Dynasty George is ethically made, sustainably sourced, and handmade in Brooklyn from natural, recycled, and vintage textiles. Dynasty Casanova, the fashion designer and CEO of Dynasty George, spoke with MakersValley about how she started her label, connected with manufacturers to grow her brand during COVID, and made the transition from startup newby to formidable, confident brand owner.
Tell us about Dynasty George. What is that you do?
Dynasty: Dynasty George is ethically made and sustainably sourced women’s fashion brand. I really wanted to have a fashion brand that served a purpose and was meaningful. Right now, I hand make every single dress and I make it out of fabric that is either recycled, deadstock fabric, vintage textiles from curtains, or things I find at home sometimes. I also use organic textiles that are biodegradable as opposed to synthetic fibers.
During COVID, I really wanted to invest in a manufacturer, so I found this cute family owned factory overseas that is women owned. They made our Spring samples, and I’m so proud of this collection. One, that I did it while pregnant, and also because during the pandemic a lot of garment workers salaries went down 20% and they lost a lot of work to these big corporations making more profit. So, being able to provide a living wage for them, I paid all samples full price. I was just so grateful that I was able to self fund and pay them. And I’m excited because now we can have a size run from XS - 2XL.
How did you get into fashion design?
Dynasty: I’ve wanted to be a designer since I was 10. I was really into this movie called “The Cheetah Girls” so me and my friends would say that we were the cheetah girls, and I would design and draw our outfits. I knew I wanted to be a designer, and I would watch my favorite shows and redraw outfits that I loved. When I was in middle school I was looking up different colleges and I found FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) and from that search I found my high school. It’s a Chelsea-based school called the High School of Fashion Industry, and I majored in fashion design. I went there and did four years, graduated, then I graduated from FIT.
I started working in the industry for a bit and I just saw so many problems with it. One of them being that it’s really toxic in general; it can be really toxic and draining and very competitive. It’s also not creative when you’re working for these third party private label places. It was very unsustainable – we always had a lot of backstock and samples that would go to waste. I knew that I wanted to make my own company, my own brand, make my own rules, and create a company that centers around my values.
Do you think that going to school for fashion was helpful for what you do now?
Dynasty: For me personally, yes. If you want to start a fashion brand, a lot of times you need to start off with a lot of capital. I covered so much cost by knowing how to make things myself. How to make patterns myself, how to fit things myself, and sew it together. Initially I really didn’t have to source for samples or production. Right now I get a boutique order and I’m doing everything myself. I’m doing the size run and production because I was trained in that and I’m proficient in it. If you’re really good at raising money and you need that capital, you can source that. You can source a seamstress, you can source a sample maker and you can source production. So for me personally, not having that initial capital, I set up my business with the knowledge I got from fashion school.
If you want to start a fashion brand, a lot of times you need to start off with a lot of capital.
I think in terms of running a business, that’s knowledge that I kind of acquired after. I understand how social media works because a lot of my clients do come from Instagram. I figured out how to do a website by going on YouTube, and I taught myself how to build a Squarespace site. So a lot of things I really did research on in terms of growing a business and being an entrepreneur. That wasn’t taught at school; it was here’s how to pattern make, here’s technical stuff. FIT is very technical but it helps if you want to learn how to work in the industry. But if you want to be a business owner I don't think fashion school is necessary if I’m being completely honest. I think if you want to know your trade more and understand how garments work you should do school. If you want to be a fashion owner there’s so many ways you can do it.
What has been a challenge as a designer that you have had to overcome?
Dynasty: Trying to get your brand out there. I was using social media, but still 3,000 followers is such a small community. So I struggled with helping it grow and making it profitable. Once things were sold that’s it, so many more people want it and there’s no more fabric.
And in the beginning I didn’t know how to price things, if I’m being honest. I was super shy about putting a certain amount on my products, but then I realized that I’m putting a very low amount for something that took a lot of work and a lot of hours to make and I’m not getting that profit back. Knowing how to value my work and value what I do was a struggle, but when you work with a factory it’s so much easier because you get the sample price and production price, so now I know mathematically how to do my retail price. So it helped me on pricing and leaving that price as it is and not having to justify it so much. If someone is really into your product and interested in your brand, they’re going to understand your pricing and they’re going to invest in it.
What has been the most memorable and rewarding part of being a designer?
Dynasty: I have so many memorable moments. It may sound small, but memorable to me is when people DM me or comment about how much they love my brand and how much they love my aesthetic and how much they love an outfit. And that is so gratifying for me. During COVID there was a following of more black owned businesses and that’s how a lot of people started following me and they would say wow I’m so glad I found your brand, I love your stuff. And it’s so gratifying that it’s a real person who loves my brand, which is an extension of myself. But this year two things that I’m most proud of was that I was featured in PopSugar in September and also that I started working with this small factory overseas. I’m so happy; it’s very different then working with a huge factory because you know the people personally and are building a relationship with them.
What motivates you to keep designing and run your business?
Dynasty: Well this year I had a baby. And during COVID, I was pregnant and home; I thought if there was any time that I was going to start my business it would be now. And now I have my beautiful son and I wanted to show him how important it is to follow your dreams. Before COVID, I was only doing this part-time while working full time in the industry and my dream was always, always to be a mompreneur. To have a home based business, so I can take care of my son at the same time. My son is what motivates me and just that dream of wanting my own business and being a mom.
You collaborate with other artisans too. What is it like working on designs with others?
Dynasty: Yes, I went to Mexico with my friend. I went first to study abroad and then when I was there I met this girl and we became good friends. So, I went back to Mexico with her and she has a brand out there and I got to meet all her artisans. I love it! I got to see their families and their work and their community. Right now, because it’s just me, it’s hard to communicate with someone overseas. You have to live there I think. When you’re working with someone overseas and you’re trying to get certain things communicated, WhatsApp is not the best way. So in time I would definitely like to have someone over there to help me with that. But I want to keep collaborating with artisans and keep uplifting communities.
When you’re working with someone overseas and you’re trying to get certain things communicated, WhatsApp is not the best way.
What is something about the fashion business you would like others to know?
Dynasty: Understand how it works. People want things for $20, $30 but they don’t realize that it's $20 because the person who made it got paid less than $20. There’s a markup, there’s a price of how things are made, the cost of goods, the fabric, thread, if there’s a button or zipper, and then labor. And you also have to think about the wholesale price when they’re selling to other retailers. There’s so much costing behind how a company works and people don’t realize that and they want things to be done super cheap. But if you want someone to get paid well and to make a living from this industry, you have to pay a little more.
What advice would you give your younger-self and other new fashion designers?
Dynasty: I would say perfect your product and you don’t have to go wide. Don’t grow your business wide, grow your business tall, in the sense that, get one dress style and perfect it. Then make an Instagram, make a brand, make an aesthetic, have people in that community follow you and just go from there. You just need one good product, just be sure the product is made well. Make sure that if someone gets it, it’s not going to rip apart that it’s going to hold up and be a good item. And build a community, if you build a community that’s the best part of having a brand, you're centering people around the same aesthetic, or same vibe together that they can appreciate and buy from you.
You just need one good product, just be sure the product is made well.
Follow and Shop Dynasty George
Going forward, Dynasty George plans on making Mommy and Me dresses, and there will be a Kickstarter campaign launched in March. Checkout her website and follow her on Instagram.