Shavonne Dorsey is the 2011 Designer-In-Residence at Chicago Fashion Incubator. We had a chance to chat with Shavonne about her line, the ‘woman’ she is designing for, inspirations and future aspiration in an exclusive interview.
Shavonne, you had been very busy lately re-branding, appearing in shows and events. How do you keep up with it all and still find time to design?
Shavonne: Very true! I think as a designer, you’re always designing in your head. It’s just finding the time to actually sit down and sketch the concepts out on paper. As for keeping up with everything… DEFINITELY my calendar in my phone is my best friend! I’ve learned to use it for just about everything!
“I design for women with curvaceous and full figures. My designs are known to compliment and flatter several body types.”
What is the size range of your designs? What body type you’re designing for?
Shavonne: My line is available in sizes 8-24. I design for women with curvaceous and full figures. My designs are known to compliment and flatter several body types. In addition, my designs are created to camouflage areas of the body that most curvaceous women are sensitive about (i.e. abdominal, arms, etc…) but and flatter other areas (i.e. legs, shoulders, etc…)
Tell me about the ‘woman’ your designing for.
Shavonne: The woman that I design for is powerfully feminine, sophisticated and confidently curvy. She celebrates her body and understands how to dress it up and not necessarily cover it up.
Where do you find your inspirations?
Shavonne: I am inspired by several things. I am usually inspired by how we feel as women when we look our best – simply put – Beauty. Lifestyles of my clients also serve as a great inspiration when designing.
What is your approach to designing for a full figure?
Shavonne: My approach in designing for a full-figure woman is to provide her with garments that create illusions that her body may not posses; such as an hour glass appearance, elongating the legs, or even lengthening a short torso through my designs. My approach is geared towards creating the experience of sophisticated beauty in a Shavonne Dorsey dress.
“I decided to approach the clients directly. I found out more about what they want and what they currently are not being offered. Now, I am able to connect directly with my clients and design what they want.”
You used to sell at boutiques and have stopped, why?
Shavonne: After researching, I found that 75% of American women are a size 14. This is the average (and majority) size in America. Shockingly, less than 20% of retailers cater to this population. Instead of continuing to challenge boutiques to carry larger sizes, I decided to approach the clients directly. I found out more about what they want and what they currently are not being offered. Now, I am able to connect directly with my clients and design what they want. I wanted to offer a product and level of service they could find in boutiques.
What was your experience dealing with the boutiques?
Shavonne: My experience in dealing with boutiques was that they absolutely loved my designs, but believed that full figured women do not shop at boutiques. Perhaps, they do not shop there because the sizes don’t go beyond a 12. Respectfully, most boutiques don’t want to take the chance of having an item in their store for which they do not have a current customer. They saw it as a risk, but I saw it as an opportunity. On another note, there are a few boutique owners that have started offering full-figured sizes. I prefer to connect directly with the women who are wearing my garments.
With your ‘woman’ not being accustomed shopping at boutiques since most don’t carry the size, how do you find your customers?
Shavonne: I certainly believe in networking and especially social media. It’s almost imperative to Facebook and Tweet among other social media networks. I also meet my customers through hosting trunk shows to introduce new pieces. My business model is created to connect directly with my clients.
I heard you were on your way of doing your Master’s degree when you started your label. How did you discover your passion and decided to make the jump?
Shavonne: I have a very strong medical sales background, but I realized that I absolutely loved sketching and designing. When you can find a career that brings you joy regardless of the countless numbers of hours contributed, it’s probably your destiny.
How did you find out about Chicago Fashion Incubator?
Shavonne: I found out about CFI by attending a fashion discussion panel during Chicago’s Fashion Focus week. That’s where I met Lara Miller, who was the Director of the CFI. I mustered up enough courage to speak to her and showed her my Look Book. She was extremely nice and said that I should apply.
And what’s the application process like?
Shavonne: The application process is very thorough and truly forces you to think deeply and seriously about what you are trying to achieve with your business.
What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted into the program?
Shavonne: I absolutely screamed and couldn’t believe it! I kept reading my acceptance letter over and over. Amazing!!
“It has truly taught me more than what I knew, allowed me to experience things that I may not have been able to achieve on my own and most importantly has served as an excellent launch to my fashion career.”
As a current designer in residence at the Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy’s, what your experience has been like with the program?
Shavonne: By far, the experience at the Incubator has been splendid, valuable and totally unforgettable. It has truly taught me more than what I knew, allowed me to experience things that I may not have been able to achieve on my own and most importantly has served as an excellent launch to my fashion career. I would recommend anyone, who is serious about designing, to apply. It’s definitely something that you won’t regret doing!
What have you learned, while being part of the program?
Shavonne: I have learned countless things such as the power of branding, knowing your customer, line budgeting, and even sales strategies. Due to the workshops and on-going mentoring received, I have learned countless things that I consider valuable and extremely applicable to my business.
If you could go back in time to when you were staring up, what advice would you give to yourself?
Shavonne: I would have budgeted and priced my garments differently. I also would have researched more prior to launching.
What are your future goals and aspirations for your label?
Shavonne: My future goals consist of increased growth as a nationally recognized full-figured designer. I also would love to start a more casual everyday wear line of dresses.