Designer Profile: Dallas Welch, Founder of Dallas Daws - Minneapolis
Hi Dallas! Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Dallas, the founder of Dallas Daws, a slow fashion brand focused on creating modern wardrobe basics, made to last for years to come. I currently wear all of the hats at Dallas Daws, from designing, to creating patterns, and sewing each piece to order.
I’m currently based in Minneapolis with my husband and our cat, and have lived here for four years, but I grew up in a small lake resort town in Iowa. Outside my business, I love working with my hands and creating. I enjoy building furniture, and have been getting back into film photography.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I studied creative apparel design at Iowa State University, but it wasn’t until after I graduated that I decided to start my own business. In retrospect, I feel like I was destined to set off on my own, but I had actually convinced myself after an internship that I did not want to own a small business. Having also studying journalism, I had seriously considered pursuing a career in fashion journalism for a time, but ultimately, that didn’t feel fulfilling to me.
What led you to start making clothing? What was the turning point that drew you to starting your own business?
I’ve been making and designing clothing since I was in high school, dreaming of being a designer, but never thinking I would have my own line. Throughout my time at Iowa State, I had developed a deep interest in ethical fashion, and seeing a gap in the industry (especially in the Midwest), I launched Dallas Daws in the fall of 2014. I was living with my boyfriend (now husband) in Ames, Iowa, where he was still going to school, so the business became a creative outlet for me while we saved to move to Minneapolis after his graduation.
What are the values that shape Dallas Daws?
This is a great question! Dallas Daws was created as an alternative to fast fashion—eschewing the practice of clothing that is meant to only stay in style for a season, and then discarded. I take great care while designing and testing the garments to make sure the designs are timeless and well-constructed.
I also value a fair living wage for everyone in the fashion and textile industry. Thinking back to the documentaries I watched in college detailing the conditions of the workers in these factories around the world, I was disgusted. I decided the best way for me to ensure that my clothing is made without harsh working conditions was to keep as much of the process in-house as possible. Although it’s just me at the moment, when I do hire down the road, I plan to pay a living wage (at least) and provide a working environment that is clean, safe, and fun.
What inspires your designs?
Usually, I sit down with books on artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Agnes Martin, and Ruth Asawa, and soak in their artwork, as well as their personal style. I’ll also look at architecture and interior design for uses of colors, shapes, and textures. Sometimes, trips or places will inspire a collection. From there, I’ll have the mood I’d like to convey, as well as materials and colors I’d like to use.
I’m also drawn to vintage pieces—timeless, well-crafted clothing that feels like a gem when you come across them in a thrift store. I try to imagine each of my pieces in a thrift store decades from now, still in beautiful condition.
Versatility and practicality play a huge role in what pieces I end up developing. I want to design clothing that can be moved in, worked in, and lived in—I don’t think clothing should be so precious that you’re afraid to wear it, or that doesn’t work with your daily life.
How do you connect with your customers and community?
I love interacting with customers! I try to make the entire shopping experience as personal as possible, and I always am willing to go the extra mile for people. I think that differentiates a small brand like myself from larger brands who don’t have that sort of capability.
Instagram is probably the best way I’m able to connect to my customers on a day-to-day basis. I do struggle with being super consistent on the platform, as I tend to overthink things like what to say, how personal to get, and whether it’s being received well. It’s something I’m continuing to experiment with—so if you follow me, be patient…I’ll get there eventually!
Minneapolis seems like a great place for small businesses and slow fashion. How does your city play a role in what you’re creating?
There are a ton of amazing artists, designers, and makers in the area—which is super inspiring and one of the reasons I wanted to move to Minneapolis. I love the creative community here, it’s been so welcoming, and there are certainly a group of people who seek out slow fashion and small makers.
I think living here keeps me practical in my designs, as we are an area with four distinct seasons, yet still part of the Midwest—so pieces that can be worn for daily life, yet have an element of interest. It reinforces my desire to design wardrobe staples that will be worn for years to come.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
I think the fact that there’s so much left to do—meaning, there’s still so much educating and awareness that needs to be brought to people about sustainable and ethical fashion. I’m trying to do my part to expose this need to as many people as possible, and if I can be at someone’s beginning of their sustainable life journey, I’m fulfilling my passions.
