Jessica Martin opened Nippy Lavern Fashions Boutique in January in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The 23-year-old designer already has 70 fashion shows to her credit. But like many small merchants, she finding that staying in business is her biggest challenge.
Martin, a self-described tomboy, taught herself how to sew while studying graphic design at the University of Bridgeport and entered the school’s annual Fashion Show in 2008. Since then, Martin’s sole focus has been fashion, culminating in opening of the Tompkins Avenue shop she named after her aunt, Darlene “Nippy” Lavern Taylor, who was killed by a drunk driver in 1988.
Martin strives to provide the women of Bed-Stuy and beyond with classy, fun and edgy designs. Although she specializes in form-fitting dresses, Martin also makes jackets, skirts and corsets.
While the fashion shows have provided visibility and a score of clients, Martin struggles to pay the store’s rent and other bills. She quit her full-time retail job in July. With no funds to pay for a website or promotional materials, Martin relies on word-of-mouth and social media to publicize her fashion line and shop.
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