Cool Friends: Dani Des Roches of Picnicwear
Meet Dani, designer and maker behind the new slow-fashion brand, Picnic wear. She sources and re-works vintage towels to make up her signature bucket hat creations and we cannot get enough of it. Her inspiration comes from garments made by women in the 50s and 60s and the towels they used to purchase at department stores. Each of her pieces are unique and her launches are in small batches so stay up to date on her IG to be able to snag one of her amazing pieces!
In a weird way it happened by accident… or perhaps better put, organically. I graduated from FIT not long after the last recession and needed to get a job that would sponsor my visa (I am Canadian)… I found myself in Fast Fashion and got stuck there for almost 10 years! While I had some incredible experiences over the course of my career, I felt like all I was doing was “peddling trends” that furthered this narrative of buying new things every season only to replace them as they fell apart or as there were new fads for the consumer to adopt. As an individual I had stopped buying new clothing entirely at this point, so it just felt icky to be a part of this system. I was never into drinking the kool aid or dressing the part to fit in with the office culture, so when I got my green card after getting married, I decided to venture out on my own. I had big plans to start my own knitwear brand produced domestically but reality set in as I really started to understand the finances associated with funding a brand (before even knowing if you had the customers). I ended up freelancing with different brands and launched my own vintage knitwear design inspiration studio, but as with many people, everything came to a stand-still once the pandemic hit last winter.
Being at home and without work, I found myself wanting to make things with my hands. Naturally, I started with masks (and have continued making them since last April) but wanted something more fulfilling! I didn’t have any fabric available, but I did have a couple of vintage beach towels! I made a pattern for a hat from scratch and settled on the flounce brim because I couldn’t figure out how to get the right angle for a bucket hat! I shared it on my personal IG account and got some really positive feedback so I decided to make more. Once I realized there was a demand for what I was creating, and I could actually start re-framing my place in the fashion world, I jumped in feet first and have not looked back.
What's your favorite part about the New York creative community?
That’s actually a tough one for me! I never really have felt like I was a part of the NY creative community. I went to school here, and then left for 4.5 years. When I came back I was working in the corporate fashion world and honestly felt like the creativity had been sucked out of me. Since I started Picnicwear my creative community has been fully online! I am super excited for a time when I can actually meet more people IRL and really start collaborating with other local creators. Actually, I used the word “picnic” in the name because I was drawn to the concept of people coming together and all contributing something to a common interest. While Covid has made it tough to really imbue the values at the core of the brand, I certainly hold the ideals of community high in the structure of the brand’s DNA. I have some really exciting collabs coming up though, and I’m thrilled!!
What’s inspiring you right now?
I am (always) inspired by the way things used to be - the good parts! The fashion industry has become unrecognizable from where things began - we have been programmed by profit-driven retailers to think that we need to be buying new clothing all the time, when our grandparents had just a handful of garments! They respected their clothing, they made things by hand, they took care in washing them, they repaired them and they wore things over and over again. My appreciation for the towels I use in a lot of my designs came from makers of the 60s and 70s! They saw these towels as a luxurious textile (because hell, they are!) and fashioned them into robes and dresses.
I’m also inspired by the old school notion of a cottage industry! The plan now, is to build Picnicwear up to fit into this framework; a small-scale, decentralized manufacturing business operated out of the homes of sewists, rather than a factory. I want to reinterpret the idea of production for a fashion brand. When I say that I often get challenged with “well how do you scale?” but I am comfortable with the fact that I will only ever be able to scale so much! I’m also inspired by the idea of scrapping “seasons” and “collections" and working in a more flexible framework.
@picnicwear on Instagram