Dimepiece LA Founders Laura Fama and Ashley Jones on Staying True to Your Roots
Anyone with an eye on women's streetwear over the past decade is familiar with the brand Dimepiece LA (and probably owns some of their Dimepiece-slogan classics). Founders Laura Fama and Ashley Jones have worked together for almost 10 years to build what has become one of the coolest labels available for us bad bishes, all while staying true to themselves. Check out the interview below to find out about their thoughts on the recent boom in women’s streetwear culture, the inspiration behind their new DTLA store "FEELING MYSELF," and their biggest lesson learned in the industry so far: staying 100% you and keeping it positive and real 200% of the time.
9 years strong and counting, is this what you would have imagined your passion project, Dimepiece to grow into?
A: Yes and No. We knew we were both in it for the long run, but Dimepiece from the beginning started to take on a life of its own, it became our baby…so we continued to nurture it and raise it. Then at a certain point it was like, ok there's no turning back from here. It's been incredible to experience such growth, it's been like one decade long project that has afforded us to learn, travel and grow professionally and personally. We couldn't ask for much more.
What is an average day like in the life of Laura & Ashley? Any daily rituals or routines that propel your workflow?
A: I like to wake up and meditate before the office and before I look at my phone because as soon as we step into the office the tasks and duties hit you like a ton of bricks, so mentally prepping for that the morning of helps me not get over-stressed. From team meetings to shoots, to analyzing sales, marketing campaigns…I mean the tasks are endless and vary from day to day.
L: Definitely different for both of us. Usually, a quick run around the lake for myself, or we both like to meditate to clear our minds. We both live quite close to work, so it's very convenient and inspiring. We usually start off with some coffee, entering our new concept space which we built inside our headquarters, making sure everything is neat and restocked. We check in with our team and go through goals and projects we need to finish. Our team is small, but there is great energy and we all are a small family. We collaborate on ideas and designs constantly with our team. Daily rituals usually consist of balancing our social life and work schedule all in one. Keeping true to our lifestyle, and also holding space for our family and friends, keeps us sane in the bustling fashion industry of L.A.
We can all agree that youʼve left a positive impact in the fashion world. You both helped foster an empowering movement using clothes as a medium. Explain how your environment/upbringing influenced your creative thought process.
A: Laura and I are both from the Inland Empire. There weren't many opportunities there, especially in art or fashion, so I think that's what brewed so much tenacity in us; making a way out of no way, our environment helped us to get creative to make things work with what he had and not play by the 'rules.' That's been the underlying energy of Dimepiece for years, and I think it all started with our humble upbringings.
It’s dope to see that you’ve found a common thread that has allowed you to tie together the various influences in each of your lives. Now that you have an official Dimepiece store in DTLA called “FEELING MYSELF,” which opened its doors earlier this year, how has this impacted the neighborhood and the brand itself?
A: DTLA has been our home since Dimepiece day 1, and building a sense of community and trust over the years is important to us. The store has allowed us to get closer with our customers. For them to be able to come into our space and be in the energy has allowed customers and fans to understand our brand more clearly, I feel. It's so important to have good standing relationships in life, and I feel the store has enabled us to strengthen our bonds with our customers.
L: It's a bit overwhelming to see our simple ideas and designs come to fruition. As Ashley has said, "we’re looking forward to having a space where our clientele can physically shop and clearly get a sense of our brand. After 9 years of designing and creating, it’s exciting to finally reach this point and see our vision come to a new form of life, an environment that you can actually BE in, rather than just seeing online." We've always envisioned opening a store, but projects that intense take time, money and lots of energy. We're on the go every single day, so it took some time to really sit down and say, OK…let's do this and give it our all. We decided after 1 year of searching for locations, downtown Los Angeles is our home and where we started, so we stayed true to our roots.
Who was behind the concept storeʼs design and aesthetic? Will the store be open to the public?
A: Laura and I conceptualized and essentially designed the store, the aesthetic and layout. We had amazing help from A-Industrial Design, they helped us to bring our vision to life. The store is open from 10 am to 6 pm, Tuesday to Thursday, and we'll be having special sales and events at the space each month. It's truly inspired and pulled from our downtown city culture; really gritty, raw concrete, but with pops of color. The space features black walls along with illuminated mirrors and fixtures, while intricate wire weaving adorns the ceiling, giving the space an industrial and slightly futuristic feel. It's our first concept space, inspired also by our trips to Tokyo, symbolizing that the cool street store doesn't have to be sidewalk friendly or ground level. It's a hard to find location on the 5th floor of the Merchant Exchange building, located in the historic fashion district of downtown L.A. We stayed true to our downtown roots and didn't open up on the popular street of Fairfax, which is the hub of streetwear. We stayed downtown, where it's growing and blooming like crazy. We are right where we need to be!
What were the major catalysts in being able to open the store, and was this always the plan?
L: Last year we began with digital mock-ups of the space, and started out with the most outrageous goals, then deducted features from there based on what was realistic. It was important to start big and then get realistic, rather than the other way around. We faced recurring problems: building permits, build-out costs, inventory assessment, all while running online and wholesale…trust us there were setbacks that seemed to never rest, but we pushed through and finally finished it 7 months later with the help of our team collaborating with A-Industrial, they were angels to us.
We always make goals for our brand, and honestly, you realize over the years that when you constrict yourself to the size of a project based on fear of budget or a lack of confidence of the potential success of the project, it stifles everything…you never get there. So the catalyst for opening the store was a new sense of maturity and clarity within ourselves. We were just like, it's time. Let's throw all of our energy and ideas in the pot and start cooking.
