Jun 22 2017

Local Business Spotlight: Tori Tissell

Tori Tissell, founding owner of Storiarts, maker of literary soft goods, has the kind of internet success story that entrepreneurial dreams are made of.

It started with a personal project. For holiday gifts in 2011, Tori created her first run of book scarves — an excerpt from Pride and Prejudice silkscreened onto a square of super soft, off-white (think the pages of a classic book) fabric. She gave most as gifts and listed a few for sale on Etsy.

Tori in her home workshop cutting material for a scarf.
Tori Tissell cutting out some Alice in Wonderland in her workshop.

Tori had been living in Portland since 2008, when she moved here in pursuit of a career in fashion design. She was working four days a week at an office job in the dental field, and worked on her creative projects with her time off. The book scarves were the first item she’d put up for sale on the peer-to-peer e-commerce site, which focuses on handmade and vintage items.

As a fashion accessory, the scarves were a perfect statement for Tori and some of her friends. One of the things that she likes about designing wearables, in addition to the utilitarian aspect, is that “no matter what, what [a person wears] expresses aspects of one’s personality.” A self-identified bibliophile and introvert, Tori liked that she could spark connection over one of her favorite things though her apparel choices, and keep her neck warm in our cool PNW winters, too.

Screen printing a scarf with Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise.
Screen printing a scarf with Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise.

The Pride and Prejudice scarves sold quickly on Etsy, and Tori received many requests for more. The scarf got shared on Pintrest as well, further boosting interest. After three months, Tori was able to leave her office job and make scarves full-time.

Rising Action

Since 2011, Storiarts has expanded their catalog to celebrate more than 27 titles on scarves, fingerless writing gloves, t-shirts, pillows, and baby hats. Staying rooted in the Pacific Northwest is a key value in the company, and most of their products are printed, cut, sewn, warehoused, and shipped in Oregon, with some milling and cutting happening in LA. All of their products are handmade in the US, even though production has scaled up quite a bit since Tori made everything by hand in her garage. Now that the manufacturing is off her plate, Tori can focus on design of new products, as well as drawing all of the illustrations for their scarves, writing gloves, and t-shirts.

Though Storiarts was born through e-commerce sales and continues to sell through several online retailers, it wasn’t long before they expanded into sales at brick-and-mortar stores. The Library of Congress shop was the first to approach Tori about carrying book scarves, and today you find them in the New York Public Library as well, along with dozens of other libraries and boutiques across the US, and in Australia and New Zealand. 

To Be Continued…

Woman reading a book outside a coffee shop.
Amber modeling a lightweight summer scarf outside of our neighborhood coffee shop.

Upswept Creative does much of the marketing photography for Storiarts, from clean product shots to lifestyle photography like this one featuring Amber Nicotra, wearing a new scarf from their Spring 2017 collection. 

We love working with Tori and her co-owner and husband, Chris. Their company embodies so much of what we value in working with independent businesses — from their commitment to keeping it local, to the thoughtfully-crafted, pleasantly nerdy products they sell.

What’s your next creative venture? Let’s talk about discovering your authentic and compelling brand story that will help you connect with your ideal audience. The first step to schedule a free clarifying consultation is clicking ➡︎ here. ⬅︎

Jul 30 2014

Doing It! PDX Fat Fashion Collective

Summer Strut emcee Carla Rossi - Portland fashion photographer
Summer Strut emcee Carla Rossi

Summer in Portland brings us some of the most awesome fashion runways this town has to offer, and we’re pleased as punch to be trusted photographers for some high-profile shows! One of our proudest fashion photography bookings this summer has been shooting the runway for Summer Strut, a fashion show produced by the PDX Fat Fashion Collective, that boldly put plus-size women at the center of its focus, with an all plus-size lineup of designers.

Summer Strut was a truly splashy show, emceed by the scintillating Carla Rossi, and it showed eye-catching plus-size fashions that broke the 3X barrier, and runway models who brought the fun and the fierce in equal doses. It was a very body-positive show that pushed boundaries, both for clothing design and for what’s wearable in the plus-size realm.

Best of all, this show was only the beginning for the ladies of the PDX Fat Fashion Collective! These lovely ladies took few minutes to chat with us about the beginnings of the Collective, the Summer Strut runway, and what’s next for them!

Shiny, popping swimwear by Size Queen Clothing hit the stage at Summer Strut.
Shiny, popping swimwear by Size Queen Clothing hit the stage at Summer Strut.

UPSWEPT: Tell us a bit about PDX Fat Fashion Collective–what is its mission, and how did it come about?

PDXFFC: The collective is the result of many conversations about our frustrations with plus-size clothing options, and the way they are presented to us as consumers. The three of us are independently involved in fashion in different ways and wanted to build something that we could be excited about.

