How a Grandmother’s 50-Year-Old Sewing Machine Inspired a Clothing Brand

Inspiration can come from anywhere, and in this case, a young up-and-coming female Black designer was inspired by her grandmother’s 50-year-old sewing machine, which led to the launch of her clothing brand. 

Tara Trotter is a self-taught designer, founder, CEO, and creative director of Marie Elaine, an up-and-coming US-based fashion brand. Although in its infancy, the brand reflects a modern take on fashion with a relaxed, laid-back Caribbean feel. 

Inspired by her homeland, Jamaica, Marie Elaine seeks to capture elements of femininity with a unique and daring edge through clothing and accessory designs for the modern woman. 

Marie Elaine Designs
Instagram: tarahelen93

Each piece is conceptualized and designed by Trotter and handmade on a very special sewing machine—her grandmother’s vintage Singer sewing machine.

Sewing machine
Instagram: tarahelen93

“When I was starting to experiment with sewing and designing, my paternal grandmother gave me her sewing machine so I could practice. It was her way of encouraging and supporting me on my creative entrepreneurial journey,” shared Trotter in an interview with Black Enterprise.  

The machine, which was used to sew school uniforms for her grandmother’s children back in Jamaica, has been in her family for over 50 years. It has traveled with Trotter since her move to the US and is still used today to create pieces for her brand. 

“I was truly inspired by the desire to stand out and be different when I was seen in public. This desire translated to wanting the same for other women, who wanted to feel confident, comfortable, and beautiful in the clothes they wear,” shared Trotter.


The encouragement and support from her grandmother have been instrumental in propelling the brand forward. In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, demand for her signature aesthetic designs dropped due to the widespread lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. 

But Trotter saw this as an opportunity. She knew she could jump in to lend a helping hand in the fight against the coronavirus, especially in the face of the widespread shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) early in the pandemic. 

She got to work making masks. 

She didn’t have massive stockpiles of raw materials or heavy-duty machinery to pump out thousands of masks per day like other big-name fashion brands, but what she had was her grandmother’s sewing machine and a desire to serve her community. 

Marie Elaine
Instagram: tarahelen93

Creating and launching a fashion brand involves an eye for fashion and creativity, but making it successful and generating a large and loyal fan base involves being able to shift quickly based on market demand and market trends. None of these things come easy, but when you have a dream and a passion, nothing can get in your way.

Trotter’s advice for anyone looking to launch and grow a clothing brand is to remain consistent and dedicated. 

“Find your niche, be consistent and trust the process.”

Learn more about Marie Elaine by visiting her website and Instagram page, where she shares regular updates and new collections.