Before the launch of her eponymous clothing line in 2010, the Dallas designer Tish Cox’s fashion credentials were limited to crafting dresses for her Barbie dolls at the knee of her seamstress grandmother and a sewing class in college. That is, until one of her school friends—who had admired the self-made creations Cox sported around campus—asked Cox to make her a dress for a benefit honoring Diane von Furstenberg. So Cox dusted off an old Singer from her mom’s attic, rolled out some fabric on her kitchen counter, and got to work. The result, an asymmetrical khaki shift dress with one puffy sleeve and an exposed gold zipper, drew compliments from Vogue’s André Leon Talley and the designer Zac Posen.
Another friend, who happened to own the Dallas boutique Cabana—long loved by stylish women for its range of exclusive, singular pieces—persuaded the busy mother of two to do a trunk show for the store. “I went home and put a little collection together, thinking that it would be a hobby,” Cox says. She showed up with ten dresses in tow. By late morning, she had sixty orders, and by the time the season wrapped, she had single-handedly sewn more than a hundred pieces in her kitchen. “I decided that I was going to burn out real quick if I didn’t figure out a different way to do this,” Cox says with a laugh.
Cox regrouped and, working with a local production facility, came up with a game plan that included her own mini-atelier in the back of Cabana, where her pieces go fast. Her architectural draping and commitment to comfort give even casual styles a sheen of glamour—the informality of the flowy Kloe shirt, for instance, contrasts with tops like the Deb, a fitted sleeveless party staple with a peplum bottom. That balance struck a chord, winning her independent label legions of fans in just a few short years. For Cox, who takes pride in popping out to the grocery store in a structured blouse, polish is not reserved for a big night out. “I design for myself, but more important, I design for the Southern lady who doesn’t want to wear workout clothes every day,” she says.
Cox’s work so enthralled one client, Natalie Bloomingdale—a Texas native who now lives in Los Angeles—that Bloomingdale created a new venture: the e-commerce site the SIL (that’s Stuff I Love), which launched in August with the aim of making Cox’s meticulously crafted, whimsical pieces accessible beyond Texas. The SIL carries Cox hits such as the Alex dress, a sleek column that hides a spandex inner layer perfect if you’re dancing the night away (or doubling up on the hors d’oeuvres). Another top seller, the ½ and ½ pant—a skinny silk-faille hybrid—works equally well with a silk popover or a bold one-shoulder top. It works so well, in fact, that each year Cox considers a new pant design to take its place, only to have loyal fans remind her that she simply needs to keep this one around—which Cox is happy to do. “This industry and clothing in general can be so fickle,” she says. “But to be able to make someone feel good about herself? That’s not fickle at all.”