Inclusivity In The Fashion Industry: Designer, Dara Senders, Is Paving The Way

Dara Senders, the emerging American bi-continental founder behind the namesake designer label Dara Senders, strives to combine the ease and refinement of American dressing with the chic and whimsy of Parisian culture to create sophisticated and beautiful collections for all women. As the first designer to launch a brand during Paris Fashion Week with size inclusivity at the forefront, Dara continues to express her celebration for all curves by way of fashion. Her attentive eye for detail and design innovations allows her to create beautiful hand Made in France with zero waste garments sought after by the worlds most stylish women including some of our favourite celebrities.

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Tell us about your journey to becoming a fashion designer?

My journey into the fashion industry is a very unique and interesting story. I was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease when I was 10 years old and still partially suffer from it till this day. When I had my good days, you would find me at dance class or theatre practice. When I had bad days, I would sit and watch TV shows like “Behind the Velvet Ropes” and “Fashion Trance” on the Style Network trying to soak up as much knowledge I possibly could whilst going through dozens of sketch pads designing what I wanted to be my first fashion collection.

As a 14-year-old wide-eyed fashion hopeful, I researched how to be part of New York Fashion Week and found they had a volunteer program. After writing to Seventh on 6th I was ultimately sent a rejection letter, because I was in high school. To my surprise, two weeks later I was invited to my very first NYFW show at Bryant Park as a perspective student of the Academy of Art University. My mother accompanied me and within 20 minutes of being in tents she afforded me an introduction with Fern Mallis; the founder of NYFW.  Fern Mallis asked what brought us to NYFW and I excitingly replied as to why we were there, told her about my rejection to volunteer, and expressed how much I still really wanted to. Fern allowed me to volunteer the following season as the only high schooler to ever do so. With my own ambition, this opportunity was the beginning of me paving my way in the fashion industry. After graduating from FIT with a Bachelor’s of Science in Fashion Merchandising Management with a concentration in Product Development in 2012, countless internships at brands including Carmen Marc Valvo and Bill Blass, lots of unpaid gigs, 8 years of fashion writing and blogging and lots hard of work and determination, I decided to start Dara Senders. A lifelong goal of mine that I am very passionate about and look forward to growing into a lifestyle brand for as long as possible.

What does fashion mean to you and what impact has it had on your life?

Fashion has always been huge part of my life. I attribute this to both of my grandmothers, my great aunt and my mother who were always dressing themselves to the nines while dressing me the same way. I did not appreciate this till I was a pre-teen. Their lessons are ingrained in my mind forever and definitely aid in my career, daily. Personally, fashion is an art form that we wear to express our thoughts, emotions and moods outwardly to the world. When I say art, I really do mean it. Drafting a pattern even for a simple well-fitting t-shirt alone involves a lot of skill, creativity, craftmanship and math in addition to fabric making and sewing. So, just imagine the skills, creativity and brain power needed to physically create a haute couture garment…!

Fashion has also been an outlet for me to dream, create and bring to life my visions. My brain never stops. I go to bed and awaken thinking about what new and innovative silhouettes I can create, fabrications I can use, photoshoot locations I can travel to, and business strategies I can implement. My mind is always creating and there are so many wonderful ideas and thoughts I want to share with the world and not having the ability to share all of them at the same time can be frustrating, but overall, I love what I do so much. It gives me great joy to be able to express my love for fashion this way. Seeing other women in my designs and loving how they look and feel in them is just the best! It is why I do what I do and why I love what I do, too!

What was it like to move to Paris from New York/New Jersey to follow your design dream?

It’s pretty ironic how my maternal Grandmother and many close family friends always knew I would wind up living in Paris. I do not know why but they were right! Prior to the Covid 19 outbreak I was still traveling back and forth from the US to Paris regularly for personal and professional reasons. Since March 10th2020 I have been living in Paris full time during what I think is one of the most interesting times in history to do so.

