Tell us a little bit about you!
I'm 29, was born on April Fool's Day, and I'm somewhere in between a Leslie Knope and Anne Shirley. I'm fascinated by finding new ways of doing things, and tend to be pretty creative in my work. I'm from a family of creative and all entrepreneurial people, and my parents and brothers are a big part of everything I do. I'm in my 10th year as a photographer and I do mostly weddings and workshops/mentoring.
I've traveled a good bit (up to 4 continents now!) for photography or volunteer work, and that's been a big part in shaping who I am and what I'm working at now. I grew up in photography thanks to my dad, and ended up working for someone for years while starting to build my business, and it honestly was the most unplanned thing that I never quite saw happening until it had. I've loved my photography work and won't be quitting it any time soon, but because it was something I almost stumbled into , (or, miraculously provided) part of me always wondered if I could do something else too.
How long had you been doing photography when you decided to start designing dresses?
I started working on this dress business 2.5 years ago, so it was about 7 years in. I'd been traveling a lot then (a few times around the UK specifically) and had been feeling frustrated by the dress options I would find when shopping/packing for a trip, and also was thinking about switching work to something new. My parents had had the clothing company idea ages ago when I was in high school as something to take a year off to work at, (did I mention creative + entrepreneurial people?) and just one evening my mom brought up that idea again and the timing was right.
I started researching it online and fell into a few thousand rabbit holes of information that have led me to now. :)
What's the story behind the name, "Virginia Dare?"
It's the name of the first Englishwoman born in the New Country. She was a part of the Roanoke Colony in the 1500s that was founded by Sir Walter Raleigh, and she's linked with a spirit of courage, adventure, and innocence. Using the name was my parent's idea when they'd first brought up this business, and when it started for real I decided to limit the company to just designing dresses, so I added the "Dress Co." to the name.
These designs are refreshingly elegant and simple, where do you glean your inspiration from?
Oh thank you! Refreshingly elegant is a beautiful compliment. There's an easy benefit of running a business that includes yourself in the customer demographic, so I design for what I want to wear. And not just what to wear, but where to wear it. I'm a pretty imaginative person, and whether it's photography or designing I like to work by spending time just picturing the ideal end result. I'll look at photos of places or imagine what a place might be like and what I'd be doing, and then work through what kind of dress would be the right fit. I'll think of different types or prints of fabric and try to imagine walking in them and how it'd make me feel. I've designed hundreds by now and of course as with anything creative, most aren't worth saving! But that can't keep you from trying. Since I'm new at this I keep trying to remind myself to just get through the first thousand designs and then the next thousand will be better. No alternatives to doing the work. :)
I don't actually do any of the sewing, so if a design is to be taken further I'd start sourcing fabric options and bring it to my pattern/samplemaker and she'd make a prototype of it and then a sample, and then another sample, and at each stage revisions are made to keep tweaking the design. She's been a huge part of this along with my family and a couple friends, so I really value their input to the design process.
If you make the Kickstarter (we think you will!) and start your line, where would you like things to go from there?
Once production is underway I'd like to start developing the next collection. That would be a spring/summer collection and I'd want to have 5-8 styles. Adding in other colors and textures like linens and chiffons, but still keeping the overall structured shapes of these first styles. Some of the rewards on the Kickstarter are for people to join the design team and 2 people already booked that one, so I'm looking forward to including kindreds in the design process.
Long term, I'd like to branch out to including maternity and children's, with even some formal or even bridal options someday. I'm basing this business more on the kind of girl I know we are or we connect with. With wedding photography I can only be there for a certain event in her life, but with a clothing company it could be at every stage.
What are your hobbies outside of dress making and photography?
I love to paint and craft and make things, especially for gifts. I'll get really into a new idea and let that be my new favorite thing, and then the next month it's something else. I love to snowboard and ice skate and if it counts as a hobby, traveling solo. I used to hate it but now I love any chance I get. :)
Is it hard to separate work from play? How do you juggle the tension between doing what you love and making it a business?
It's sometimes very difficult, but mostly because I love working so much I'll forget to play! I'm pretty all or nothing, so if I have a big project I won't focus on anything else and just let that be my tunnel. I know creatives often have a hard time making their 'art' into a business, but I really like that side of it too. It helps to learn how to see 'business' as more a way of introducing your passion to the world, and having it be received correctly. Investing time + heart to the business-making side of things makes me feel more confident about doing what I love, because I know it has more potential then. (Because deep down I'm also extraordinarily lazy, and I don't want to work at something if it's not going to really count.)
I know there's so much said fighting against the glorification of busy etc, but I don't think there's enough said for the rightness and need of hard work. Whatever you're doing that is going to be important will be difficult and uncomfortable and inconvenient and requiring more of yourself than you'd like to give to it.
What are three things you can't live without?
- Time every morning with God. We all know how much relationships live or die depending on closeness and communication, so praying and reading the Bible and keeping my heart open + humble + in communion with Him is just that.
- Dresses. Doesn't matter who's designing them - if they fit well and make me feel pretty, they're a life essential forever amen.
- Felt-tipped pens + paper, and preferably lots of each. If I wasn't trying to design the perfect dresses, I'd probably work on pens, because I can nerd out on those like you wouldn't believe.
What is the highlight of your day?
If I'm in a startup-launching business tunnel, probably that feeling just before bed when your mind wraps up for the night, and you feel whether or not the day was a success. You remember all the good things and conversations that happened and there's the relief of a productive, moving-forward-to-the-goal day, and your brain can turn off for the night.
If it's life otherwise, then it's anytime I'm with people I love and a few cups of black coffee nearby.