It’s safe to say that that moment is pretty damn interesting in the Tarr household.
In the span of just two years, Doug Tarr has turned his Mill Valley Code Club, which teaches kids to code through a variety of innovative techniques, from a few kids sitting around the family’s dining room table into a burgeoning juggernaut with locations in downtown Mill Valley, Greenbrae and San Francisco.
And just upstairs from the Code Club in the Mill Creek Plaza building that houses All Wrapped Up and the Balboa Cafe, the atelier-style design studio of J’Amy Tarr Outerwear, the Mill Valley native’s eponymous clothing line that is already popular in the 94941 and ready for a breakout beyond, is open for business.
“We are certainly never lacking for conversation,” J’Amy Tarr says with a laugh of the life of an entrepreneurial couple. “It is very exciting. It can be intense. We have very different things going on, but there are plenty of similarities in terms of strategizing and giving each other feedback.”
The opening of her studio (by appointment only) is a pivotal moment for Tarr, who attended Strawberry Point School and whose mom, Christy Herrmann, taught in the Mill Valley School District for 40 years, primarily at Old Mill and Edna Maguire elementary schools. Tarr’s career has taken her to New York City, Seattle and abroad, including interning for renowned designer Michael Kors, for whom she worked on a dress for Beyoncé that was on the cover of InStyle magazine.
But after those intrepid journeys to learn from some of the best, Tarr has long since found her own voice, and she’s back on home turf. She was recently invited to reimagine an updated wardrobe for Hillary Clinton as part of a San Francisco Chronicle story, and the newspaper did a feature story on Tarr over the summer.
“I have definitely found my own way,” Tarr says. “There’s a high-end element to my clothing but it’s deeply rooted here in the Bay Area. It’s made in San Francisco and it’s really special.”
“From the point of view of someone who grew up in Mill Valley lived in SF for 10 years, I know all about microclimates – the jacket is on and off all day long,” she says. “I definitely like a modern silhouette that is flattering and doesn’t have a lot of lot of extra bells and whistles – wearable but modern.”
“Just enough style that they don’t feel overdone but they feel like they have something cool on,” she adds. “I really just want people to feel good in what they’re wearing.”
Tarr has been selling her clothing for a while now online and at stores in Marin, San Francisco, Los Gatos, Portland and elsewhere. But she says she’s thrilled to create her own design studio experience for customers in the cozy space in the back of the Mill Creek Plaza building.
“People like seeing how clothes are made and how a designer gets inspired,” she says. “I want people to come in and have a beautiful experience but also peak over to the other side and see how it’s done and ask questions. People are very curious.”
Tarr’s experiences and personal style has shaped her design sense. But she traces her love for the arts and fashion back to her grandmother Dorothy, a “spunky” North Hollywood woman who would tap dance in the kitchen while she was cooking” and “always had all the cool, sparkly outfits and a lot of pizzazz.” She also cites Mill Valley itself, as she’s “one of the first Kiddo! kids” who owe their love of the arts to the private education foundation that has supported the arts in the Mill Valley School District since 1982.
The Tarrs met at Levi Strauss & Co., where two people from seemingly polar professional background ended up being vital cogs in the five-person team behind the “Levi’s Original Spin” campaign, which allowed consumers to design their own jeans using computer kiosks in select stores in the late 1990s. Doug created the computer systems while J’Amy developed the product. They got married just three years later, had kids, launched startups, juggled life – and remain each other’s biggest supporter.
“It’s been a totally fun rollercoaster ride,” J’Amy Tarr says.