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Meet Trailblazer Dana Camille Case

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dana Case.

Dana, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Having a fine artist as a mother exposed me to drawing and painting from a young age. If she was finishing up one of her paintings and didn’t feel quite right, she would call me into the studio as her mini counsel, asking what the painting was lacking. I took my job seriously, as a 5th grader, studying the composition and color palette until I could produce an adequate answer. After I gave my answer, she would nod in approval, trusting my eye. I was drawn into something that made me feel alive and I was grateful to be able to explore the arts from a young age, ultimately deciding at 18 that I wanted to study fashion design. Fabric was the medium I knew I wanted to work with as an artist. Two weeks after getting my BFA in Fashion Design at the University of North Texas, I was on a plane to New York City.

During my career producing clothing in the heart of the garment district, I had my hand in just about every aspect of the industry from sourcing, designing, fitting, costing, and grading. After living in New York for a few years I realized the lifestyle wasn’t for me. I was surrounded by so much concrete that I started yearning for the wild and lush green landscapes of my childhood. After seven years of working in the city, I was ready to move back home and live life at a slower pace. I knew that by moving away from New York, I would leave behind my connections in the industry, along with my job options. Making the move away from the city would force me to strike out on my own, which innately was the path I was supposed to be on. So I took a chance at building something. I had to try. Even if I failed, I needed to know at least I gave it my all. Four years after leaving New York, I have settled in a small town north of Austin and am gearing up to launch Of the Wild’s first collection.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Let’s just say I started missing my pattern makers and large sample rooms back in NYC almost immediately after moving back to Texas. We don’t have the kind of garment production infrastructure that New York has. This time it was just me. I was also bootstrapping this endeavor to the extreme, meaning I was going to do everything myself from the sewing to the branding. I wanted to make a product at the highest quality I knew how. It was one thing to tell your pattern maker and sewer what kind of finishing you wanted but now I had to physically execute those myself! So I dusted off the old pattern making books from school and dug in, trying to decipher old notes. It has taken every ounce of college schooling and industry know-how to do this by myself. Not only was I trying to re-teach myself pattern makingI was doing everything by hand. You have to be very accurate to create garment patterns that will be graded into many sizes.

Copying each style over and over again by hand in order to make corrections after each fitting was daunting as I needed to copy them precisely. I worked out methods that made all the processes go faster, slowly getting better over time. I needed to design pieces that would uphold specific attributes to achieve the quality of garment I would be proud to hand over to a friend. It was a grueling challenge to meld together these four attributes: non-toxic, strong seams, classically influenced design, and locally produced. A couple of years of trial and error and the Valley Collection was forged.

If you are just starting on this journey, then please give yourself lots of grace! Creating a product and business from scratch has its triumphs, but it also has many failures. If I was going to keep this dream alive, I needed to start thinking of my failures in a positive light. For example, if I could learn anything from the inability to execute a design or finishing, then I could not count it as a failure. Changing my perspective on failure allowed me to keep moving forward.

We’d love to hear more about Atelier of the Wild.
Of the wild is a made-to-order atelier that focuses on creating beautifully engineered clothing for women. Only after an order is placed do we cut and sew the garment for you. Of the Wild’s first capsule collection is season-less, meaning it will be available year-round and comprised of everyday staples. Moving away from the industry norm of creating five to six new collections a year, I started to form a small library of pieces we can wear for specific purposes, also keeping the garments comfortable enough to wear for no purpose at all. Less is more in this case.

I moved back to Texas to cultivate a slower and more thoughtful way of life. I wanted that way of life to be reflected in the clothing I made. I wanted to build a studio and brand that prioritized our relationship with the earth and its people. Fitting many body types in organic and more sustainable fabrics that will last the wearer a long time, even becoming heirloom pieces, was paramount. Think of it as stepping back in time to purchase a dress 60-70 years ago. Your closet was not crammed full of every type of garment there was, as it is today. A paired down and more curated utilitarian approach was taken to everyday wear. Everything had a purpose. I wanted those types of pieces in my closet. I wanted to invest and curate a purposeful wardrobe that carried me through the different phases of my life. Investing in the longevity and timelessness of a piece, not only for myself and others but for the earth as well.

Which women have inspired you in your life?
I think it all comes down to my mother, Mary H. Case, who is a Houston based artist. She has shown me what a life of following your calling could be like. Lots of ups and downs but at the end of the day, you are working for yourself, fulfilling your creative spirit and showing others your point of view through art. I got to be a part of that life and knew it was the right choice for me.  Watching my mother create in her studio solidified the fact that working with my hands was going to be the key to my happiness. It became very soothing for me to engineer shapes this way, allowing my mind to focus on the present moment. I knew that if I followed this path, then everything else would fall into place. With that much passion funneled into one trade, it would increase my chances of success. Getting to watch my mother have the courage to follow her gut and never give up on that dream or letting it get the best of her has shown me what is possible.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Madeline Harper Photography

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