Evey Rothstein, co-founder of Tutu Yummy, shares the amazing story behind how two friends worked together to build one of LA’s most exciting, up and coming fashion ventures.
When I was 2 years old, I bit into a frosted donut and said “too too yummy.” Whenever I’d get really excited about anything, my family would smile and ask me if it’s “too too yummy!”
Growing up, I loved all things tutus, from Cyndi Lauper, to Betsey Johnson, and the amazing tulle outfits worn by Sarah Jessica Parker on Sex and the City. I loved being silly, playing dress up, and making clothing, especially tutus. When I was an undergrad at UCLA, I was making tutus for bands, and selling them on Etsy.
After interning for Betsey Johnson in NYC, I decided I had a lot more to learn about fashion, and after some adventures and soul searching, I realized that if I ever really wanted to become a fashion designer, I’d need to go to fashion school.
So I enrolled in the Fashion design program at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, where I met this incredible designer named Barbara Ashley.
She’s one of nine siblings that were born in Makerere, a small area of Kampala, Uganda. Her artistry began in early childhood, she began playing with clay, red soil and charcoal when she was just a toddler, and then began sculpting wood, metal and fabric.
When she was nine years old, she would sit and work with her mother, who tirelessly worked as a seamstress draping gowns. Her mother taught her to be professional and serious about design and that if she was going to help her with the couture work, she had to be exquisite in her stitches, bias cuts and draping. Barbara’s mother, was a phenomenal woman, who raised all the children as a single mom, while running the business and teaching her children responsibility, providing them with skills and tools for their own future careers and passions.
Barbara’s life encompassed a lot of challenges and struggles, and she found herself working as a caregiver at a convalescent home in Los Angeles, and raising a baby, as a single mother, away from her family. One day, she decided to chase the dreams and use the skills her mother had instilled in her, in the hopes of providing a better life for her and her daughter, and this led her to enroll in fashion school.
Barbara was the hardest worker. When we were students, her lavish and extravagant garments were featured in magazines, and exhibitions, and she won awards, and was nominated the best fashion designer in the Los Angeles Community College District.
What struck me however, was her humble, genuine and authentic nature. A true needle in a haystack.
We became instant friends, and landed an internship together where we were working at a Hollywood based design house, creating garments for celebrities music videos.
I’ll never forget the day Barbara and I were working together on some outfits for Britney Spears back up dancers, and I was so nervous because it was my first time working on a garment that would be featured in a music video, and as I sat at the design table paralyzed with fear, staring at the shirt in front of me that I was expected to revamp, Barbara leaned over and said “it is time to cut.”
She was right. I don’t know why I was holding myself back. It was time. I just had to go for it.
Years passed and the two of us found ourselves working on couture garments for rock stars and brides. We always talked about starting something together one day, but we were both really busy, wrapped up in our own work.
I decided to make my own wedding dress, and a couple months before my wedding, we had a family emergency, so instead of working on my dress, I spent every minute in the ICU with my family. Finally when everything was OK, my wedding was a week away! I realized I didn’t have a wedding dress, and it was a little too late to get one at that point. Barbara came over, and the two of us designed and stitched into the night, and up until the moment I walked down the aisle, Barbara was there to help make sure my dress was done and amazing.
Fast forward a couple years, and I decided to make my baby a rainbow tutu to wear for her first birthday. My daughter was so cute in that tutu.
Unfortunately, Barbara couldn’t make it to the party because she had suddenly become very sick. I then got a call from her in the middle of the night to tell me she was being taken in for emergency surgery. Before her procedure, I sat on the edge of her hospital bed, and of all things to talk about at that very scary moment, she wanted to hear about my daughter’s birthday and see pictures.
I told her how cute my baby was in the tutu, and that it’s funny so many of the birthdays I take her to I notice the little birthday girl is sitting there in a tutu, and she said “hey, we should start designing tutus for little kids!”
We weren’t sure if it was that moment, realizing how fragile life is, that made us realize it’s time to finally chase our dream of starting a business together, or maybe it hit us that as moms we want to be able to be there and provide for our kids, while being ourselves, following our hearts, and having fun in the process.
But the tutu idea for little kids just sounded so good, and the minute she recovered, she called me and said “I’m ready, come over, let’s do this.”
We decided our collection of tutus would be wearable eye candy that would swirl my whimsical, feminine, fun style with her exquisite, couture, lavish, and dramatic edge.
My husband saw how excited I was about this venture, and he suggested we call the line “Tutu Yummy.” It was such a perfect fit for our fun collection and tutus really sweeten the moment. How yummy is a baby in a tutu?! Girls of all ages experience that sugar rush when they put one on.
Our handcrafted collection is inspired by pastries, from doughnuts to cakes, ice cream, and candies, anything yummy inspires our designs. Our current popular styles are rainbow sprinkled tutus and we also have frosted and glazed styles, and to top it off, we sell our one-of-a-kind tutus in a cake box.
What we thought was just going to be a fun little business for babies first birthdays, is growing into so much more. Little kids love to dance around and play dress up in our designs, they’re perfect for ballet, and trend forecasting reports show the tutu resurgence through performance artists and fashion icons, from the big screen, to the streets, and runways. When I walked through the mall last week, I saw tutu style skirts and dresses hanging on racks in so many stores, and they were for women, teenagers, toddlers, and babies. Runners are wearing them, people going to festivals love them, and as we’ve seen through our previous work, brides and performance artists rock them too.
It’s amazing how being a mother was the catalyst for us to chase this dream, and it’s so exciting to see that people are eating it up.
Image credits: Cloak Photography