SUSTAINABLE: INTERVIEW WITH KELSEY DRAGO

We all know that when we dress to impress, we feel at our best and have the benefit of confidence. With minimalist fashion comes a lack of physical clutter, which can also help to clear the mental clutter. When you feel and look light, you may find yourself feeling happier and fulfilled. In the fashion industry, concepts like ‘capsule wardrobe’ propose a reduced but high-quality, timeless wardrobe. It challenges the complex and fast-paced fashion industry with its numerous collections, overproduction and overconsumption. The application of minimalism on the business level in the fashion industry has not been researched yet. Therefore, we aimed to explore how minimalism is perceived and applied on the organisational level in the fashion industry and its contribution to ecological sustainability. That’s why we had a conversation with Kelsey Drago.

DRAGO was founded in 2021 by Kelsey Drago with the goal to create an essential go-to summer wardrobe. Simple, elegant, and easy to wear.

From one small business to another. The idea behind DRAGO is to remain conscious in what we wear, how it’s made, and who is making it. Fabric’s are sourced from other small businesses within the US. Each of your pieces are made to order by Kelsey and DRAGO’s small team of 2. Shop DRAGO here: https://www.kelseydrago.com .

”Join our mission to waste less and mean more. Let’s change the way we wear.”

– Kelsey Drago

SUSTAINABLE: INTERVIEW WITH KELSEY DRAGO

Describe yourself as a creative and how your label was born? 

At heart I am a beach girl who grew up on an island around nature. It has always inspired me to add elements of earth into my designs. I think each design starts from a tranquil state of mind and then you interject inspiration to figure out what the final product should be. 

As I moved along in my professional career, I pushed myself to excel into cities such as Atlanta, Boston, and New York which of course is where fashion happens. This changed my creative process to not only think about design but to think about purpose. I have spent most of my professional career in retail where I was able to see the last stage of a garment’s life cycle and which direction it would take. Whether it would be a sold-out hit or something that never resonates with clients; it has definitely changed the way I look at the fashion industry. Every time I start a new design, my brain goes in all sorts of potential creative directions, however, the business side of my brain must approve of the creation to move forward… will my clients find its purpose, or will it live to die? This also leads into the topic of sustainability, and the questions of whether or not the world needs one more garment that wont succeed.

Having been working in New York City right when the pandemic hit, I decided to spend that time back in my home state in the town of Newport, Rhode Island. It was then that I was given the right amount of time to revisit and focus on myself, my health, and my creative side (something that I had been neglecting for quite a while). I started my brand around one goal – start small and then grow. I wanted to centralize my designs around quality and fit over quantity. My main focus was “the Summer Dress”; a dress that was meant for everyone and almost every occasion. I liked this idea not only to keep sustainability at the forefront, but it also allowed me the ability to connect with females across the board. My dress is a moldable canvas that is given life when the person who wears it adapts it into their wardrobe and personalizes it.

What is the most challenging issue for an independent label? 

Sometimes the biggest challenge is to not be overwhelmed with knowing what direction to go in. There are so many pieces to the puzzle to make it all work and come together in the right way. You really need to have knowledge of not only design, but sourcing, business development, press, networking, production, finances, and the list goes on. My best advice is to just start creating. You don’t need to have the answers to everything all at once, and you can focus on the other avenues as they arise. Without a physical product, the rest is not relevant.

What’s the main impact of social media in both ways, buying and brand marketing? 

Social media is so important and feels like a gift. My first dive into creating collections was in 2014; social media was not much of an option then. You had to be really scrappy with how you would be able to get the brand recognition needed to give life to your business.

With social media you have that resource at your disposal 24/7. This is HUGE when it comes to presenting your brand to millions of viewers without needing an agency or team behind you to get you there. There are so many tools that allow you to market your brand the way you see fit. With social media, you have more buyers than you can keep up with.

How do you manage to choose your models in order to spread better the diversity issue through your label?

My model in this campaign is actually me, which does not show much diversity but was more of a convenience and time sensitive decision for this collection given Covid restrictions. I wanted to dive back into design quickly and reminded myself to keep it simple and stress free. For our next shoot that will be happening in the Spring, I would not only like our campaign model to reflect diversity but also our IG page. I am always asking our clients to share any post with us so we can showcase the range of people who are wearing our garments. All are welcome. 

What do you think is the biggest challenge regarding your work?

Having enough capital during the beginning stages of your brand is always a challenge. I am still maneuvering my way through this.

For now, all of our dresses are handmade internally; this can be challenging when trying to keep up with orders. This is however a part of our sustainability goal to not over produce and have tight eyes on the production process, but also something that we need to consider down the road as our client base grows.

How do you think your label can play an important role in your daily client’s life?

I want my garments to make my clients lives easier. I think this collection is a clean, easy, workable canvas when deciding what to wear. You can mix and match by adding layers depending on the occasion you are dressing for. I want them to feel confident and also make the label their go to wardrobe selection.

What do you think about the opportunity of selling your pieces online nowadays?

I think it’s the best thing a business owner could ask for. I’ve worked in retail most of my life so I have a soft spot for that one-on-one client relationship, however, you miss a lot of potential connections by not selling online. It opens up the ability for everyone to access and experience your brand. If someone on the opposite coast is introduced to my label, well than that is a good day for me, and hopefully them.

Imagine that you must write a letter to your FUTURE SELF. What would you write?

I’m not quite sure what I would write to my future self because I now believe in letting life guide you in the right directions. Perhaps to my “past self” I would say, take every opportunity presented to you, start building relationships as soon as possible, and DON’T OVER THINK IT! 

I think fear of the uncertain and not feeling knowledgeable enough for an opportunity hindered my growth straight out of design school. The universe tends to drop opportunities in our lap that it wants us to take even when we don’t think it fits; don’t drill the path you think is best, lean toward the path that is guiding you, otherwise it just creates more resistance.

Building relationships is so important. Not only can it open doors for you to succeed, but it may also relate back to your years later with a lead or collaboration.

Over-thinking anything is an awful idea. Put your best foot forward and see what happens, re-evaluate from there.

– Kelsey Drago

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