New decade, new adventures, Fashion Crossover London is excited to share a series of exclusive interviews with our most promising designers which will be featured in Harper's Bazaar UK. Kicking off our list is the American female entrepreneur, Debrah Ann Mack who’s striving for female empowerment with her brand DAM Fashions.
Swapping out a legal career for one in fashion sounds much like the plot to Legally Blonde, but in reverse.
Tell us a bit about yourself, you haven’t had the most obvious route when it comes to fashion, you’re actually from a legal background with a degree in Justice and Law Administration and a Masters in Corporate and Political Communication. Why did you make the leap to fashion?
My road was not the conventional way (i.e., going back to university and getting a degree in fashion), I didn’t want to do another Masters, so I enrolled into a program that taught me about fashion and the fashion industry. After doing that, I built my own curriculum by travelling to New York for weekend programs and did a lot of online classes and research, I built the model that was best suited for myself and my aims. And so, I embarked on my journey and started to find out things on my own. After twenty years in the court system in Connecticut, we relocated, and I decided I was going to retire from the judicial business and became an entrepreneur. I started a successful business in organic fabric care, which I operated for about eight years. I didn’t have much of a life, but when you’re determined to reach a goal, you just go for it, keep your head down and keep moving. After this business venture, I decided to take a break for one year, and I saw myself becoming a house-potato and that’s not me, so that’s when I decided to go back to school to fashion and found Dam Fashions
"When you're determined to reach a goal, you just have to go for it, keep your head down and keep moving"
From books to fabric, your journey into the fashion industry was far from conventional. Where did your love from fashion stem from?
I was always in love with fashion, back when I was in the 7th or 8th grade, I took a sewing class and started making my own suits and coats. The passion was always there, but as I got older I wasn't sure how I saw my future and decided to go to the same university as my best friend and follow a legal course. Fashion was out of sight out of mind, as I got married and started a family, but I still continued to sew, so the thought was always lingering in the back of my head.
You’re quite the entrepreneurial woman, founding your own fashion label, Dam Fashions, what challenges have you faced?
Fashion really is an unknown path, as I was by myself I was really feeling my way in the dark, asking questions, going to classes, researching other companies and feeding my interest until I had all the information I needed, then I had to protect myself and lock in my whole concept. I’ve come far, but there is still a long way ahead.
"I've come far, but there is still a long way ahead."
Your logo takes the shape of a bee, does it carry a significant meaning?
The bee in the center of the logo represents Deborah (my name), it's a biblical name and in Hebrew, it translates to bee. I took that symbolism and ran with it. The bee is a symbol for hard work, at the same time it stands for community, rightness and personal power. It holds a lot, it is a strong powerful insect. I thought it was a perfect fit.
"With every purchase made, women are coming together as one to help encourage and build a sisterhood."
As a female entrepreneur, designing for women, is female empowerment a topic your feel strongly about?
Absolutely. DAM Fashions
consolidates my love for fashion as well as my legal background as a court mediator for family matters. I’m building DAM Fashions
to operate as a sponsor for my non-profit organisation, House of Ann, a center for victims of domestic violence. With each purchase, women support other women and in doing so DAM Fashions
is shaping a silent female empowerment. Every garment will have a label that reads HOA, and each purchase will help me get the center up and running, they will be able to get psycho-therapy, and they can become confident again and live in a safe environment. With every purchase made, women are coming together as one to help encourage and build a sisterhood.
You aim to cater to the needs of women, could you provide us with an insight of your design process?
I really consider myself a visionary, the reason I say that is because I can be doing the mundane tasks and suddenly, I will get a vision of something, of a design. I will go on a hunt to find that fabric that I believe, will make that garment come to life and will be very outstanding. The exterior of a garment can be executed in an edgier fabric, but the inside is what really counts. It’s a really luxurious lining, that a woman can just slip on and feels great on the body. I start with a vision, then a sketch, and then I hunt down the exact fabric that will make that garment come to life.
"I'm building DAM Fashions to operate as a sponsor for my non-profit organisation, House of Ann, a centre for victims of domestic violence."
You’ve had your collections shown during New York Fashion Week, how was this experience for you?
The experiences have been great, the first time I held a show at NYFW, I was truly in treading into the unknown. It was a learning curve for me, as a novice, not really knowing the industry, I loved every minute. It was a lot of coordinating, got to know a lot of people and gained experience working with an events team. I’m new to this industry so I need to get my name out there, so people can start following me and my work and my vision.
You are now part of the London-based platform Fashion Crossover London, you are bringing your brand to Europe. What attracted you to make the step across the pond to Europe?
When I first decided to get into the fashion industry, I told my husband, if I’m going to do this, I want to be international. The voice that I have for woman, making them look beautiful and feel beautiful and making them feel renewed, should not just be in the US, it needs to be everywhere. Sometimes you don’t know how to take that next leap, and then an opportunity to collaborate with Fashion Crossover London came about, and I just went with it. As an entrepreneur you have to take calculated risks and joining Fashion Crossover London was definitely one worth taking. I’ve always wanted to establish my brand in London and have my voice be heard and try to get women to ban together and know this is all for a good cause. The team has been doing a great job, and they make me excited and they make me feel like it is all going to work and it’s that uplifting voice that says you can do this. You are by yourself and make all the decisions, so it’s nice to hear encouraging words.
And lastly, what other plans do you have on the horizon for the future of DAM Fashions?
At the moment I’ve been fooling around with leather goods: bags, belts, ... However, in the long run, I aspire DAM Fashions
to become a household name that establishes a strong financial foundation for the House of Ann, now and for the many generations yet to come.Shop DAM Fashions.