As far as the actual creating goes, I feel like that is kind of endless. I’m continuing to evolve and experiment with different types of clothing, which keeps me invigorated. Hearing feedback from my customers is definitely vital in that.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face?
Well, being completely self-funded limits what I am able to do, and how well I am able to keep up with what other companies are offering. It’s something I am proud of with my business, however. I don’t ever want to be in the position of working for someone else who has invested in my company, or to sacrifice any values for growth.
I also have a full-time job aside from Dallas Daws, which is a challenge itself. Some days, the motivation is lacking to come home from work and go straight to the sewing machine. But I think of a time, hopefully no too distant in the future, where I can fully commit to my business—that is a great motivator.
What are some of your short/long-term goals?
My short-term goals include expanding my sizing, offering more tailored pieces, and going full-time. Expanded sizing is something I’ve long wanted to do, but it’s something I want to make sure I do right. To do that, I need to develop a second set of pattern blocks, around the 2X size. It’s all a bit technical, but basically, for “straight” sizes (which I hate that term), you grade up and down from a size M or an 8. Eventually, the sizing gets distorted, and proportions are different for someone size 2X versus a M versus an XXS. It’s something I’m making a priority for 2019, and I’d like to begin offering the extended sizing later this year.
As for long-term goals, I hope to eventually move into a studio outside my home, begin hiring a small team, and grow slowly. Baby steps.
At the Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
This is so, so important. There are plenty of sources of pressure, telling us we aren’t good enough, that we should be comparing ourselves to our “competition” and trying to outpace them. Lifting each other up is such a better way to encourage success. I get so excited for my fellow women entrepreneurs’ success, and I know the amount of work that it takes to even get off the ground. It is amazing to see a company like the Glossary centered around empowering women in their passions.
We have a series called Purchase from Women – what women-owned businesses are you encouraging with your dollars?
As many as possible! A few of my favorites: my hairstylist Kelly Buol of Mod Mule Hair (she’s seriously the best), Dear Hyssop for all floral needs, Hanna Voxland and BethCath for beautiful photography, Henslin for gorgeous vintage rugs, Neal Jewelry, Moth Oddities Vintage, LoQ, Lesse, and J.Hannah.
What have you learned from creating your own business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
Connecting to why you started this venture in the first place, as often as you need to. Sometimes it can be hard to see the bigger picture when you’re bogged down in the business side, instead of the creative side, of your endeavor. Remembering your why can help ground you again and give motivation.
Also, make time for yourself to recharge, and do small creative things just for you—not for the world.
Do you have any creative, business, or female-centered resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
Last year, I enrolled in Factory45 to invest in my company. It’s usually for people who are looking to start a sustainable clothing company, not entirely geared to people who have been in business for a while, but it was helpful in finding new connections for vendors and gaining more industry knowledge. It’s something I would recommend to anyone thinking of starting a clothing company, especially if you don’t have any formal education in the industry.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something you are wanting to learn?
There are a few things I want to hone more so than learn brand new. I’m currently working on constructing more tailored pieces, and I’d love to get a knitting machine and dive into that realm. I took a class on knitwear while studying abroad in Italy many years ago, but haven’t had the opportunity since to do more with that. It’s absolutely on my radar for the future.
I’m also brushing up on my film photography skills and would love to incorporate more film into my lookbooks and inspiration.
What are some of your favorite places in Minneapolis?
There are so many!
For coffee: Spyhouse
Boutiques: Hazel & Rose, Golden Rule, and Parc
Restaurants: Kyatchi and Nightingale
Sights: Stone Arch Bridge
Home goods: The Foundry Home Goods
Vintage goods and decor: FindFurnish
What’s coming up for you?
My next collection is going to be something new for me! I’m just in the planning phases, but I have a lot of pieces with buttons and closures, rather than just elastic—definitely more of a nod to vintage pieces—and I can’t wait to see that come together.