Contemporary women’s streetwear culture has seen a major boom over the past couple of years. Why do you think that is? What are some of the key attributes to that happening?
L: I feel it's just girls wanting to be unique and comfortable. They want to just be, without having to over impress anymore. The carefree attitude is just what’s cool now, and that's reflected in the expansion of women's contemporary streetwear. I think women are leaning towards anti-corporate brands, it's more about originality now and wearing garments that you can't get just anywhere. They want to relate to a certain time or era, be comfortable and make a statement all at once.
We love to use phrases and sayings to translate what Dimepiece means to the culture of our generation, like "Ain't No Wifey" or our new caps that say "Pimp The System," "Catching Flights Not Feelings"…these are emotions and a state of mind that women of our age feel and think, and we give them a platform to share this with their friends through our clothing.
“Always stay true to what you’re good at, we've been swayed by so many different trends and input from other people, we sometimes lost sight of our brand vision and original style. The biggest lesson is staying 100% you, fu*k the bullshit, and keep it positive and real 200% of the time.”
What were some of the major challenges you faced as a brand in general when you started out?
L: It's a long list! Major challenges were definitely learning as we go. Learning how to produce something out of nothing, really. We started the brand right out of college with no investors and taught ourselves the rules of business and dealt with the roller coaster ride of the fashion industry very young.
We had each other to lean on for personal and business problems and issues, constantly building and going through challenges. The largest challenge was simply learning hard lessons over the years. It's been one decade-long lesson and growing experience; it's pretty incredible when I think about all that we've experienced and overcome as young women entrepreneurs in a tough industry, and to reach a decade still being completely independent kind of gives me the chills.
Do you still undergo the same types of challenges? What’s changed?
L: Yes, we deal with the same types of challenges, but we are a bit smarter now in dealing with professionalism in the fashion industry. I think mainly our identity as a brand, and staying true to our art and business has been the most challenging. We notice that the more true we are to our vision and designs, the more successful the feedback and outcome. It is hard to stick to it when you have so many people and entities constantly stating their opinions, judging, or wanting a slice of the pie; but we have a great team of people under us at our headquarters, they're ride or die, talented, ambitious, hungry to learn and help us everyday. It helps ease the growing pains.
In retrospect, is there anything you would have played out differently, considering what you know now?
A: Yes, of course. There are lots of business moves over the years we wish we would have played out differently, but we are firm believers that everything that happens is a lesson meant to be learned. In the end, we know it's all just as it should be for our optimal growth personally and professionally.
You’ve kept the branding behind Dimepiece pretty consistent over the years. Has the brand’s fan base changed in any notable way?
L: Dimepiece has always stayed true to our roots in L.A. We try and act fast on creating what we believe is dope and fresh to our own eyes and designs. Our fans have definitely matured and elevated their wardrobe in the past few years, but we've gained some amazing new customers who still vibe off our slogan driven items and Dimepiece classics. We don't see every customer, but we do feel an overall growth, we feel they have grown up…and we have too.
What would you say are the major milestones the brand itself has undergone, as well as for both of you personally with working on the brand?
L: We have a ton of major milestones, mainly our Baddie Winkle campaign on the front page of Yahoo News, Elle Magazine and Huffington Post. It went viral nationwide and was a great achievement last year. Rihanna wore us in best fashion moment in Vogue…that was awesome. Best of them all was Missy Elliott wearing our Dimepiece dashiki at the Let Girls Learn Initiative Campaign with First Lady Michelle Obama at SXSW, to discuss young women's relationship with education, and how not having it affects so many other factors of their lives and existence in this world. It aims to break barriers for the 62 million girls around the world who are not in school today. Our clothes on Missy Elliott with Michelle was a big deal for us, we felt like we were a part of American history.
Personal milestones have been enabling ourselves to run a business that started from the two of us, and expanded worldwide. We've afforded ourselves to travel the globe before the age of 30. It's also been so gratifying to be able to employ and give jobs to amazing people.
What has been your biggest life lesson?
A: Biggest life lesson business wise is to always stay true to what you’re good at, we've been swayed by so many different trends and input from other people, we sometimes lost sight of our brand vision and original style. The biggest lesson is staying 100% you, fu*k the bullshit, and keep it positive and real 200% of the time.
Now that you have a physical space, does the retail store offer the brand any other means of creativity?
L: We want to have weekly brainstorm sessions with creatives at our space, expand on various events at the store, and create our own mecca to vibe out with other creatives. Always building and always connecting with people downtown and our entire community.
Advice to upcoming and aspiring designers?
A: It's important to come from a place of creativity and love rather than hate and competition. So many young designers we see get caught up in the competition of the fashion world, that it becomes a creative block, whether they realize it or not. What you think, say and do each moment is your message to the world, so make sure it's a good one. Always inspire, break boundaries, don't conform, get advice from close friends who give you positive feedback, use your network, be kind. Also don't be an asshole in this industry, it doesn't get your anywhere!
What can we look forward to from Dimepiece that’s coming up?
L: We have exciting new collaborations in the works, expanding our online store, collaborating with more amazing designers and bringing back a ton of requested Dimepiece classics. We look forward to continuing to become a well-oiled machine and make 2017 the biggest year for Dimepiece yet. Also, maybe an all-female festival that fuses our brand, the community, women that are influencers, talented female artists, and hopefully it will be in downtown LA! Stay posted at @dimepiecela.
Photos by: Tasha Bleu