Christian entrepreneur has a Taylor-made ministry
She pauses frequently to exchange greetings and hugs with throngs of friends and well-wishers inching their way through the Jackson Marriott’s congested hallway during the National Lectureship of the Churches of Christ. Some pause to examine the dresses or thumb through thick books bursting with fabric samples.
Taylor’s label — Taylor Made for You by Faith — is well-known among African-American Christians and in Los Angeles where she has done direct sales from a boutique and her home for 18 years.
The 53-year-old entrepreneur makes an annual stop at the National Lectureship, founded by a small group of black ministers in 1945. She is one of about 20 vendors who travel the nation, shadowing half a dozen lectureships and crusades, showcasing their wares in hotel lobbies and convention rooms.
Taylor, a member of the Normandie church in Los Angeles, views her work of creating custom-made fashions that help women feel good about their appearance as an integral part of her personal ministry.
A native-born Texan, Taylor began designing clothes after realizing how discouraging shopping can be for many women.
“A lot of women find shopping for clothing difficult and frustrating, so this makes it easier for them,” she said. “Often they can’t find something they like that fits them properly in the stores.”
DRESSING MICKEY AND MINNIE
Clothing was far from the top priority in the home where Taylor was raised. The daughter of Wilton H. Cook, a well-known minister in Houston, she was one of 10 children the family had to feed, clothe and educate.
Family and faith were important values in their home, where every child was given a rich religious heritage and a Bible name. She and her two sisters were named Faith, Hope and Charity.
Despite the financial challenges, Taylor earned an associate’s degree from Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas, in 1974 and a bachelor’s from Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.
In 1990 she left the corporate world and launched her own business, designing hair accessories for girls. Her two daughters, Rebecca and Rachel, were her inspiration. Boutiques and stores including Nordstrom’s sold the accessories, giving her the confidence to expand into clothing.
She designed Afro-centric fashions for women. African hats, or kufis, modeled after those worn in West Africa, became a popular item.
In 2007 the Walt Disney Co. asked her to design 2,000 Afro-centric costumes for Mickey and Minnie Mouse dolls. The dolls were distributed during an African-American convention at Disneyland.
Today she employs three full-time dressmakers. In addition to custom dresses and suits, she designs prom dresses and fashions for entire bridal parties.
‘I FEEL LIKE A MOVIE STAR’
At the lectureships, ministers’ wives are among Taylor’s most faithful customers.
“Preachers’ wives really dress up,” she said. “Their style is beautiful hats and custom-made suits.”
Fran Harrison, whose husband, Dan, ministers for the Chathom-Avalon church in Chicago, said she loves Taylor’s gorgeous and durable fabrics.
“When you look your best and aren’t worrying about how you look, I believe you can better minister to God’s people,” Harrison said.
Sheryl Jones, a fellow entrepreneur from Irving, Texas, owns four Taylor Made dresses.
“Her dresses are just exquisite, and they are a perfect fit,” Jones said. “People rave about them, and I feel like a movie star when I wear them!”
In recent months, Michelle Obama’s fashion sense has influenced Taylor’s clientele, she said. After the new First Lady wore a gold suit during her husband’s inauguration, Taylor received four orders for the same suit the next day.
Michelle Obama “is inspiring so many women to restructure their bodies and educate themselves about health, fitness and nutrition,” Taylor said. “We have someone who constantly reminds us of what we should look like.”
‘NO ONE CAN STAND ALONE’
Taylor’s ministry also includes fundraising efforts for Southwestern Christian. She serves as fashion coordinator for the Madam Steward Style Show during the annual November lectureship at the college. The event brings in about $3,000 annually for the school, she said.
In Los Angeles she works with a national group — the Bowser women — that helps raise more than $60,000 annually for the college.
Taylor and her family faced a challenge when her husband, Larry, an engineer for Los Angeles County, suffered a serious stroke in 2005. He has since recovered, but she said the experience drew her family closer to the Lord.
“God sent me friends who were like angels to me,” she said. “I’ve learned how important fellowship is and that no one can stand alone when the storms of life hit.”
FeedbackHi Faith. I don’t know if you remember me or not. I met you when I visited with your father twice in the 80’s, and he preached several meetings for my home congregation in eastern Kentucky. I would love to hear from you and about your father. I lost touch with him in 1990 and don’t even know if he is still among the living. I loved him very much as a brother in Christ and have many fond memories of him.Wallace KingBeverly Shores church of ChristThe Villages, Florida
USAOctober, 26 2010Bravo!! Faith, this is wonderful! Congratulations! I am so very proud of you. You are such an inspiration. Keep doing what you are doing. God bless you and your family richly.
~Carol BrownCarol BrownSan Pablo Avenue church of Christ In oakland, CARichmond, CA
USAFebruary, 10 2010It is good to see what Faith is up to these days. I was at SWCC with her sister Hope. I met Faith when she first arrived in LA. I did not know she was still there and at the Normandie church of Christ-also the home of Normandie Christian School (K-6).
Since I was a room mate of Hope and was told so much about their father’s dreams for his children, especially, his daughters, I would expect nothing but the best from Faith.
Faith, may God continue to bless you in your fashion work and your work with the church.
I will check out your boutique the next time I am in LA.
Eloise Brown (Ives) and Harris G. Ives.Eloise BrownMito Church of ChristHitachi-shi, Ibaraki
JapanJanuary, 20 2010