Mz Mahogany: How did you come up with the name Dennya?
Dyanne: The name came from a user name from an online account. It’s an anagram of my first name “Dyanne.” When I asked my friends what I should name my company, they suggested that I use my online name.
Mz Mahogany: Who is Dyanne Marte? Tell me about the Dennya brand.
Dyanne: I consider myself more of a product developer than a fashion designer. I have designed many things both soft and hard goods. I love the design process. I think that design is complex problem solving. The general public would never see fashion design in that manner but it is. It’s so much more than just making a frock and selling it. You have so many design, production, marketing and logistical issues to consider. You have to have a market to sell to. You need to know that market, and have the ability to change and grow with them or else you will lose them. So many designers have been able to make it through the design and development process but hit a wall when trying to market, sell and produce. I’m very thankful to have such a responsive audience.
The brand evolved almost by itself. I started the business with my Mother. I wanted a break from designing clothing and started an accessories and handbag line. I just moved to Baltimore from New York City. I thought that it would be a good move because it’s only 3 hours away from New York and a 1/4 of the price in terms of overhead. If I started the business in New York, it would no longer be a going concern in 2012. The bag line was slow to take off. Accessories are difficult so I transitioned back to designing clothing and after tweaking what I call my third set of samples, the line took off. I design all things cut and sew knit; from jackets, pants, skirts to maxi dresses and wrap dresses. I love working with Ponte knits to modal jersey knits. I’m comfortable designing everything from evening to sportswear but I found my niche in cut and sew knits for the missy/women’s market. I sell to customers who live in major metropolitan areas who love to wear limited edition pieces from independent labels.
Mz Mahogany: What brought you to the fashion world and specifically to starting your own line?
Dyanne: I was supposed to be an architect. I attended the Savannah College of Art and Design to study architecture but I’ve been sewing since I was 12. I wanted to be a fashion designer but I knew it was more acceptable to study architecture. I remember modeling for the fashion program and showed one of my pieces to a professor in department. She told me I was wasting my time in architecture and I should switch majors and I did much to my parent’s chagrin. They eventually got over it seeing the work I produced. I knew that I wanted to have my own line. I loved the idea of ownership but I needed experience. I moved to New York and worked there for 5 years. The last two years were spent attending graduate school and studying Design Management at Pratt Institute as a full time student. At the same time I was working full time at Tanner Designs. I graduated with my degree in 2003 and officially started Dennya later that year in Baltimore.
Mz Mahogany: What was the most difficult aspect in launching your own label?
Dyanne: The most difficult part of running a design business is the ability to effectively balance creativity with commerce. Like any other business, you have to make your margins. If you don’t, you won’t make money. It’s a dance. You have to design a garment that is compelling enough to gain interest. It has to sell to the right market at the right price at the right time and in the right place. Oh, and it also has to fit the customer! These are all challenges that every designer has to overcome. If you include too much design detail, you run the risk of pricing yourself out of your market; too little detail, and you may put your customers to sleep.
Mz Mahogany: Tell me about your Black Belted Cape (which is my favorite by the way) and your inspiration to create it?
Dyanne: Thank you!! I love the whole outfit with the motor cycle pant! I am obsessed with fit. I am always designing pieces that solve fit and proportion issues. I want my customers to look their best. I love capes but felt that they lacked shape so I added a belt to create shape. Everything I design is based on bodily proportions and my goal is to balance my customer’s shape.
Mz Mahogany: Which is your favorite?
Dyanne: It’s my best selling wrap dress. It was sold in 2008 but customers still ask about it to this day. I really love the colors and the print. It’s such a fun dress!
Mz Mahogany: How does it feel to be a Fashion Awards MD nominee?
Dyanne: I am deeply humbled and flattered. I am a designer that does the things that most designers don’t want to do. I sell my clothing at Eastern Market, outdoor art shows and wholesale to boutiques. It’s a hustle. This may seem unglamorous but it has been very lucrative for me. I love fashion shows but I have to pay attention to the bottom line. If I can’t capture an audience and make a sale, I tend to not participate in shows. I’m very excited to be recognized considering I sell at unconventional venues! It feels good to receive validation for my work!
Mz Mahogany: What advice would you give a fashion newbie or student, looking to become a designer?
Dyanne: If you want to know what your market wants, just ask your customers. After you get the answer, make it for them and sell it to them. You will get results if you ask your clientele. I constantly keep my business in check by interacting with my customers.
Mz Mahogany: What can we expect from the Dennya brand in the near future?
Dyanne: Customized Ready- to- Wear. Customers will be able to choose styles based on available fabrics and details. We will be targeting specialty sizing retailers and will also offer an ongoing program for missy sizes.
Mz Mahogany: Do you have any upcoming runway shows or events?
Dyanne: I’m hoping Artscape 2012. I’m waiting to hear back from them and I am trying to get my customized ready to wear concept off the ground. I also want to participate in local fashion week venues!
For more information about Dyanne Marte and the Dennya brand, please visit her website at http://www.dennyaco.com