The Garfield Galleria is home to many talented artists, including three fashion-forward designers. I sat down with a T-shirt creator, jewelry maker and a gown seamstress and got an up-close look at their operations.
Danell Lynn brings humanitarian work and high-end fashion together with her one-of-a-kind brand DL-Couture and her new bridal collection, Wednesday Wedding. Lynn’s designs feature cultural influence from the countries she travels to, along with a little bit of the Downtown vibe.
Danell Lynn: I do high-end couture and black-tie affair gowns under the DL-Couture label. I am also launching a wedding label called Wednesday Wedding. That is a more affordable, reach-everybody label whereas with DL-Couture I only make 13 custom gowns a year.
DPJ: Did you always aspire to becoming a gown designer?
DL: I have been sewing since I was a kid. My mom used to make my clothes, so I have been dabbling in it for a while. In high school I was a varsity track athlete and a really good sprinter. At the end of my junior year I tore my hamstring and broke my foot and so the colleges that offered scholarships my sophomore year were no longer interested. I had to kind of rethink my plans of what I wanted to do. I had always gravitated towards the arts and design and so I just went for it.
DPJ: Where did you study fashion design?
DL: I went to Miami International University of Art and Design in Florida and I interned, which then turned into an assistant designer position with Gerry Kelly Couture, which is how I found my love for one-of-a-kind, hand-detailing work.
DPJ: How long after graduating and working under other designers did you start your own brand?
DL: I worked for others for a while and probably four years after graduation I began to build the framework for what I wanted DL-Couture to be. Then it took about a year to get it into launch mode, so probably five years after college I launched my brand. And I based it in humanitarianism. That is what is a little bit different with us than a regular fashion line. Ten percent always goes to humanitarian aid. A lot of it goes to Smile Train but I also own two humanitarian companies under my company called Threading Hope and High Wire, but that ten percent doesn’t fund us. It goes to the other humanitarian aids I believe in.
DL: It’s hard to really know where it comes from. I live here in Downtown Phoenix, but I also travel all over the world. Quite a few times a year I go out of the country. I travel around the U.S., see clients in LA and New York. This is my home base. It doesn’t hinder my designs, but isn’t the only inspiration.
DPJ: You don’t follow the typical fashion year of creating a collection each season. Why?
DL: Because I only do 13 custom gowns a year, I pretty much believe the designs are timeless. Once we make a pattern we never use it again. We never do mass production for any of the gowns. For the Wedding Wednesday line, I will be designing six dresses a year, and we only make 10 of each of those gowns. Those are specific to stores, and we only have one store that will carry these in Arizona.
DPJ: What is the typical process when beginning a new gown?
DL: The first thing we do is a consultation. During that we do an entire sketch of what they are wanting, the fabrics they are looking to use and then I take their measurements. They come back for the first fitting in a sample dress and then I create the entire gown, except for closing major seams and zippers, for the second fitting. Then it all gets closed up and they come back for a final fitting. As long as there are no changes then they leave with their gown. I do have to contract seamstresses that I work with. We are very much a small company. So, if two orders overlap and I can’t get them done by myself I do bring in my seamstresses.
DPJ: What are your favorite fabrics and detailings to for the gowns?
DL: Lots of gowns tend to go back to silks, so I use a lot of those. I use fabrics bought direct from global merchants, so I buy them when I am traveling in a foreign country and bring them home to make gowns with. And I really enjoy working with trims; the little details on the sides, the ribbons, the beads, the pearls. They are like the finishing touches on a painting, all done by hand.
DPJ: What type of gown do you love to make most?
DL: I love gowns that challenge me. I had a company once come and bring me decks of playing cards and they wanted a gown for their expo. So I created a gown with an accordion type of skirt and it was literally a dress made from their cards. It was fun and a mix of engineering and design in that sense. So I really do enjoy the challenge.
DPJ: In a normal situation, how long does a gown, from start to finish, take to make?
DL: Anywhere from 2 weeks to a month, depending on the gown. I actually flew out to DC to make the Ambassador of Haiti’s wife, Lola Poisson, a dress for her 25th wedding anniversary party. The night I flew out we did the measurement and I started sketching and sewing in my hotel room. The next day it was completed, so it was within a 24-hour turnaround. That was definitely my fastest ever!
DPJ: How do you meet new clientele?
DL: A lot of it is just getting out there; it’s doing the fashion shows, attending the black-tie events and meeting people there. It is a lot of word of mouth and constant networking, truly being involved in the fashion community as well as the community in general. I was a nominee for the Governor Arts Award here in Arizona last year, so I wore one of my gowns to that – so it is really word-of-mouth marketing.
DPJ: How do you share your passion with others?
DL: I offer private sewing lessons; these can be booked over email. They are $25 an hour and they must have their own machine and supplies.