Supporting Independents: Tiannia Barnes On Using Stay-At-Home Downtime to Plan Her Relaunch

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout, the businesses of young, emerging and independent designers are likely to be the most vulnerable. In a new series, FN will spotlight these creatives to learn how they are adjusting to a new way of working and living.

It’s been five years since Tiannia Barnes launched her namesake footwear brand and won the hearts of women like the former first lady Michelle Obama and Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst. Now, the luxury shoe designer is trying to strategize how to celebrate in the middle of a global crisis.

“It’s an exciting time for me in terms of the cycle of business, I’ve done so much in the past five years and I’m finally doing what I want in a marketing and retail perspective,” said Barnes. “But given the current state of things, it’s been a challenge to figure out to push out my brand.”

tiannia barnes, independent designers, black heels
The Jackie.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Tiannia Barnes

To buy: The Jackie heel, $595

A former IT project manager at a global business management consulting firm, Barnes — a longtime shoe lover — launched her label in 2015. Before the pandemic, she had decided to take a step back from her usual circuit of pop-ups and trade shows to focus on relaunching her brand. Now with her factories in Italy closed and life itself slowing down, that relaunch comes with an entirely new set of challenges. But she told FN that she’s not letting the global crisis slow her down too much. 

“For me, this has really been a time of reflection and thinking about the next steps of my business,” Barnes said.

Despite the challenges of slow consumer demand and no ceasing, Barnes is continuing to work out of her home in New Jersey. She is still able to ship shoes to customers and is working remotely with her small team, made up mostly of women. Barnes hopes to unroll her latest line in the fall. In addition to rolling out a new collection, the revamp of her namesake label will include an updated website and an affordable anchor brand.

“I’ve been getting creative during this time on new ideas [for my brand] and I’m really excited to bring these out and reach a wider audience,” said Barnes.

TIannaia Barnes, indepedent designer, luxury ballet flat
The Pearl.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Tiannia Barnes.

To buy: The Pearl flat, $375

Access exclusive content