I’ll Have What She’s Having – An Interview with It-Girl Brand: DÔEN
I’ve been a long time follower of DÔEN. Ever since I stumbled across their warm and earthy Instagram feed where I immediately fell down the infamous IG rabbit hole and into a deep bohemian love. If I was selling clothing for a living this is what my store would look like. If I could wear one type of style for a lifetime theirs would be it. Yes, you could say DÔEN is my spirit animal, and I’m a fangirl to the max. But what’s not to love about a collective that celebrates women, feminity, motherhood, and the styles of California’s nostalgic past. Soon after I started working at Wit & Delight, Kate had returned from her vacation in Mexico where she ran into the co-owner of DÔEN, Margaret Kleveland. Upon her return, Kate reminisced that before really knowing who Margaret was, at first glance she knew she was someone special. Spotted lounging at Hotel San Cristobal and dressed to the nines, Kate struck up a conversation with her. When she later told me we should interview the wonderful sisters behind DÔEN, Katherine and Margaret Kleveland, I shot up from behind my iMac unable to contain my excitement. Well, yes, yes, of course, we should! I couldn’t wait to run this story.
One of the main reasons why I’m drawn to DÔEN is the collective group of women behind the company. You can really feel these women come through in their brand. The whimsical, warm and inviting images on their Instagram make me feel like that is the type of mother I want to be someday. A natural, bohemian, sun-drenched, earthy and effortless mama that loves the outdoors and her little babies. DÔEN isn’t just selling clothing, but in essence, a lifestyle. And one that I want to embody. I think that’s why their brand just works. You feel it in your heart and soul and if it feels like you, you gravitate toward it. You know a brand is doing something right when it just feels like home.
I recently caught up with Margaret Kleveland of DÔEN and learned more about the celebration of womanhood within the DÔEN collective, the challenges that arise when balancing motherhood and business, what it’s like working with family, and where the Kleveland sisters foresee DÔEN heading in the future. Catch our interview and debut of their dreamy fall collection below!
We love your store! Tell us a little bit about how DÔEN got started.
MK: Katherine and I both come from a women’s contemporary fashion background. Around the time that I was about to give birth to my son, Katherine really started to articulate the changes happening in the world of wholesale fashion – shifts that most people in the industry were/are aware of but weren’t being addressed in our market. We saw a huge shift in the way we were shopping (online) and also in the products that we were personally interested in investing in (well-designed, thoughtfully produced, fewer but better pieces). From a design standpoint, we discussed the limitations put on brands that were primarily accountable to department store buyers and sales people, instead of the direct end customer. At the same time, I was having conflicting feelings about what my life as a mother was going to look like working in a hugely competitive industry that expects most people to hold on-site 10 hour minimum days with limited flexibility to work remotely or work around the obligations of being a mother. When she suggested that we launch a company that answered to the space in the market, and also included a mission to support working parents and women in the workplace, I just leapt. At the time that we began the tangible concept my son was 3 weeks old. In retrospect, it feels like a completely insane decision (considering the new baby) but there was something about being a new mom that gave me the courage to leap.
Do you have a brick and mortar shop or is DÔEN online only?
MK: We do have plans for very small, niche retail store but will always consider ourselves a digitally native company. Our goals for brick and mortar are to give our customer a few small and special flagship spaces to experience the brand, be able to feel the fabric quality, and discover and try the entire collection. We hope these spaces will be an organic extension of our online community, for people to visit when on the coasts.
How would you describe DÔEN’s look and style?
MK: We are hugely inspired by vintage designs and our nostalgia for the California of past decades, rising out of our nature-filled Santa Barbara upbringing. In addition to the product, we are continually inspired to create compelling imagery that tells the story of the real women who wear our products.
I notice there are quite a few women on your team, how did everyone come together?
MK: Even prior to concepting the brand, we had discussed how many brilliant and creative women we had worked with over the years, and how so many brands we know are so entirely women-run. When assembling the team, of course, the goal was to be able to include all of the women that we know who are just absolutely experts in their fields. We really believe in incentivizing people with ownership and the idea of the collective was born.
DÔEN celebrates motherhood fairly often online, how do you balance work and motherhood?
MK: It is a constant challenge that requires both strategy and personal boundaries to maintain well-being. My key to being efficient is to make sure I am able to do the majority of daily work when I am most productive. This is pretty consistently early morning. I have often worked for 2+ hours prior to arriving at the office. Once I arrive at the office, I love to have freed up time to be able to meet and collaborate with our team. I try to head out by 3:30-4 pm every afternoon to be able to spend some time with my son. The afternoon is a great time for us to relax and hang together, and it feels that he needs me the most after a long day. Once he is asleep, I can wrap anything that didn’t get taken care of during the day (I am writing this at 12:10 am, which is not unusual).
Where do you see DÔEN heading in the next five years?
MK: We are committed to steady and organic growth, always putting the product first. Katherine and I are both incredibly excited to expand into new categories and build our team.
We love the interesting prints and fabrics of your designs. Where do you look for inspiration?
MK: We pore over vintage photos and flea markets. Katherine is leaving next week to go to the Paris flea. We also find so much inspiration from the women we know. James Kicinski-McCoy of Bleubird and Mother Magazine (our mutual friend, I believe) once told us about a particular shade of red on a sweater her mom had when she was growing up that was very nostalgic, so we made our favorite sweater in that color.
Fabrics We’re Loving from DÔEN
What keeps you and your team excited about making things?
MK: Receiving the imagery back after our photo shoots and seeing the pieces brought to life. We shoot film, so we don’t have the same instant gratification as seeing everything immediately on digital, but it is worth the wait.
Your company is founded by sisters, what is it like working with your sister? Do you have any advice for working with family?
MK: As kids, we fought constantly. Now, as adults working together, we have actually never been closer. We have shared goals and struggles, huge trust and an unconditional advocacy for each other that is a huge blessing in any working relationship. I’m not the best with interpersonal advice, but when we try to address issues consistently as they arise (but not necessarily in the moment) we are able to prevent miscommunications that turn into resentments. I think this holds true for any relationship.
Tell us more about how you got involved in Room to Read.
MK: When starting DÔEN we knew we wanted to extend our company mission to reduce the gender gap throughout our entire supply chain and extended community. After a lot of searching and research, we were so happy to finally find out about Room to Read (through our friend Narelle) RTR is a non-profit whose mission is to promote literacy and gender equality in developing countries. Room to Read works with communities and local governments across the globe (including India, where we have vendors) to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the life skills they’ll need to succeed in school and beyond. Our commitment to supporting girls’ access to education was solidified when after speaking with one of our vendors we learned that it is common practice in India for families with limited income to opt to only send male children to school. We were hugely inspired to learn that they have set up a foundation to sponsor the education of female children of employees. We are thrilled that as of May 2017, DÔEN has raised a year’s worth of education for 73 girls, through customer donations and from the proceeds from the sale of our Yearling children’s pieces to sponsors.
Images via DÔEN
Stefani Ellenbecker is the Editorial Director at Wit & Delight. When she’s not feverishly editing or writing about style and interiors, she runs her bohemian shop Arden Trading Co. where she sells artisan-made home goods. She lives in Minneapolis with her fiancé Muhamed.