Tawana Bain and a slew of movers ‘n’ shakers in the business world are offering an all-new way to do Derby
Styling and story by Miranda McDonald
Photos by Gretchen Bell
Hair and makeup by Katie Lee Jones
Models: Antonio Dilworth and Mallory Mims
Clothing provided by AFM Threads
There a number of ways to do Derby. This year, Tawana Bain is offering a new one.
Backed by a powerhouse of supporters – from Greater Louisville Inc., Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Festival to LG&E, Republic Bank and Humana – Bain and her team will kick off the inaugural Derby Diversity Business Summit beginning May 2.
“We have a packed schedule of speakers and seminars during the summit, but we also have a little fun at the track when the day is over,” says Bain. “After all, it is still Derby week.”
The mission of the first-ever summit – which is presented by Pure Path Capital – is simple: to help support organizations that are for the advancement of diversely-owned businesses. The multi-day event will benefit its nonprofit partner, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), which supports and elevates women business owners.
“This year, the goal is to write a check to NAWBO so that it can invest funds into their GROW program,” which addresses challenges that occur during the varying stages of business growth and development while also providing tools for overcoming them, explains Bain.
This year – and every subsequent year – a portion of each ticket sold for the Derby Diversity Summit, which runs Wednesday through Saturday the week of Derby, will go toward funding local organizations. Ticket packages include a welcome reception on Wednesday with keynote speakers and panels every day the rest of the week. The summit also offers matchmaker sessions between corporations and suppliers on Thursday and visits to the track Friday and Saturday. Another option for participants is attending Unbridled Eve on Derby Eve.
A Different Approach
Originally from upstate New York, Bain lived in Miami, Paris and several other cities before taking up residence in Louisville 15 years ago. She readily admits that she was initially unsure of the city. However, after experiencing her first Derby season, she fell in love and immediately decided to make Louisville her home. Since then, she has slowly built what some would call a mini empire.
In addition to founding the Derby Diversity Business Summit, Bain also owns a fashion store and is a full-time mom.
“If there is one thing you must know about me, it is that I don’t fit into a box,” says the multitasker. “I wish I had a cookie cutter approach to things, but the reality is that I can’t. Each role I take on requires a different approach.”
Bain took on the role of business owner in 2006 when she opened the clothing store AFM Threads as a new venture for her son. The fashion boutique initially only offered unique items for men, but in January of this year, Bain enlisted the help of new co-owner Ashley Anderson and rebranded AFM Threads as an upscale clothing boutique. They now carry fashion-forward clothing and accessories for both men and women.
Although the fashion boutique – which is located in the Mall St. Matthews and also online – prides itself on enlisting a roster of rotating brands, a few mainstays include the flirty and figure-hugging label Va Va Voom; Manzini, a men’s clothing line dedicated to statement-making pieces; and footwear from the Italian shoe designer Jose Real.
The labels featured at AFM Threads are chosen based on uniqueness, quality and trendiness, says Bain. “I appreciate the people who really take risks with their style. Too many of my friends say they can’t wear certain things in this city, but I just don’t think that is true. I think Louisville is ready for people to really make a fashion statement,” explains Bain, as her eyes widen and hands shoot up in the air. Her excitement over the possibility of Louisville being labeled as a compassionate and fashionable city is palpable.
When it comes to her own personal style, Bain believes comfort and function are important. She may start the day handling stock at her store and end it with meeting an important donor for cocktails. This need for versatility in her clothing is one reason Bain relies heavily on tailored outerwear to transition her looks. She also mentions that a comfortable, little black dress should be a staple in everyone’s wardrobe. “If I am running to a networking function after I leave the store, I will throw a blazer over my casual black dress and change into a pair of heels. I am ready to go with just those two changes,” Bain says.
Her motto for nighttime style, on the other hand, is quite different. The business owner is less about function and more about having fun with her look once the workday is finished.
“I have been seen wearing sneakers with a gown. I am just at a point in my life where there are no rules. If I like what I am wearing, it looks good on me and I can own it, I wear it,” Bain states confidently.
She also believes fashion can play a big role in unifying the community. She maintains that it can bring people together by breaking barriers through conversations. “I don’t care what sexual orientation, religion or race you are,” she says. “At the end of the day, we all want to look and feel good, so why can’t we all shop together? I am tired of feeling like there are so many silos. It is time to tear those down.”
It is this idea of eliminating divisiveness that has kept Tawana moving forward with all she does. “When I think about all the things I do in the community,” she says, “I really just want to bring different groups of people together. People from all walks of life have helped me along the way. I just want to return the favor.” VT
Mall of St. Matthews
500 Shelbyville Road
Derby Diversity Summit 2018
Derby Diversity Business Summit Advisory Committee
Joset Wright Lacy
Derby Diversity Business Summit Steering Committee
Derby Diversity Business Summit Sponsors
Pure Path Capital
Bingham Greenbaum Doll LLP
New Age Communications (NAC)
Argent Tape & Label
Alpha Business Solutions
Hightowers Petroleum Co.
Griesing Law LLC
World Wide Technology, Inc.
HJI Supply Chain Solutions
Galt House Hotel
National LGBT Chamber of Commerce
Greater Louisville Inc.
Louisville Business First
Minority Business Entrepreneur
Louisville Urban League
Executive Class Transportation
Angel’s Envy Distillery
Kentucky Derby Festival
Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau
L&D Mail Masters
Women’s Business Enterprise Council-West