The decorative drains along Butler Street in Etna have a locust leaf design and are displayed in a winding path. Their purpose is as a water feature that collects rain and keeps it out of the sewer system.
It’s not surprising Kiya Tomlin noticed them when she first visited the town – she’s a fashion designer with a keen eye.
“I like the decorative rainwater drains embedded in the sidewalks,” she said on a recent Monday in her boutique, Kiya Tomlin. “They give the neighborhood a charming feel.”
Having Tomlin base her business in Etna has been positive to the growth of the borough, located 10 minutes from Downtown Pittsburgh.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Fashion designer Kiya Tomlint inside her shop and workspace in Etna.
Etna covers one square mile along the banks of the Allegheny River. Once a mill town, it’s “re-emerged as a residential community with a highly diversified business base,” as the borough’s website proudly states.
There are more than 160 businesses.
“I love this area,” Tomlin said. “It has really grown since I’ve been here. I am excited to be at the forefront of that. It is wonderful to see what is happening in Etna now.”
Tomlin said the town has embraced her.
When she first visited, she said she knew right away it was the place to be able to design, manufacture and sell her women’s clothing line all in one space.
Tomlin began her business in the basement of her home. She then moved to an area inside Meadeworth Interiors in East Liberty before opening her own store a few blocks away on Broad Street.
She purchased the current building on Butler Street in 2018. The space, previously an artist’s private studio, is around 6,000 square feet.
“I saw so much potential,” Tomlin said.
After she moved in, Tomlin hosted a fashion show and had models walking the runway – down the center of the street.
“We are obviously thrilled to have Kiya here,” said Mary Ellen Ramage, Etna Borough manager. “She has been a wonderful asset to the community. She cares about everyone.”
Expanding her reach
Each piece is drawn, patterned, cut, sewn and fit to people, not measurements, she said. The clothing is made of bamboo, cotton and spandex.
“Women deserve options as incredible as they are,” Tomlin said. “They inspire me to create easy, flattering, fashionable, functional clothes. Clothes meant to spend more time on real bodies than on hangers.”
She produces in small batches to cut down on waste. Tomlin has donated clothing to help those affected by a hurricane and has taken leftover pieces of fabric and upcycled it into neck rolls, therapy dolls and tactile pieces to comfort hospice patients and special needs children.
Courtesy of Asia Margo Photography
This blue is a new hue for the “I Am Woman” spring/summer collection created by designer Kiya Tomlin. Stylist: Dominika Bronner Styling
A mother of three with her husband, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, she recently released her latest collection drawing inspiration from singer Emmy Meli’s ballad “I Am Woman.”
She traded typical soft tones and floral motifs for deeply saturated hues.
There are eight pieces.
Prices range from $89 to $229 and items are available in sizes XS-XXL.
When Tomlin receives a request to donate auction items, instead of giving a T-shirt or sweatshirt, she donates a private shopping event where 10-12 people can take a tour of the space and do a complimentary wine tasting, and she will donate 10% from their purchases to a charity of choice.
Various groups have held events in the space.
“It’s an experience,” Tomlin said. “They can shop and we will be there to assist with fittings and help them find the right style that fits best.”
Tomlin collaborated with stylist Darnell McLaurin, co-producer of Pittsburgh’s FashionAFRICANA, and co-founder of Utopia Model Agency with Pittsburgh fashionista Demeatria Boccella, of Demeatria Boccella Productions, to design the showroom.
Tomlin, McLaurin and Boccella have helped produce the annual Steelers fashion show.
Tomlin said the supply chain issues from the pandemic haven’t affected her business too harshly. Most of her line is made here. Some of the fabric has been difficult to get at times.
In March 2020, Tomlin started making face masks for police and other essential workers. She told Ramage it was therapeutic for her and her team to be able to do something. Tomlin and her team created designs that appeared on the masks. They have made 30,000 masks, some for Highmark and Allegheny Health Network’s 1 million mask effort.
“That definitely kept us afloat,” Tomlin said. “And it felt good to help others.”
Courtesy of Asia Margo Photography
Kiya Tomlin has designed an NFL collection of comfortable, stylish clothing, perfect for game day. Stylist: Dominika Bronner Styling
Tomlin also is expanding her NFL collection for the 2022 season, which began with the Steelers. She is designing seven specific styles, which will be released in the colors of 10 different teams. Their debut is planned for August. She said there were inquiries from non-Steelers fans.
“They can dress well on game day, too,” she said. “That doesn’t mean they are going to win.”
Tomlin is in the process of creating a fragrance. She said it is always something she’s wanted to do, and she is aiming for a fall launch.
“Like the clothes I design, the fragrance is designed to be layered and combined to create something unique to the wearer,” Tomlin said.
Working for Tomlin is wonderful, said associate designer Brittany Meyer of Scott Township, who was Tomlin’s first employee. Tomlin said Meyer was so persistent.
“I have learned so much from Kiya,” Meyer said. “She does everything right, down to the last detail.”
Kiya Tomlin is located at 338 Butler St., Etna. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.