DALLAS DAWS INTERVIEW – ETHICAL FASHION DESIGNER
I recently had the pleasure of getting to know designer Dallas Daws through an interview. Her brand, Dallas Daws Designs, is designed and manufactured in the US, with beautiful fabrics from all over the world. Each piece is created to be a lasting piece in your wardrobe, taking you from season to season and year to year. I am so in love with everything Dallas creates and am excited to share this interview with you today!
Meredith: What environment did you grow up in and when did you start creating / designing?
Dallas: So I would say I grew up in a very creative environment. My dad is a master of many crafts–painting, wood working, drawing, screen printing, the list goes on. Both my parents always encouraged me to explore my interests, whatever they may be, and my dad helped me create whatever I was trying to do at the time. I began my interest in fashion design before my freshman year of high school and began taking sewing and drawing classes to prepare for college. My neighbor was one of my great mentors, and she bought me a sewing machine she found at a garage sale. A great sea foam green 70s Brother machine that I still use today. It’s all metal, so it has held up very well!
M: How long after school before you launched your own line? / When did you know that you were ready?
D: I launched my line the fall after I graduated college, but began planning before I graduated. I knew I wanted to have my business on the side, but was unsure what role I wanted it to play in my life. I kind of just decided that I would let it grow and become what it would! I took time to plan every aspect of the business, from the name, logo, website, and entire foundation of my business before I knew I was ready to launch.
M: How has your work evolved since you began your own label?
D: I feel like I continue to refine my taste and push toward well constructed basics. I like classic, boxy silhouettes, so I tend to let my fabric and the construction be the area of interest rather than unique silhouettes and features.
M: What’s it like being in the industry, but not living in what people perceive as fashion hubs?
D: It can be hard to feel like you are being heard in an area that isn’t a design hub, but it can also be a great way to make your name without competing head on with everyone in the industry.
M: Did you ever encounter something that really influenced your career or aesthetic?
D: I feel like I’m always drawing inspiration for my aesthetic and how I would like to run my business. I look to other small designers, follow well curated magazines and blogs, and look to home design as well. I feel like Instagram really influenced me because it was a hub for creatives reaching their audience, and I was able to discover what aesthetic I loved and run from there.
M: What elements of design are included in each collection?
D: In each collection I strive to offer garments that will be timeless, classics, basics. I look to structured silhouettes and construction details to tell my story.
M: Are there any types of clothing you avoid designing or wearing?
D: I try to stay away from fast fashion both in design and in my everyday wear. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy some of the trends I see, but I believe that a well curated wardrobe
M: Do you have a specific research process when you start a new collection?
D: I don’t. I take inspiration from all over, so when something clicks, I run with that! It could be a magazine, a trip I’ve taken, or searching through the history of fashion.
M: What are you interested in at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
D: I’m super interested in building furniture! I’ve been working on various pieces for my home, so that has definitely affected what I am designing. I want to design clothing that works hard for working women! Whether they work at a desk or with their hands, painting, gardening, wood working, I want them to be able to find clothing that allows them to do this and still feel stylish. My canvas clothing is specifically designed for the woman who works with her hands, while the wool slacks/dresses are designed with the woman who works in an office-type setting in mind.
M: Who inspires you the most in fashion? Anyone who stands out?
D: There are many designers that are doing some amazing work right now. I admire Hackwith Design House, Elizabeth Suzann, and First Rite, and they give me inspiration for what my business could grow into.
M: Do you get to spend a lot of time designing?
D: I wish I had more time, but I also work a full time job! I definitely set aside time for designing tho to make sure everything is cohesive and tells the story I’m looking to tell before I start constructing.
M: Who do you think is the ideal Dallas Daws woman? Who is your muse?
D: As I was saying before, I’m drawn to the woman who works with her hands. She’s strong, creative, and is looking for clothing that will work as hard as she does. Clothing that will complement, but not overpower, her lifestyle.
M: You use mostly black, white and oatmeal in your designs. Tell me about the decision to not use color and how it relates to your brand vision.
D: I do mostly enjoy neutrals and more muted colors, mostly because I feel that the woman should wear the clothing, not have the clothing wear her. It also becomes more versatile and will hold up season after season, year after year. There’s a reason the LBD is still a thing. I do enjoy a pop of color every once in awhile, though!
M: As an ethical fashion designer, when and why did you make it your mission to manufacture your goods in the US?
D: I always knew I wanted to make my goods in the US, and ideally make them in house. I feel like some businesses are doing great things with sustainable, ethical goods made by working women abroad, so I enjoy seeing that. What I don’t enjoy seeing is the mass amounts of clothing made abroad catering to the mass consumer at the lowest price, where these workers are making a less-than-livable wage. I knew my way of combating that was to make my goods in house. I would love to grow to the point where I could eventually hire others to help me with the production process, and my business.
M: Are buyers sensitive to this?
D: I think it’s a growing concern, but I feel like it still has a lot of room for growth. I know people who are concerned with it, but continue to buy products that are mass made abroad. It feels hard sometimes to get people to justify spending more for goods that were made in the US and hand crafted by small businesses. But, I know that there is a growing amount of people who are willing to seek this out.
M: How do you balance creativity with commerce?
D: I feel that I am continually trying to sort this out! It can seem like I’ll be spending all my time/energy on one area for awhile that I have to switch to the other. I think I’ll continue to refine this more as I keep growing with my business.
M: You mentioned that you are changing your production practices to better reflect your business model, could you elaborate?
D: So I started my business under my ideals that quality is better than quantity. I wanted my clothing to last season after season, year after year, and for the choice to purchase something was considered thoughtfully. But, I was offering four seasons a year, a rate that not only became unsustainable for me working by myself, but that also seemed to contradict those philosophies. So, I am dropping my lines down to two a year: Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter, and building up a signature line that will continue to be available, sometimes with changing fabrics for the seasons, but evergreen, essentially. I feel that this will better reflect my goals. It won’t be a constant push, like, here’s my new line, go buy! Instead, my core will be my Signature collection, and the seasonal lines will be a creative outlet and bonus for my consumers!
M: Do you use social media to get the word out? Does your degree in journalism and mass communication help?
D: Yes, that’s my main way to get the word out, other than by networking! It’s funny, because that was actually one of the main things I wanted to experiment with when I started my business. I knew that, as a small business owner not putting a lot of capital into my business, that I wasn’t going to have the money to buy ads, and I knew that Instagram could be a huge way to get the word out about a business and create a story for people to follow along with. So, I set out to see how far that could get me. Any and all “free advertising” from social media. I definitely think my degree in journalism has helped! I’ve worked for magazines, helped produce content for social media accounts, so I knew how to sell my business that way.
M: What store would you love to have your clothes in?
D: Locally, I would love to have my clothes in Parc Boutique or Idun. Their aesthetic is spot on with my brand, and they have beautiful shops!
M: Apart from fashion, what other fields of creativity have you worked in?
D: I feel like I’ve tried so many fields! As I said before, I’ve been interested in wood working. I also love ceramics, and writing is another creative outlet for me, as well as interior decorating.
M: What gives you the most creative satisfaction today?
D: Finding fabrics to make my designs come to life. I can sit and design all day, but it’s actually putting the fabric into the design that makes it whole, so that gives me a lot of satisfaction.
M: What’s next for you professionally? / What are your next projects?
D: It’s hard to say what’s next! I’m seeing where things lead me, but I’m looking to continue to grow my business and make it a more well-known name. I’ve just published a class on Skillshare (view her class here :: Skillshare), so that’s been a fun (and a little nerve-wracking) project. Aside from my business, I would also like to get into freelance journalism.