Today Jessica Gold has dropped by to talk about Dobbin Clothing, a small 13 piece collection that she just launched with Catherine Doyle. All the pieces in their collection are priced under $200 and use the same high-end Italian stretch fabrics as much more expensive designers (DVF, The Row, Carolina Herrera).
mj: I love the philosophy behind Dobbin Clothing, can you talk a little about how it came about. Was there a turning point where you and your partner thought to yourselves, there's a hole in the marketplace and a real need for these kinds of pieces?
jessica: The general idea for Dobbin came about roughly three years ago, right after Liz Lange Maternity (where Catherine was the Design Director and I was the Marketing Director) was sold. We thought seriously about what markets were underserved, and kept coming back to what's commonly referred to in the industry as the "Misses" or "Missy" market. We didn't love the term nor the offerings in the category; clothes for women 35+ plus were typically ill-fitting, poor quality and/or unsophisticated. We thought we could do it better, and could infuse our classic/vintage-inspired style into pieces that really fit and didn't fall apart.
We couched the idea for a few years; I ran a consulting business called JG and Co. working with young designers on their businesses, and Catherine went to work for a large retailer, developing a new business for them. But last summer, after watching e-commerce business and fashion start-ups pop up on a seemingly daily basis, we decided that we should really work towards launching this business in earnest.
Dobbin is an old English word for workhorse, and we want our clothes to be the workhorses of women's wardrobes. Shopping has changed so much over the past few years, and has become much more of a high-low experience. Our clothes are made of luxury European and American fabrics, in NYC, but are priced fairly at or under $200. We compete price-wise with much bigger lines and retailers, but don't think that it's right to charge a fortune just to achieve a certain quality or style. Women of all ages deserve quality clothes that fit and are modern. We worked really hard on our fit; it's meant to flatter real women's bodies. We recognize that women come in all shapes and sizes, and tried to address and flatter common problem areas (hips, thighs, upper arms, backs, tummies).
Our Spring/Summer Capsule Collection launched in late April and we've done really well so far and learned a lot about how women shop and what they're looking for. We've had big hits in our super-flattering Juliet Dress, Chase Ponte Pant and Stanton Stretch Canvas Pant (which has a hidden elastic waistband). This collection was on the small side (12 pieces) and combined wardrobe staples with some summer pieces that combine trend with wearability. We want our pieces to last you more than one season. We've had women aged 25-70 shop the line and moving forward, we are definitely sticking with an ageless attitude style-wise.
mj: Who do you see as being a Dobbin woman?
jessica: Good question! We see and are inspired by so many women we consider 'Dobbins'. On the whole, I think our customer is interested in style, but isn't fashion-obsessed. She has a less-is -more attitude towards shopping, and prefers quality and fit to fast-fashion trendiness. She's busy -- whether with a career, family, travel and/or hobbies, and needs items she knows will look great, feel great and hold up over time. We love the way Michelle Obama dresses; she has an excellent, consistent personal style that's classic with a twist of color or print, and she really knows what works for her body.
mj: Can you talk a little bit about the challenges and perks of manufacturing locally.
jessica: We're great proponents of domestic manufacturing in theory and in practice. The NYC Garment District is still a vital part of the fashion industry and we want to see it stay and grow as a source of new jobs and skilled craftsmen. It's key to us, as a small business, to have our production take place locally; we're able to check in on it, and to make last-minute changes if necessary. Of course, it costs more to produce here than overseas, but we plan to continue producing here in NYC. We don't have to adhere to long lead-times or high production minimums, or to pay for huge shipping costs, and we can control the process more easily here.
mj: You've worked in the manufacturing/retail industry for a long time--what made you decide to sell Dobbins online through your website versus stores?
jessica: Increasingly, fashion has become a more tech-friendly sector. By selling online only, directly to customers, we're able to keep our retail prices down. As you know, when you wholesale, department stores and boutiques mark retail prices up quite a bit, and we didn't think that would work for this line. I also come from a life in retail; I've been working in stores since I was 16. I prefer to work with customers one-on-one. We're able to give a great level of personal service and attention by selling directly, and to learn about what our customers want and need. We have free shipping both ways so it's possible to try on at home easily. Going forward, we're planning some trunk shows and pop-up shops so that women can try on in person. Long term, we'd love to have some of our own stores.
mj: What are the pieces from the line that you wear?
jessica: My two favorite outfits are the Griffith Stretch Pique tunic (very Jackie O in Capri) with the Joni jegging (which I practically live in) with the Carmel cotton slub jacket if it's cool and the Margot stretch printed jersey top with the Osa stretch printed jersey skirt which has more of a 70s feel when paired with wedges and summer jewelry.
mj: What are you long term goals for Dobbin Clothing?
jessica: We want to grow Dobbin carefully, and to continue to adhere to our devotion to fit, fabric, value and style. We want to listen carefully to our customers and to give them the product and the service they deserve. We also want Dobbin to be a brand that stands for real women of all ages and to have more brand-right content and community aspects over time.
Thanks Jessica for being a guest! Wishing you and Catherine all the best with Dobbin!