We’re in a really great upswing for fat fashion right now, where all of a sudden, there are many more options beyond the standard 00-14, BUT most of those options are a combination of being unethically produced, minimal in size range (3X and below), and just plain boring. We wanted to bring together local designers who we not only think are incredibly talented, but who also are interested in and capable of producing clothing in extended sizes.

UPSWEPT: What were some of the challenges of putting together Summer Strut?

PDXFFC: Surprisingly, there weren’t any major challenges for us. We had plenty of designers and models that wanted to work with us. The venue was extremely helpful through the entire process. Probably just trying to stay on budget, and making sure we got the word out were the most problematic issues.

a Summer Strut model works fashions by Copper Union.
a Summer Strut model works fashions by Copper Union.

UPSWEPT: What were some of your favorite parts of producing the show?

PDXFFC: One of our absolute favorite parts of the show was showing people–the folks who attended, as well as the thousands of people who we reached through social media–that you can adorn your body in styles that make you feel amazing, regardless of your size. I loved how diverse the designers were. We had everything from vintage-style tea dresses to holographic monokini rompers, and it was incredible to see gorgeous girls with an array of body types and sizes looking incredible.

UPSWEPT: What do you have up your sleeve next for plus-size fashionistas in Portland?

PDXFFC: We want to include more gender-free and masculine of center styles in our future events, and presumably this will include a Summer Strut 2.0 next year. For now, I’m personally focused on establishing relationships with more local and independent designers, and securing a presence for fatshionistas among Portland’s creative scene. Ultimately, I want to challenge more designers to include us in their brands. We love fashion, we live for a selfie, and we have money. It’s foolish not to.

Portland fashion photographer – Portland branding design – Upswept Creative

Mar 14 2014

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

When it comes to branding your business, you may have to consider some crazy ideas. When you’re looking to make yourself stand out among other businesses, you probably won’t get very far doing exactly what “the other guys” did. You’re different from them, and you’ll need to find your own path. And sometimes, that means pursuing ideas that take you out of your comfort zone.

I can tell you that, when I first started Upswept Creative, it was just me doing the work, and I never thought in a million years that I’d ever do a workshop. The idea of speaking in front of people made my stomach knot up–and still does, a little!–and although I had people suggest that I teach a class about some of the things I do, I shied away from it for a long time. I’d tell myself, “who am I to be teaching people, anyway? I mean, I’m good, but I still have so much to learn!”

Thing is, I kept thinking of ideas for workshops, ideas that I was passionate about, and I eventually realized that I wasn’t going to stop thinking about them until I did something about it. I had a wonderful partner in Shelby Rice for our first online class, Branding Your Style, and after that, I finally stared my fear of public speaking in the face, and scheduled my first solo workshop. Since then, I’ve done several rounds of workshops, had a surprisingly great time doing it, and now Upswept has another source of revenue.

Sometimes, stepping out of your comfort zone in your own life can bring change to your business, too. Doing something different in your own life can change your perspective and your mindset, and help you approach your life and your business differently.

Katie of Katie Kelley Networks
Katie of Katie Kelley Networks

We recently had the pleasure of shooting with Katie Kelley of Katie Kelley Networks, and the idea of stepping out of your comfort zone ended up being a theme for our session. All of her promotional images show her (admittedly, totally brilliant!) big, bright smile and all-American look, so makeup artist Erin Moore and I challenged her to dial back the million-dollar grin and try something more subdued. It felt a little strange, at first, but she handled it gracefully and looked gorgeous.

Katie clearly understands the importance of stepping out of her comfort zone, too–she shared with us that she would be presenting at the Portland Urban Campfire event, and in a way she never had before. The Urban Campfire presenters would be taking about challenges and struggle–topics that can easily get very personal–in front of a sizable audience. Katie knew this would be unlike any of the other talks she’s given before, but she was ready to take that step out of her comfort zone, and create that opportunity to connect with other female business owners on a new and different level.

A lot of the things we do might feel risky. They might make our hearts race a bit faster. The thing is, if you’re a business owner, you already have stepped out of your comfort zone!  You might have left the security of a steady paycheck, or put your work out there (for money!) for the first time, or added the time commitment of your dream business to an already-packed calendar. Would any of you describe starting your own business as “relaxing” and “comfortable?” Those probably aren’t the first words to come to your mind, right?

So, when those slightly-scary-sounding ideas pop into your head, stop for a second, before you dismiss them. Maybe even embrace them! If you give them a try, you might discover you’re better at something than you think, or stronger than you expected, or smarter than you know, and that can be the tipping point between you having something Good and something Great. Just put that foot outside of your comfort bubble, and see what happens.

Branding your business Portland – Upswept Creative