Founder and designer of women’s advanced contemporary label, Dana-Maxx, has a long personal history of fashion design which starts, naturally, with the lines she created as a child for all of her stuffed animals. These days, Dana-Maxx is designing for clients who are a little less Care Bear and lot more ass-kicking professional woman; her designs have appeared on women in the pages of numerous magazines and websites and in her episode of All On The Line. She also maintains a gown-length list of philanthropic commitments, including fashion mentoring for aspiring designers, sitting on committees for Diabetes research, and serving as an ambassador for GLAMOUR Magazine.
How have your designs evolved since you first started Dana-Maxx in 2007?
Prior to starting my business, I had worked at Betsey Johnson and Marc Jacobs, so when I first began my company I was kind of designing based on what I knew from these big fashion houses. Running a small business is very different, and as a designer and business owner, I quickly realized this. My designs are probably more sophisticated now. I really am able to sound my voice—which is inspired by architecture—and I’ve really loved mixing these rich pops of colors with more neutral tones while still staying at a competitive price within the market.
What’s the atmosphere like for someone who works at Dana-Maxx? How is it for an intern to work for you? Are you more relaxed than a bigger fashion house?
I love my interns, they’re fabulous! They learn a lot. It’s very hands on, and I really give them a lot of real responsibility so they’re not just sitting in the fashion closet or getting coffee. Since Dana-Maxx is a small company, each person who works here has to be able to multitask and juggle a million different things at the same time. It definitely is fun, though; as stressful as things can get, we always like to laugh!
You have said in previous interviews that one goal of your designs was to empower women. How do you do that?
When I am designing, I think about the woman’s body, who she is, and where she is going. I have always felt that it was my responsibility to create clothing that empowers women and accentuates her best assets. So whether it’s coming up with a flattering shape, or a color scheme that lifts her spirits, designing clothing that empowers women is what I love to do.
Do you find any challenges in achieving this goal because you’re using fashion as your medium? The industry hasn’t exactly been seen as a source of empowerment for young women who don’t fit into the standard concept of beauty.
My honest opinion of the fashion industry is that we do get a lot of flack because we’re an industry driven by celebrity and superficiality. There is a lot more depth to it, though, which at times is hidden by the glamour and superficiality of it all. I want to get across to women of all ages that as long as you feel good about what you’re wearing, that’s all that matters. We are beautiful no matter what our shape, size or skin color is, and we all have something unique within us that make us beautiful. Own your uniqueness and allow it to empower you as a woman.
What forms of community involvement are most enticing and important for you?
I think, again, anything that’s empowering to women is probably what appeals to me most. I also just think giving back to the community is important; whether I have a little or a lot, I always give something. I really believe that there is more to life than just what you do for a living.
It’s clear that a wide variety of people benefit from your involvement. What do you get out of it?
Well, when you give, you get. So when I give back, whether it’s financially or with my time, I always feel empowered myself. The idea of inspiring and empowering others… this is kind of selfish, but it makes me feel good at the end of the day too.
What was it like to have your company on All On The Line? The profiles portray the companies as being in crisis; did it sting to have people watching you cope with your problems?
I would say it takes a lot of courage to be on television, especially to say, listen, it’s tough out in this economy and I’m struggling. My company was never in crisis, exactly, but I went on the show with the intent of learning from industry leader Joe Zee how to sustain my business. Since the show, I continue to incorporate what I learned from Joe into the growth and success of my company. It was tough, though, I’m not going to lie, I felt very vulnerable. But in this industry in general you’re always going to be judged and critiqued, and you have to know who you are as a person and as a business in order to go prove the naysayers wrong.
I imagine for a person to make the jump from artist to businesswoman has some challenges. Then, in All On The Line, Joe Zee taught you to “work backwards” by giving yourself price limitations before you start to reduce costs. Is it a drag to do art within these economic boundaries?
Before I started my business I knew it wasn’t just about designing clothing, that you had to be a good business owner as well. Probably 80% of what I do is business. The rest is creative. It’s important to marry the creativity with the business side. And sometimes, when you give yourself boundaries like Joe Zee did, it allows me to be more creative. Sometimes structures is a good thing for a creative person!
How can Daily BRINK readers contribute to your success?
The fashion industry demands both sales and buzz, so spreading the word is helpful, as is buying the clothes!