What the actual f*ck does Dee Silkie Do?!
I get asked this question time and time again. Although most days I get confused by this because to me it seems so obvious, other days I am right there with you and actually have no clue.
I received an email which had an open call to apply to be a part of an upcoming documentary series. The application consisted of a short questionnaire about my business. The more I thought about my answers, the more I realized that this was a really beneficial exercise for me! So I copied and pasted the questions and my answers below. I hope that this helps clear things up for you as much as it did for me.
Why did you start your business? What was the inspiration? What was the goal?
Ever since I was a kid I was told by family and friends that there is "no money in the arts". Unfortunately for me (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) the gifts I have been blessed with in life all circle around creativity. It has become my mission to prove that theory wrong. The goal for the Dee Silkie brand to create full time work for myself and other artists by creating gorgeous, high quality fashion that sells well enough to be able to pay everyone involved a sustainable income. We are not looking for hand-outs. We simply want to be afforded the same luxury in life as people in other industries, which is being rewarded (in money) for hard work and exceptional products and services.
Can you tell us about your business and what makes it unique or interesting?
Besides being able to collaborate well with others (please see creative campaign with Wear Your Label here for an example) the Dee Silkie brand is very unique because most of its products are either hand dyed and or hand made. The clothing is made using ancient techniques such as shibori and silk painting, with modern practices such as machine sewing and modern design. Because of the fusion of old practices and new designs, there is magic that occurs which results in gorgeous upscale tie-dye clothing and wearable textile art.
Besides great products, we also offer many wicked add-ons including our Dose of Dee Podcast (featuring interviews with Canadian artists and entrepreneurs), video content on Instagram (which show a behind the scene look into what it takes to build a house hold name), and the Silkie Girl Chronicles (launching next week, which is an online weekly article telling the story of four different "silkie girls" who are made up characters created to reflect our current and future customers and their lifestyles).
What problem does your business solve? Why is this important?
First and foremost, artists do not get paid enough or at all for their hard work. The Dee Silkie brand aims to create meaningful employment (for employees as well as collaborators), through the sale of quality products made by the Dee Silkie brand and through collaborations with others. Secondly Dee Silkie aims to help support the Canadian economy by continuing to make high-end fashion in Canada. Through sourcing fabrics sold in Toronto, and having 99% of our manufacturing done in Toronto, jobs are created and the local economy is supported. For our one product that was made over seas (the Kindness Boxers), a Canadian graphic designer was hired to retouch the design, and Canadian brand ambassadors, photographers and models were used to advertise for the brand. This continued the support of artists financially as well as keeping jobs in Canada.
Thirdly (and we have not thoroughly embarked on this issue yet) but our long term goal is to increase our sizing with all of our products so that we can dress bodies in all shapes and sizes. In the fashion world, every size you make costs more money. That means that for ever garment Dee Silkie designs/sells, we have to pay for each size to be graded and a pattern to be made. As a small start-up we have not been able to afford many more sizes than the standard small, medium and large. However we are hearing a cry for more sizes and want to make sure that Dee Silkie is a body positive brand that does not exclude anyone. The fashion world has only catered to a certain definition of beauty for too long. We have been able to diversify in terms of colour, race, and religion but it is our goal to one day (hopefully soon) be able to diversify in body size as well.
Does your business have a social or humanitarian element to it? What kind of impact are you trying to make?
In additon to supporting Canadian artists, and changing beauty standards in the fashion industy, in 2017 we launched a product called the "Kindness Boxers". The Kindness Boxers have the words "instead be kind" written on the waist band and serve as a reminder to be kind to yourself and to those around you. Acts of kindness can be small things such as buying a co-worker a coffee, holding the door open for somebody or smiling at a stranger.
We also collaborate with other brands and organizations to create unique one of a kind wearable art pieces to elevate awareness around the cause that organization is trying to promote. We have made a series of hand dyed silk gowns for the heart and truth gala which raises money for the heart and stroke foundation, styled hand dyed silk scarves for a mental health campaign for Wear Your Label, and created screen printed decorative throw pillows in collaboration with a local Syrian refugee family.
Can you walk us through some of the challenges you're currently dealing with? What is making success difficult?
Oh man, as a small business we are constantly faced with SO MANY challenges! I guess the hardest things for our brand is A) getting it in front of the right audience B) educating people on the benefits of silk, C) trying to streamline everything that we are doing into one cohesive message and last but not least selling enough inventory to raise more capital to expand on what we are already doing.
I feel like I have explained most of our challenges above except for B) educationg people on the benefits of silk and so I want to explain that a little bit further. The brand is called Dee Silkie for two reasons. One becuase it rythmes with my last name Wilkie, and two becuase I love workthing with silk and silk blends. Silk is one of the most durable fabrics in the world. It reduces odour, wicks away moister, regulates body temperature and is great for all skin types. It is also bio degradable and lasts forever thus making this a super sustainable fabric that makes long lasting clothing. As I mentioned above I am having a hard time educating people about this wonderful fabric. People seem very cuasious about the care instructions of silk and seem to think that the clothing they purchse has to be dry cleaned. Since I hand dye all the fabric myself the fabic has already been washed and is perfectly capable of bieng able to go through a regulare cold wash cyscle with your other clothes.
The Dee Silkie brand has two separate products line. One is a loungewear line which currently consists of the Kindness Boxers. The Kindness Boxers were selling really well at first but sales sort of halted and we feel like our current customers are tired of seeing ads and content surrounding that product. We sold enough inventory of that product to cover our costs with a small surplus however we still have inventory left that isn't moving. We want to increase our online following so that we can market the boxers to fresh eyes. We are confident in the fact that, once a new audience sees them, they will sell out since they did so well with our existing audience. Once we have more capital from the sales of the rest of the boxers, we will expand the loungewear/boxer line to include more messages. In addition to spreading kindness we want to make products that serve as a reminder to spead love, joy, peace and patience.
We are so proud that our signature silk line is made right here in Canada! This enabled us to support the local economy, create employment opportunities to other Canadians, and create a line that is sustainable and ethical. The problem we are facing with this however is that this is a totally different market than the Kindness Boxers. We are currently in the process of building a new online following and customer base so that this line will start to sell as well as the Kindness Boxers.
Are there any important or critical moments for your business coming up in the next 6-8 months?
I have been invited to showcase my line at San Fransisco Fashion Week. The cost of the event alone is $2500.00 USD, not to mention travel and accommodations. I am trying to figure out a way to make this feasible as I believe that this could be a huge milestone for the Dee Silkie brand. Major buyers and distributors are said to be in attendance, including Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. Many smaller boutiques will be there as well looking to partner with brands to carry in the coming seasons. One of Dee Silkie's team goals for 2018 is to get into retail stores. We believe that this will elevate our brand's reputation and legitimacy to customers, drive up our online sales, and create jobs (within the Dee Silkie company or freelance work).