When Dallas Daws founded her namesake label in 2014 upon graduating from Iowa State University, she considered it primarily a creative outlet. Since then, the Minneapolis-based label has evolved into a slow-fashion brand focused on sustainability, with minimalist, design-oriented pieces that emphasize quality over quantity. Each piece is designed to serve multiple purposes—functional and sturdy enough to get you through the day, yet stylish enough to for cocktail hour or an important meeting—and is made by Daws in her home studio.
Last summer, the brand stepped away from the traditional clothing season model, which dictates a fall and spring collection each year. What started out as its spring/summer 2017 collection evolved into something more lasting—a season-free linen collection intended to be layered and paired with other pieces to fit every season. It also launched its Signature collection, a line of favorite silhouettes from past seasons available on an ongoing basis. Daws’ intention became releasing collections that have less to do with current seasons, and more to do with how to wear them, year-round.
But don’t expect to see Daws’ designs in stores anytime soon. Unlike many other independent labels, Daws doesn’t aspire to have her line carried by retailers, and her line intentionally isn’t available by wholesale. She prefers to keep the connection between her customers direct to provide a more personal experience, and stay true to her slow-fashion, made-to-order ethos.
I asked the designer about the inspiration behind her brand, the process that goes into making her clothing, her design aesthetic, and why the slow-fashion movement is important to her.
Tell me about your background as a designer. How long have you been designing and sewing?
High school is really where I started designing and learning to sew. I fell in love with creating something so useful with my own hands, and had some great mentors during that time that pushed me to go to school for apparel design. I grew up in Okoboji, a rural lake resort area in northwestern Iowa, and went to Iowa State University for apparel design. I’ve always had my eye on Minneapolis, though. After my husband graduated college, he and I moved to south Minneapolis about three years ago, where we currently live.
What inspired you to found your clothing label and when did you launch it?
After graduation, I was a bit unsure of what I wanted to do. I have always been interested in sustainable designers and brands, and toward the end of my education, was beginning to design pieces that skewed utilitarian and minimal, less dictated by current trends. I began paying more attention to the slow-fashion movement, which kind of steered me away from wanting to work for a large corporation. It began as something of side project, a way to showcase my creations, but quickly became something I wanted to see grow. I launched my clothing label about five months after graduation in October of 2014.
What is the process that goes into making your clothing?
As a one-woman show, I do everything from design to production and promotion. My process is mainly driven by when I feel most inspired. I begin by gathering my inspiration and creating sketches. After narrowing down my options to the few I think will be most hard-working and versatile, I begin making the patterns and samples. Sometimes the first round is a winner, but almost always I need to make small fit adjustments. When I’m satisfied, I’ll begin making samples for the photo shoot to get them ready to launch online.
What materials do you like to use the most? Where do you source your materials?
I love all natural materials, but I would say my favorites are linen and silk crepe. There’s something so versatile about each material that really can make them feel like they work for everyday wear, both dressed up or down. I’m always on the lookout for high-quality natural fabrics, which is harder to come across as a starting designer, especially with low minimums. I’ve been lucky to find a couple of vendors who offer most of what I’ve been looking for, but I plan to attend a trade show soon to scope out more materials.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? What inspires your pieces?
My design aesthetic is very clean, utilitarian, and subtle—meaning hints of shape without being overly revealing or form-fitting, hints of menswear, yet still feminine. Of course I keep an eye on what is happening around me, what I see in the street, but I try not to be lured in by trends. I take inspiration from icons of the past, whose uniformed style still resonates today. Georgia O’Keeffe, Charlotte Rampling, and Lauren Hutton are all muses of mine. They could take a menswear-inspired outfit and give it a touch of femininity that has an air of ease to it. It’s the type of style that works with every lifestyle.
What are your core design principles?
I’m pushing back against seasonal collections, focusing on creating pieces that feel timeless, rather than in-the-moment or seasonal, which has led me to begin releasing collections based on fiber content—my most recent collection being the Linen Collection. I still feel like weather-appropriate designs are necessary, especially living in Minnesota. I just don’t like the attachment of a particular year to a seasonal collection. My intention is to design pieces that are made for the long-haul. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel every season, and I don’t think it’s necessary. The pieces that look good on you now will continue to look good on you 10 years down the road.
On your website, you say you’re part of the slow-fashion movement. Why is this important to you?
We as a society went from four seasons to 52 seasons a year—a never-ending cycle of new clothing, lacking the quality and durability to last, partly because they weren’t meant to last, with a new trend being pushed every week. All the while, clothing was becoming cheaper than ever, and consumers were being conditioned to believe clothing should always be that cheap. While in school, we would watch documentaries and learn about the conditions that garment workers faced around the world. They are overworked, in unclean, overheated conditions. The only way I could see to combat the support of that industry directly was to produce myself, and emphasize clothing that was designed to withstand trends in classic silhouettes without many bells and whistles, crafted in quality fabrics. I wanted to be part of that change. Slow fashion is necessary in retraining ourselves to think more about our purchases.
What’s your plan for your line? Do you hope to expand, or hope to evolve in any particular way?
I’ve been growing slowly and organically over the last few years, which has given me the opportunity to refine my style and hone in on what I would like to offer. I do hope to expand, but I want to do it in the right way. Ideally, I would like to keep all of the production in-house, and begin working with companies weaving fabric in the US. As people begin to become more educated about their clothing, and the demand to know where their clothing comes from grows, I think the interest in brands like mine will increase. Transparency is something I strive for, and I want that to continue, no matter the evolution of the company. I have plans to fill out my Signature Collection to offer well-rounded basics, and then offer a few pieces that are a bit more creative, and potentially rotating through those.
Why do you choose to only sell your line directly to customers rather than wholesaling?
Currently, I’m only offering my clothing online, and I plan to start selling at craft markets this year. I’ve sold to boutiques around the country in the past, but it left me feeling a bit disconnected with the people who were purchasing my pieces, which felt counter to why I began. As I continue, I may want to offer my clothing at boutiques again, but for now, I enjoy getting to know each person as I fulfill their order, and I look forward to meeting people in person at markets.
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