Cheerleader signs clothing deal with NBA

Tiffany Pearl's studio houses about 20 employees to create sports fashion for women. Courtesy of Lynn Hoppes

The NBA sent out a news release last week saying, "Miss Fanatic, a fashion-forward women’s apparel company, has teamed up with the National Basketball Association to launch a new product line designed exclusively for women."

What most people don't know is that "Miss Fanatic" is Tiffany Pearl, Orlando Magic dancer (2012-2013) and former cheer captain for the Miami Dolphins (2005 to 2010).

"I've always had a love of fashion and, at the same time, a love of sports," said Pearl, who recently was in New York to promote the collaboration. "I looked around and saw that there was a void in fashionable, well-fitting clothes for women and I came up with this concept."

Playbook had a few minutes with Pearl to talk about her start and what's ahead.

How did you go from cheerleader to fashion designer to now working with the NBA?

"When I was working with the Dolphins, I also was attending school at the Miami International University of Art & Design. I started making custom outfits for friends and fashion shows. I would turn real footballs into bikinis. People went crazy for it. Then I would make outfits for our Dolphins calendar shoots. People wanted to start to buy them, and that's how it all began."

Did you want to start with NFL clothing?

"Originally, I wanted to go ahead and make swimsuits for the NFL. I learned about marketing at school. The best decision we made was to go small and we then went to the collegiate market. We started making tank tops, dresses and cover-ups. We learned through this process to appeal to the masses. Being from Miami, I love that Brazilian bikini style but I realize not everyone is going to appeal to that style. We weren't just Miami girls. We had to sell to Iowa, Texas and Oregon."

There had to be some growing pains.

"I've cried a lot and I've laughed a lot. I have especially learned a lot on the job. I graduated with a bachelor's degree in fashion merchandising. But I had to learn about licensing and reading contracts and understanding how to keep the integrity of the product and the team in line. Then, you have to think about the design of the product. That is the fun part."

So how did the deal with the NBA come about?

"We had worked in the collegiate market for a few years, and our business had grown. We thought to build the brand that our next step was the big leagues. We applied for a license with the NBA. They saw that market was lacking and we fit. We've been preparing for this moment. We took things slowly just to get to this next step. This is the dream of this company. We have so many things ahead. We started out with me and now we have more than 20 employees."

At 28, you've accomplished a lot. Where did that drive come from?

"I was always competitive. I saw the Dolphins cheerleading auditions and decided to try out. I saw that I wanted to get into fashion and I did. I'm very goal driven. I'm not a quitter. It may sound cheesy but when you strive for your dreams, whatever you want, you can get if you work hard."

So now your line is nationwide. Where do you get your ideas?

"I look at certain brands outside sports for influence. I take that inspiration and convert them. I want someone to say, 'I love wearing a fringe top and now they have one with the logo of the team I support!' It's about creating an apparel that you wear more than just to a game. I want you to be able to wear this to the mall or the beach, showing support for your team."

If you weren't a cheerleader, do you think this business would have happened?

"I love how life throws you curveballs. I thought after graduation, that I'd move to New York and work in public relations or marketing for a fashion company. I never thought I'd own my own business."