New York design duo Jessica Gold Newman and Catherine Doyle became friends through fashion. The two worked in the industry for several years before joining forces to create their own clothing line Dobbin. The concept behind Dobbin comes from a focus on three c’s – cut, comfort and cost. Jessica and Catherine channeled their own style struggles, as well as those of their family and friends to craft classic clothes with a vintage twist that fit real bodies at a reasonable price. Selling strictly online allows the pair to keep quality key and produce domestically (which we love). DC’s East Coast Chic introduced Dobbin to DC in the recent post Dobbin does DC conservative style in a more fitting way highlighting faves from their inaugural Spring/Summer 2012 line. Jessica recently shared with ECC the personal and professional story behind Dobbin:
How did fashion play a role in your life growing up?
I’ve been consistent about what I like and look for in clothes since I was young; I have always been drawn to high-quality, well-made pieces that last and feel good on, but don’t cost a fortune. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, these things, at least by memory, seemed much easier to find than they are today. I had a grandmother in NY who was very interested in fashion and was an excellent shopper; I think a lot of my interest in clothes and my taste for classic sophistication comes from her. I began reading Vogue at around 11 or 12, and was as fascinated by the fashion business players who were profiled or photographed, as I was charmed by the dresses and designers. Fashion Directors like Ellin Saltzman, Joan Kaner and Kal Ruttenstein balanced a love of style and merchandising with business. I still admire those people today.
How did you first get involved in fashion? Did you always want a career in the industry?
I began working in retail at age 16. First at a local shoe store, then at a local dress shop, then Banana Republic, Louis Boston and finally ended up interning for a maternity designer in Boston. I still truly rely on my retail background, and love to work with customers one-on-one. When I began interning for the maternity designer, I was able to play a part in a designer business in a way I hadn’t been able to before; I cut patterns, I handled PR, I helped with sales strategy and I picked up fabric. It was my first glimpse into the complexity of running an apparel business, and I was hooked. After graduating Hamilton College, I decided that I wanted to find a job in fashion in New York. I interviewed with several hot designers and big conglomerates, but a few minutes after sending an email to maternity designer Liz Lange, I had an interview with her for an assistant position. The next week my dad drove me down to NYC, and by the end of the day I had a job. I worked with Liz for almost 7 years, working my way up from her assistant to the Marketing Director of Liz Lange Maternity. It was really excellent training; I worked on so many facets of the business including our major partnerships with Target, Nike, Nikon and Bliss Spas. After Liz sold her business, I ran a consulting business for young designers and small retailers (Rachel Antonoff, Wren, Hayden-Harnett, Lauren Moffatt) called JG & Co. (www.jgandconyc.com). I loved working with these brands to grow their businesses, but was itching to do my own thing. That’s how Dobbin first got started.
What is your style aesthetic?
I like to think it’s pretty classic with some Parisian pretty and some 60s mod thrown in there. Catherine and I have fairly similar taste, and she adds a softer look to my clean-lined tastes. I love the way someone like Sofia Coppola dresses, Shala Monroque, and Ines de la Fressange. Casual elegance.
Why did you decide to create your own line?
We decided to design the line after thinking about which apparel markets were underserved. We felt that the market for women over 35 needed a re-think. Mass retailers were using poor materials and seemed to have either a too-tight or overly flowy fit. On the very high-end there was a lot that was lovely, but not much that was affordable. Smaller brands targeted towards this woman often seemed too printed, ruffled or embellished. We were looking to do a fresh, clean line of really wearable basics that fit and flattered real women’s bodies and that didn’t cost a fortune. We use all the highest fabrics from Italy, but because we sell online only, we’re able to keep our prices at or under $200.
How would you describe your design process?
We start by looking at fabrics and thinking about a color story. Washability, weight and wearability are key things we look for in fabric, in addition to stretch. We then think about silhouettes and which fabrics would look best in each style. There’s a lot of thought and debate that goes on and a lot of limits as to what’s available for small businesses from the European mills. So we work really hard to put together small collections now, while we’re starting out, that satisfy different tastes and styles, as well as a multitude of body types. Fit and quality are everything to us.
I appreciate that your pieces are made in the states. Why was it important to you to produce domestically?
Made in the USA and Made in NY are incredibly important to us as a small business. I’ve long been involved with preserving and developing the Garment Center here in NY and it was vital to me to produce our clothes here. 50 years ago, 95% of our clothes were made in the US, now it’s less than 5%. I’d like to play a small part in bringing production and jobs back here. Business-wise, it really makes sense for us; we work with fabric agents, trim shops, pattern makers, sample makers and factories all within blocks of each other. We’re able to watch over the process, to speed it up if necessary and to change things as we go if needed. It’s a great process and we’re so lucky to live so close to the Garment Center.
What is your go to piece in Dobbin’s first-ever collection?
The Griffith Stretch Pique Top! It’s a play on a traditional polo but it’s long like a tunic and has a lot of detailing in the seams. The fabric is super thick, stretchy and luxurious. It’s also incredibly comfortable.
Have you begun working towards the next collection?
Yes! We’re doing more dresses this time as the Juliet Stretch Ponte Dress was our best-seller. We’ll still be small, but aim to bring you more Dobbins (Dobbin is an old English word for workhorse and we want Dobbin’s clothing to be the workhorses of your wardrobe!). Stay tuned.
Thanks so much to Jessica for sharing the path to and future of Dobbin! You heard her – stay tuned for more Dobbin to keep you classy and chic for years to come!