Tyran Marquis, center, with models showing off some of his designs.
With Some Thread and Big Dreams, Hollis Man Triumphs Over His Troubled Youth
BY RODNEY D. GANTT
Custom ties and a unique eye for design has helped a young entrepreneur overcome his troubled past, and turn his passion for fashion into a lucrative business.
Working from the basement of a barbershop in Hollis, 24-year-old Tyran Marquis, owner of Styles by Tyran Marquis LLC, has created his own sense of style. From prom suits and dresses to a new collection of denim jackets featured in his upcoming fashion show in Midtown on June 11, Marquis has come a long way from where he began and the hardships of his past. In fact, his past helped him become stronger and work harder.
“I want people to know I’m going to fight and I’m going to endure and I’m going to be successful,” said Marquis.
Growing up, Marquis was raised by his grandmother. His mother battled bipolar disorder and his father was incarcerated. At the age of five, Marquis’ grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, after which Marquis said many other relatives including his aunts and uncles took a more active role in his upbringing.
“A lot of people had a hand in raising me,” he said. “It’s like that expression; it takes a village to raise a child.”
While living with his grandmother, Marquis said he often helped out in his aunt’s father’s cleaners. It was with him that he developed his niche.
“He taught me how to sew by hand, how to hem pants, how to clean clothes and all of that,” said Marquis. “That’s when my love for fashion first started.”
At 11 years old, after the death of his grandmother, Marquis lived with his aunt until age 18. Marquis struggled academically during high school, showing very little interest in his work, preferring instead to hang out in the streets and with his cousins. In spite of his strict religious upbringing, Marquis called himself “a bad kid.”
“That expression ‘one foot in the church, one foot in the streets;’ that was me,” he said. “I never really liked school; I thought it was unnecessary and pointless.”
Marquis attended three local high schools and eventually changed his outlook on school while he attended North Queens Community High School in Flushing. Unlike his previous schools, his new school provided more attentive teachers, smaller class sizes, and counselors that prepared and encouraged students to go to college.
“By the time I graduated high school, I kind of had an idea of ‘okay this is who I am, I accept who I am and this is what I’m going to be,’” said Marquis.
After high school Marquis moved to Brooklyn Heights and attended Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus.
There he worked on the student government as a freshman student council member, planning and organizing various student activities. It was while hosting Homecoming 2010 that Marquis was sure he wanted to pursue a career in fashion.
“I knew this is what I enjoy doing and this is what I want to continue to do, but I knew I didn’t just want to plan it, I wanted to headline it and it be all about me, my clothes.” said Marquis.
At LIU he met and befriended Photography major Tajuan Parker, whom he helped with an assignment. Marquis said Parker was one of the people who encouraged him to pursue his dreams and helped build his confidence.
“I continuously told him that worrying about what people had to say about you will get you nowhere,” Parker told the PRESS of Southeast Queens. “He definitely worried a lot about what people thought about him and his designs.”
Despite his lack of confidence, Parker said Marquis had a good fashion sense and real talent.
“The vision is there and he can really put something together that will blow your mind,” said Parker.
Things took a turn for the worst after Marquis witnessed the death of his best friend, Tory Curtis, in April 2012. As a result he dropped out of school and stopped going to work. He said he felt “completely alone.”
“Me and Tory had a lot of plans,” said Marquis. “We were two African Americans from Queens and we always wanted to make it out. Him not being here anymore was really depressing and my whole atmosphere changed. I was in a bubble.”
Marquis moved back in with his aunt in Jamaica, and kept to himself. In his alone time he bought a sewing machine and by watching YouTube videos taught himself how to make ties and pocket squares. Marquis said sewing gave him a sense of renewal and was not about monetary gain.
“For a long time I felt non-existent and sewing was the only thing that was mine and made me feel like me,” he said “It was about me feeling alive, finding my place in the world and existing again.”
Marquis began selling his custom ties at church and at fashion events, working as a vendor. During this time Marquis met an experienced tailor named Ramsey who eventually gave him sewing lessons to improve his skills.
With Ramsey’s help and the support of his aunt, Marquis began building his business taking custom orders and designing clothes in her living room. He suffered a major setback in 2012 however, after he and his aunt lost their home in Hurricane Sandy. Marquis then moved in with a cousin for several months before getting his own apartment. Unfortunately, he was once again set back after it flooded, leaving him homeless for a short time.
“It was really hard for me to find a place to live, and a place to keep my business,” said Marquis. “There were times where I was practically sewing out of my car and going to people’s homes to get their orders done. To be honest, finding a place for my business was more of a priority than finding a place to live.”
He was eventually offered a space and continued to work on building his business despite his unstable living situation.
Marquis, reluctant to go back to school given his previous experience at LIU and all he accomplished on his own, eventually enrolled in classes in January 2015, after a self-realization.
“By then I knew I had learned everything I could up to that point and I wanted to learn more,” he said. “To do so, I had to go to school.”
It was at the LIU that he finally found a place where he fit in.
“There were so many people from the industry, pattern makers, manufacturers and people like me who wanted to be designers and artists,” he said. “It was like a real meeting of the minds.”
While attending classes he met Patricia McCoy, his instructor and a mother figure of sorts, said Marquis.
“I would speak to him much like I would speak to my sons,” McCoy told the PRESS of Southeast Queens. “He was very talented but I needed to bring that out of him.”
As a student in two of her courses, McCoy said she noticed Marquis’ unique sense of fashion and his eye for design.
Following his fashion show in June, Marquis is scheduled to graduate in the fall. He hopes to travel and continue to grow his brand. In fact, he told the PRESS of Southeast Queens that he has some pretty big plans for the future, plans that will expand his reach to people around the world.
“I’m really focused on building a lifestyle brand for people,” Marquis said. “I want to be a household name like Ralph Lauren.”