By Shirley Hawkins
PLAYA VISTA — COVID-19 has impacted thousands of business owners in Southern California who have been forced to close their doors, but one enterprising boutique owner chose to open her store in the middle of the pandemic.
Fashion stylist and costume designer Tashiba Jones-Wilson picked last Dec. 18, during the heart of the Christmas rush, to Matte Argyle in the Runway Playa Vista.
“It’s been going very well so far,” Jones-Wilson said.
With an eye-catching array of fashion, art and entertainment, the store offers something for every taste — from up-to-the-minute street wear to upscale evening wear. Customers have been flocking to the store to peruse its unique and eclectic display.
“I knew that I needed to launch my retail store at that moment because I knew people would be out buying gifts,” said Jones-Wilson, who ensures that all customers wear masks while shopping in the store.
“One of the things I’m excited about is that our merchandise is primarily created by African Americans,” said Jones-Wilson, who formed personal and professional friendships with numerous clothing designers whose creations are now featured in her store.
Jones-Wilson inherited her love of fashion from her mother, a fashionista who always made certain that her daughter was always impeccably dressed.
“She had incredible taste and she always made sure that my clothes were stylish when I went to school,” said Jones-Wilson, who grew up in South Los Angeles and Gardena.
The only Black-owned store at the Playa Vista mall, Matte Argyle offers stylish men’s and women’s clothing from prominent and emerging designers such as Lavie by CK, Positive Wear clothing by Kenyatta San, and Marsha Vacirca’s clothing line Madame Adassa.
“I look up brands online and I ask for referrals to find talented designers,” said Jones-Wilson, who also has worked in the entertainment business. “I just came back from the annual Magic trade show in Las Vegas, a place for retailers to discover and place orders with national and emerging brands. It’s a three-day event held at the Las Vegas Convention Center.”
Also on display at Matte Argyle are unique accessories, eye-catching Vitality Furniture pieces by Felecia Fisher Shamu and artwork from local artists.For customers yearning to update their appearance, makeup artist Tiffany Aldaco, a former employee at MAC Cosmetics, is on duty to contour and transform faces with the skillful stroke of her brush.
At the tender age of 16, Jones-Wilson knew that fashion would be her calling. She launched an extensive career in retail by working for such stores as Sears, Macys, the Limited, Contempo Casuals and Brooks Brothers. She gradually climbed the retail ladder as a sales associate, assistant store manager and eventually visual display coordinator.
Along the way, Jones-Wilson received an associate’s degree in visual communications and space design from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.
Despite her lengthy career in retail, Jones-Wilson, who had majored in visual presentation at the fashion institute, admitted she had become tired of dressing mannequins.
“I got to the point that I wanted to dress people,” she said.
Doors began to open for Jones-Wilson. After attending a job interview, she was informed that she would be working for a celebrity, but the interviewer did not reveal who it was. After landing the job, Jones-Wilson found out that the celebrity was singer Chaka Khan.
“I was shocked that it was Chaka, but my mom, who is a die-hard Chaka Khan fan, really went through the roof,” Jones-Wilson recalled. “It was a pleasure working with Chaka. She is a beautiful and warm-spirited human being.”
Her career expanded when she began landing costume design and styling jobs in television and film which she has been doing for 25 years. Jones-Wilson has worked on such shows as ABC’s “Black-ish, HBO’s “Insecure” and Netflix’s “Family Reunion.”
Jones-Wilson recently completed working on the set of BET’s “Sacrifice“ in New Orleans as an assistant costume designer.
Jones-Wilson also has been tapped to serve as the fashion coordinator for the annual, star-studded Wearable Art Gala in association with the nonprofit Where Art Can Occur Theatre Center, where Tina Knowles-Lawson — the mother of Beyoncé — and her husband, Richard Lawson, serve as artistic directors.
Despite the endurance of COVID, Jones-Wilson said that customers are still eager and willing to flock to the store. “We had our highest sales in March and April,” she said. “The way I keep my business above water is to diversify what I offer to my customer, whether it is individual makeup services, tailoring services for clothing alterations, home delivery or selling a diverse array of art.
“We also have pop up events for the designers,” said Jones-Wilson, who added she carries about 10 designer brands. “Customers who attend the events are treated to coffee, drinks and in-store discounts. I realized that despite COVID, people are appreciative of once again getting out and socializing. They are excited about engaging their senses again.”
And with many stores still going out of business, Jones-Wilson said that Matte Argyle continues to thrive.
“It’s about having great designs that everyone loves,” Jones-Wilson said. “We offer a unique variety in terms of style, color and texture. Plus, you have a lot of people who walk in this community and we bring flavor to an area that didn’t have it before.”
Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.