ARTIST INTERVIEW: Margaret and Katherine Kleveland, Co-Founders of DÔEN
DÔEN is a collective of creative Los Angeles based women. Their line is inspired by vintage designs and their nostalgia for the California of past decades, making elevated yet wearable pieces for the everyday. We spoke to co-founders Margaret and Katherine Kleveland about their experience starting a creative business, and the philosophy behind their work.
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now.
In early motherhood, we felt a paradigm shift in our understanding and relationship to fashion and the concept of beauty. We saw a glaring gap in the market of clothing made for women by women that felt feminine, easy and natural. Pursuing a direct to consumer sales channel felt like the only way to have an intimate connection with our customer while also giving us the ability to offer our clothes at a more affordable price by removing the middle-man. Initial stages of the brand were in motion when my son was only a few weeks old, we legally became a company when he was 3 months old, and launched our first season when he was just 11 months. We were definitely on a mission and continue with that same determination today. We strive to create a community of women, through social media, our journal, etc. who support each other and build one another up – a truly inclusive, supportive environment to empower women.
What would you say is the driving force behind your creative work?
Our goal is to design high quality yet wearable, bohemian pieces for our fellow female peers at an affordable price point. Because we are both moms, we’re inspired to create easy, beautiful pieces that are both feminine yet functional. We decided to sell direct to consumer via our website so that we could extend the best value to our customer by removing the middleman (i.e. retailers). It has been an incredible experience to connect with our customers through all channels in order to gain a better understanding of what speaks to them.
How do you define success in your art or craft, or alternately, what does failure mean to you?
One area of success of which we’re very proud is our cultivation of a true grassroots community/customer base that feels connected to the brand above and beyond a typical customer/retailer relationship. We look to build a safe environment for women to encourage and lean on one another. As a feminist, women-owned business, our audience has also been very receptive to our vocal stand on political issues. Using our brand as a platform to promote positive messages is hugely fulfilling and we consider a great achievement.
Do you have any objects you like to keep around you as inspiration? What are they?
We have been fortunate to be surrounded by real-life muses that inspire our pieces, like Hannah Henderson, Gretchen Jones, Karla Welch, Latonya Yvette and Jessica Reed. We design clothes that are meant to be comfortable, wearable and inclusive for women of all age groups. We’re also lucky to be able to communicate and receive feedback directly from the actual women wearing our clothes – this helps us continually evolve and make each collection better.
Do you have a daily working routine? Can you describe it? How is your work inspired by or influenced by nature and your surroundings?
Growing up in Santa Barbara planted the seeds for our creative energy. Seeing the colors of the ocean daily, smelling orange blossoms, being surrounded by old oak trees as a child – a magical landscape was just beyond our backdoor and something that lives on daily in our minds. The majority of DÔEN’s color palette consists of dusty, warm and muted hues you can find in nature, especially in California.
Who are some current artists, creators, or people working in other fields whose work you admire?
Someone we have always admired is the late Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia. His commitment to Mother Earth and creating a supportive work environment is something we try to echo as we build our own company. His book, “Let My People Go Surfing”, shows us how a company can be successful while keeping their employees healthy, happy, and treated with respect.
Do you think community is important to creativity? If so, how?
From inception, we have built our entire business by tapping into and empowering the incredibly talented community of women we’ve been working alongside for years. Feedback and collaboration is 100% essential to our process. We’re surrounded by real-life muses, allowing us to design collections that are inspired by real women. There is nothing more gratifying than seeing our pieces worn by so many amazing women that have both hand-held and influenced us from the beginning.