Tania Anderson is known for her unique handmade clothing line.
Born in Cape Verde, she left at 10 years old to join her family in Massachusetts, where she settled, learned English and practiced Islam.
In 2016, the 37-year-old opened Couples Therapy Boutique, a place for women to beautify and feel good about themselves.
“People that know me will say that I have a passion for beautifying things—anything from decorating to putting together what I call the annual sister gala –which is to bring together people from different backgrounds, faith, religion, and get together in unity,” says Anderson. “I felt that if I open this boutique in my neighborhood I could show the community that they deserve it.”
While being a designer—especially a self-taught one — can be challenging, Anderson has excelled in using colors and visual styles in ways that appeals to people. She acknowledges that Muslim fashion designers reflect on a rapidly growing industry despite the common misconceptions about them.
“The fact that I’m a Muslim woman covered doing fashion on this level is not expected. Most people say ‘but you do this and you cover your body,’” explained Anderson. “But I choose when I wear it and I don’t judge those who wear it outside. I feel like covering is not necessary. But we do it because human beings have been so conditioned to be sexualized, so people are not strong enough to look at people objectively and say that is not the representation.”
Since the launch of the boutique her line has been seen on runways, including Boston Fashion Week. Anderson says her next collaboration is with drag queens, and will feature them in her upcoming spring fashion show.
“My spring and summer line will probably be a lot different than what I have right now– I get really excited about whatever I’m doing,” she says. “There’s a little bit of something for everybody. I also want people to walk away understanding the story behind each piece. I want people to hear the message loud and clear and feel good about the show.”
Anderson lives her passion every day by creating one-of-a-kind pieces for her customers, including a bride-inspired fusion dress. “The pink one is a rebel. She is a bride that had been inhibited of all of her true nature and now she’s coming out. The dress is actually supposed to be white but you see pink,” she says.
With so many fashion designers to turn to, she finds her inspiration in designers like Givenchy and Zuhair Murad. As far as growing up in a third-world country, Anderson explains that she grew up very poor and coming here allowed her to express herself through fashion.
Drawing from her experience as an African Muslim in the era of Trump, Anderson recalls incidents of being yelled at and barked at. “I’ve come across people who have ignorance on what Islam is supposed to be, or what Muslims believe in, or why I’m covered,” she says. “I have experienced a lot of discrimination, where people have thrown things at me, have physically assaulted a friend of mine; one of my cousins was threatened and cursed at; I’ve been kicked out of places for wearing a hijab.”
One day when Anderson’s son asked about Trump and whether she would face deportation, she answered back: “If I got deported and went back to Africa, the worst thing that could happen is that we’d be separated for a while and I’d see you again.”
If it’s one thing she knows, it’s coping with separation. For the past 16 years Anderson has been working to free her husband from prison, who is currently serving a natural life sentence in the state. Speaking on the case, she claims her husband was wrongfully convicted of killing a man and says “we are doing what we can with our situation to get him home. My husband is innocent and I pray something will turn in terms of the case.”
But being married to someone who is in prison has not been a problem for Anderson, who visits her husband once a week. “We don’t pretend that the situation doesn’t suck because it definitely sucks. But once you’ve reached a point where you’ve found that someone who is for you and your lifestyle, you should absolutely honor that relationship,” she says of her marriage.
In spite of all that she’s been through, Anderson wants to focus her attention on her clothing line and continue to serve as an inspiration for her three sons.
“One of my biggest reasons for opening a boutique as a mother and as a wife,” she says, “is that I needed to lead by example for my sons and show them that having a business and working for yourself can be successful.”