Leading up to National Daughters’ Day on September 25, all of this month’s FACES will be inspiring mother-daughter duos! First up is Mimi and Keiko Striplin of the fabulous Charleston-based brand, The Tiny Tassel.
Keiko Striplin emigrated from Tokyo to Spartanburg, SC, where she established and ran an alteration shop for over 20 years. Her daughter, Mimi, grew up in constant awe of her ability to tailor clothes so perfectly that the customers’ confidence would transform. Soon after Mimi graduated from the College of Charleston, she accepted a challenge from her sister to create bold, affordable tassel earrings. Since those first designs crafted at her kitchen table, Mimi has built a vibrant accessory empire — The Tiny Tassel in downtown Charleston. Here’s how this mother-daughter duo became co-designers!
Tell me a bit about your younger years. Were you always style-savvy and creative?
Mimi: Growing up literally surrounded by clothing, needles, and pins made me love fashion, though I didn’t know it then. I am the youngest of eight kids. We have a big, blended family, and I grew up in a household with two older sisters, so it was always girly and fun.
We’d steal our mom’s clothes but also say, “Mom, are you really going to wear those snakeskin leather pants today?” I now have so much appreciation for it because it taught us to wear what we want, be who we want to be, and not force ourselves into a box.
How did the original tassel come about?
Mimi: About eight years ago, I started with the tassel earrings that are still our signature style. I was only a year out of college, and living in Charleston can be expensive, so I wanted the price to be accessible. From there, customers started to request through Etsy and pop-ups that I was doing all over town. They wanted more colors and more styles. So, I started making bracelets and necklaces, and it grew from there.
And how did you shift into clothing, too?
Mimi: About a year later, I begged my mom to design and make our clothing. We saw a need for joyful, colorful, well-fitting clothes with inclusive sizes. We have extra small to three-XL, so many customers tell us how happy they are to find styles they want to wear but can also buy right off the rack. In my shopping experience, I always felt like I had to go up a size in certain things and never quite knew my size. And because my mom could alter everything for me, I felt like I had a superpower. But when we didn’t live near each other, it was tough. The clothing line took off in 2020 when she moved to Charleston. Now, instead of designing the accessories and clothing separately, we want to create these cohesive collections.
How has this new design endeavor with Mimi enhanced or changed your sewing skills?
Keiko: My personal style is a bit different from the classic and traditional styles that The Tiny Tassel is so well known for. So, I had to change my mindset and remember that I’m sewing and designing for a brand with a clear vision that Mimi has cultivated, not just for myself or my daughter.
What’s a common misconception that people have about working in fashion?
Mimi: I think we make it look so easy that people assume it’s easy to design a piece of clothing that fits multiple body types and body sizes well. Even I don’t see the full scope of what goes into every piece we design. My mom will sketch up something and then cut out patterns and create every piece, down to this little strap and the pockets. And even I take that for granted when I pick up something off the rack. Our clothing is made for real people. It’s not just made for mannequins or based on sizing, patterns, and things from the World Wide Web.
How does your locale in the South inspire how you design and run your brand?
Mimi: We love to exude the Charleston vibe. That looks so different for so many people. For me, it looks like living a very light life, but it hasn’t always been portrayed as that. It’s being able to ride my bike to work and feel the sunshine on me or spend the evening reading at the beach. We want our customers to aspire to have a life that isn’t all good at all times but to appreciate the little things.
Keiko, as a newer Charleston resident, is there anything about the city or its people that has surprised you?
Keiko: I was surprised that the people of Charleston still very much believe in southern hospitality! And it isn’t just people who are from here. Locals, newbies, and visitors all subscribe to those same values.
What’s something people are often surprised to learn about you?
Mimi: That I have a dry sense of humor. There are a couple of products we say are like little Easter eggs in our shop that we have gotten some crazy looks about sometimes. We can be both the pink-loving girly girl and someone who may not always be smiling. It allows a little bit of myself to come through the brand and connect with customers who may not always feel bubbly and happy.
Where can we find you on your days off?
Mimi: You’ll find me taking a bike ride, a long lunch, or stopping for a pastry at one of my favorite bakeries. I’m usually on a bench somewhere with a book. Owning a shop and being customer-facing can be very energy-heavy. So, I typically have a slow, quiet day recharging on my days off.
What’s something you’ve learned from Mimi?
Keiko: Organizational skills and how to commit to any task or opportunity 100%. Organization was not my strong suit, but Mimi taught me to stay focused.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and from whom?
Mimi: My dad always says, “Don’t take a wooden nickel.” And it just means don’t take any bulls**t from anyone. I was 22 or 23 when I started my company. And even to this day, I’m reshaping and reframing what a business owner or a businesswoman can look like. I remember my dad’s advice in personal relationships, negotiating supplies, and pouring into our team.
Keiko: Corrie ten Boom was an amazing Christian writer that I admired. Her work taught me not to hold onto things too tightly so that it’s easier to let go and to know when it’s time to let go of something or someone.
Aside from faith, family, and friends, name three things you couldn’t live without.
Mimi: Sunshine, the color pink, and any dessert
Keiko: My sewing machine, fabrics, and art supplies
Our final “lightning round” questions:
- Current TTT staple you can’t stop wearing:
- Mimi: The Charleston Dress
- Keiko: Signature tassel earrings in every color (I have 25 pairs, to be exact)
- Favorite hidden gem in Charleston:
- Mimi: Le Chambertin. They have the best French pastries.
- Keiko: Anson Street. It’s a hidden, beautiful street to walk.
- Last vacation:
- Mimi: Martha’s Vineyard
- Keiko: Egypt last fall to visit the pyramids
- What’s on your bedside table:
- Mimi: water, nail oil, a rom-com book
- Keiko: Sci-fi novels and Japanese Sci-fi comic books from the ’60s!
- Go-to birthday present (to give):
- Mimi: our signature candle from the shop and fun statement earrings.
- Keiko: Money. That’s what people really want!
Thank you so much for chatting, Mimi and Keiko! And thank you to The Aneris Collective for the fabulous photos.
For more stories of inspirational women, visit our FACES archives!