As for the creation of my brand between NYC and Paris; I had been in the process of creating my size inclusive brand in NYC since 2016. The major challenge I was facing was how sample makers would not work outside of the box. I was striving to design clothes that fit every woman effortlessly and comfortably knowing that basing my samples off a standard size 2 or 4 would not work. As it pertains to me, there is no such thing as a standard fit rule. During my second trip to Paris in 2017, while visiting my boyfriend who is French, (we met in New York City the year before) explaining my frustrations on this situation, he suggested I find a sample maker in Pairs. As crazy of an idea I thought this was, due to my lack of French and how costly I thought luxury couture houses could be, it was the beginning of what has turned into my dream career.  Starting a business is not easy, but starting one in a foreign country where you are not familiar with the business practices or even the suppliers needed, was very stressful and had its complications. However, I love being an entrepreneur, so each incredible challenge to overcome felt like second nature and manageable. After trial and error for about one year I found an atelier in Paris who completely understood my direction and brought to life my innovative technique for pattern making that allows the grading process for all sizes to be a winner. Within three and a half months I produced my first collection and became the first designer to ever launch a label at Paris Fashion Week with size inclusivity at the forefront. This was such a major life moment in which I am extremely proud of and could not have done without the grand support from my Parents and Boyfriend who collectively always push me to be my best. Since 2018, I have expanded my team of couturiers and I am incredibly thankful to them for understanding and believing in my vision and brand. It has never been more apparent to me that as a woman, we really can do it all and have it all if we set our minds and hearts to it!

Your collection ranges from XS- 5X, what is the importance of inclusivity when designing?

As a teenager shopping for clothes was a great struggle because of how Chronic Lyme Disease constantly caused my body to fluctuate in weight and swelling. I would dodge between departments often needing to shop in the “women’s plus-size” section to then needing my seamstress to alter everything to fit my body. I would spend hours crying on dressing room floors, I seldomly felt pretty, and I became anxious walking into clothing stores. For a girl with such a passion for fashion it felt like a big slap that screamed fashion was not made for me. As a teenager and young woman this was emotionally damaging.  It wasn’t until I went shopping for my senior prom dress where only two dresses in the entire state of New Jersey fit me, I knew I needed to one day make a change to the fashion industry.

I could never imagine building a clothing brand that did not cater to all sizes. I truly believe every woman should be given the opportunity to shop and own luxurious, stylish, beautifully hand-crafted couture quality clothing that fits to a T regardless of their dress size! When women feel beautiful and confident in their clothes no matter their size or silhouette it allows them to subconsciously and consciously exude a presence of power, confidence and self-assurance and this is what I want to allow women to do via Dara Senders. I want to provide them ability to share with the world how beautiful, unique, and empowering they truly are one garment at a time! This is one reason why sizing segmentation needs stop. Us women and men, too for that matter should not be split into categories based on size. This logic should just be common place in the fashion industry already. I am happy to be part of this change.

Could you share some advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs?

Building a busines is a never-ending road of discovery, learning, development and creation. I am learning new ways of doing business every day.  It is important to keep in mind that everyone’s experience with starting a business is going to be different. If you try to compare your work to someone else’s you will not get the same results. Also, please do keep in mind that not everyone will like what you are creating but there is definitely an audience out there that it will captivate enough to turn your business into a success.

If you have an idea, no matter the size, even if it’s been done before but you have an alternative to what already exists, go for it! What you thought a silly idea could truly be something of greatness. Never stop educating yourself, asking all kinds of questions, listing to the advice of likeminded and un-likeminded individuals to see how it can fit into your own situation, and mostly be able to take constructive criticism from everyone. Always listen to your intuition, never be afraid to leap out of your comfort zones! Furthermore, always be kind, polite and genuine!

What can we expect next from Dara Senders and your collection?

I am currently working on a new collection with some new categories I haven’t created yet. I am very hopeful to do more red-carpet celebrity dressing. I just designed a custom pink satin power suit for Actor Alex Newell for his Best Supporting Actor nomination at the 26th Critics’ Choice awards which was an incredible experience, especially during Covid. Stay tuned.

How can people learn more/get info/ purchase from the Dara Senders collection?

You can shop the Dara Senders label on our website DaraSenders.com and via Instagram, too.

PARIS, FRANCE – SEPTEMBER 26: Dara Senders (Photo by Kristy Sparow/Getty Images)

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