It’s a fashion jungle out there. Tempo clothing store owners Cliff and Tami Weiss are navigating the ins and outs of the “that’s so hot” fashion business.
It’s a posh industry with tough critics who get fame by being cruel. We all remember a little movie about a devil in Prada, which depicted an eerily accurate portrayal of a “Vogue” goddess.
But for the Weiss team, quality service is one thing that never goes out of fashion.
“We never say no to anybody,” said Tami. “We do whatever we have to in order to make it work for these women,” making both attention to style and to their customers two must-haves for this duo.
“One thing in today’s world, this fast-pace moving world, is that personal contact is lacking. That’s my job. I remember everybody’s names—what’s happening in their lives,” she adds, naming off a slew of customers, their ages and hobbies.
She credits her 18-year Nordstrom background for her dedication to customer service. Tami was the top sales person in the Studio 121 department and also developed a solid relationship with the store’s vendors, which eventually led to the opening of the couple’s Barry Bricken clothing store in 1996.
“It was a definitely a joint venture. Tami had relationships from Nordstrom, and I have a financial background,” said Cliff. “We’ve got sort of a complimentary background set of skills.” The two have been married for 29 years and business partners for 15. When the opportunity presented itself, they decided that a clothing store would be a perfect fit for both their interests.
But Cliff knows his place. “The store is all about her. I’m just in the background,” he laughs, passing any fashion-related question graciously to Tami acknowledging, “it’s all you,” with each one.
The store has undergone its own transformation since its inception—from offering only Barry Bricken to selling an array of specialty bridge wear: not designer like Gucci, but not mass market either.
Like the ever-changing business, their store was soon out with old and in with the new.
In 2006, Tempo was born. “We saw the industry in fashion was really starting to change, and I felt just being a one-line store was limiting,” said Tami.
“There’s only so much of one line a person can buy, so we felt that we really couldn’t serve our customer base well enough,” added Cliff. Most items cost a pretty penny with wildly popular brands such as Saint James and Kinross cashmere and Lafayette 148, which is coming this fall for the first time.
Quality is in the name
The couple hopes the name Tempo reflects a place that’s seamlessly changing and an atmosphere that’s both welcoming and fun and, of course, offers great items. “We look for far-above-average quality stuff, but it’s got to have some modern thing to it and be classic,” said Cliff.
The clothing selection process is no simple task.
Tami typically visits three markets per year to find the store’s products. She recently went to Dallas and always stops by New York because of its unsurpassed collection. “You could never see everything,” said Tami of the New York market. “Do I have a game plan going in? Oh, you bet.”
With only three days to navigate the Fashion Coterie, precision is the best bet. “I have a list of what I absolutely want to see and buy,” she says counting off each finger, “I have a list of new things that I’ve heard about and I also leave a couple hours just to walk.”
“She is like a clock,” added Cliff.
In a business that is continually adapting, Tami has to rely on a good sense of humor to get by. “Fashion is always changing and moving forward. Boy, let me tell ya, I’ve had some winners and I’ve had some losers,” she laughs. “Some buys, I’m like, ‘what the hell was I thinking?’”
But when in doubt, she relies on the basics.
“I look at our store as more of a lifestyle. I take care of that modern woman who needs to dress for work, or for her volunteer activities. I’m also trying to take care of their weekends. In these challenging economic times, these women want to get a lot of bang for their buck.”
With their own immaculately polished and accessorized outfits, it’s apparent these two have style, and they’re eager to share tips.
“I’m a firm believer in what looks good on the individual,” said Tami. “We all come in different shapes and sizes, and women beat themselves up all the time. You learn to work with your assets.”
Cliff mentions that some women come into the store and simply tell Tami they want to dress like her. “Now, don’t say that!” Tami modestly replied to her husband.
“It’s true,” he added plainly.
“I really do want to move people forward to where they’re comfortable with it,” explained Tami. “I always say start small, if it’s a little out of your comfort zone. You slowly work people into things. People have trouble sometimes with change.”
Tami said that in the past few years, people are really starting to step up their fashion game and take more time putting together a sophisticated outfit, which she’s pleased about. The spotlight is brightly shining on women like Kate Middleton, which Tami thinks will create a style shift.
“I actually think Kate Middleton is going to do more for fashion. She wears more structured, more tailored looks, but it’s very ladylike. She looks ah-may-zing. From my point of view, she hasn’t made a mistake. That look is just going to take off for spring.”
“But you have to remember that you’re in the great Pacific Northwest at the same time. It’s a little more casual up here,” said Cliff.
The store offers complete wardrobe help for those who are interested in starting from scratch. “Start with the basics and build from there and add the fluff,” said Tami. “If you don’t have a great pair of black pants in your wardrobe, I don’t know how you get dressed every week,” she laughed.
But surprisingly, Cliff and Tami’s closet at home isn’t that big. Cliff boasts more space for shoes (he has a thing for tennis shoes) and Tami for everything else. Organized and color-coded, there is one more piece to their fashion formula. “She has a rule: if you’re going to get something new, something has to go,” said Cliff.
Although working with beautiful fabrics and ensembles is a benefit of the job, it’s not Tami’s favorite perk. “The best part of this business is that I have met some of the most fabulous women,” she said, naming off people to Cliff as he nodded in agreement. “They have great careers, great families, they’ve given back to the communities. Women dress according to what they’re doing in their lives, so I get to hear all those things. It’s amazing.”