It doesn’t get any bigger than Macy’s. It would be full-circle for me.”
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When I met Moore about five years ago, his clothing line was younger than its namesake, Moore’s then two-year-old daughter, Nyla Elise Moore. Then, the logo and primary design was the toddler’s hand prints. And Moore was peddling the tees and polo-style shirts wherever there were people.
Now, with his design and business partners, Marrell Allen and Simon Boamah, NYLA Elise offers a mix of tees, tanks, long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, jackets – including leather letterman’s jackets — and caps with a variety of designs and slogans. NYLA Elise clothes are handmade from cotton spun in North Carolina. Each piece bears the NYLA Elise logo - a capital “N” next to a backwards capitol “E.”
“I wanted to create something with her name on it that would stand the test of time,” Moore said of his daughter, now 8. “Every time I look at my daughter, I want to push for something much greater,” he said.
“Why shouldn’t her name be on retail racks alongside some of the top designers?”
It certainly hangs among A-List designers in the closets of quite a few A-List celebrities. Think comedian Kevin Hart; recording artists and actors Erykah Badu, LL Cool J, Ellen Pompei, Kerry Washington, Omari Hardwick and Grayson Goss, and Team USA’s David Oliver and Cullen Jones.
“To have legends wear your stuff is huge,” Moore said. “I was an at-risk youth at one time.
“Look how I’ve evolved. It’s nothing but God and the will and the guts.”
As a finalist for The Workshop at Macy’s, Moore was among about two dozen business owners invited for a face-to-face interview. More than 1,000 people applied for the final prize: one of 12-15 workshop spots, which includes what could be years of nurturing and growth under Macy’s wing after the workshop, said Macy’s spokesman Orlando Veras.
The company held its inaugural workshop in 2011 with 22 merchants.
Workshop participants are chosen based on the stage of their business, and whether there is potential to successfully grow their product line to reach Macy’s racks at one, several or all stores across the country, Veras said. The workshop includes lessons in marketing, branding, assortment planning, and getting access to capital to grow the business.
The first workshop participants to graduate to vendor status at Macy’s launched lines in stores in May 2012. That year, Macy’s reported $715.3 million in purchases from minority- and women-owned businesses.
The newest workshop graduates to launch at Macy’s this year: baby accessories from Bella Tunno, cosmetics from Big Girl Cosmetics and Lamik Beauty, dresses from Cenia, and dog accessories from Kane & Couture.
Moore could learn as soon as this week whether he made this year’s cut. Until then, his designs can be found online at nylaelise.com.
“The thing about Rick and his team is they are committed to move NYLA Elise forward so people can see that the trends and the messages carried in his apparel have a place in their lifestyle,” said Munson Speed, who publishes more than 19 print and online publications, including Rolling Out magazine and rollingout.com.
“Rick is a visionary with a passion to endure.”