What the actual f*ck does Dee Silkie do?

What the actual f*ck does Dee Silkie do?
Dee Silkie

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 today 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 have to do with creativity. In 2012 I graduated from the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design with a diploma in surface design and textiles. I have used that training to develop luxurious clothing out of hand dyed silks. It has become my mission to prove the theory wrong (that there is no money in the arts) and to build a brand that becomes a household name. A brand that supports myself and other creative entrepreneurs financially. We are not looking for hand-outs. We simply want to be afforded the same luxury in life as people in other industries are, 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?
Not to sound cliche but we are more than a product, we are a lifestyle. There are many elements that make our brand unique:

1. The secret sauce to the Dee Silkie brand is being able to collaborate well with others (please see creative campaign with mental health organization Wear Your Label here for an example). We have used these relationships to create high end, visually stimulating marketing and content. This helps elevate the exposure of Dee Silkie as well as the talents of the other creatives involved in the project(s). 

2. The Dee Silkie clothing is made using ancient techniques such as shibori and silk painting, with modern practices such as machine sewing and trendy designs. The fusion of old practices and new designs make a magical blend which results in gorgeous, upscale, tie-dye clothing and wearable textile art. 

3. Besides great products and meaningful collaborations we also offer other fun "add-ons." The Dose of Dee Podcast (featuring interviews with Canadian artists and entrepreneurs) and the Silkie Girl Chronicles (an online weekly article telling the story of four made up characters created to reflect our current and future customers and their lifestyles).

What problem does your business solve? Why is this important?
1. 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 freelance artists), through the sale of quality products made by the Dee Silkie brand and collaborators.

2. Silk is amazing and we want to spread the word! The brand is called Dee Silkie for two reasons... One, it rhymes with my last name (Wilkie) and two, I love working 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 a super sustainable fabric that makes long lasting clothing. Plus, when it is finally time to throw the garments out, silk is naturally biodegradable! So no harmful effects on the environment. 

3. Although we have not thoroughly embarked on this issue yet, 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, for every 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 far too long. We have been able to diversify in terms of colour, race, and religion but it is our goal to 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 addition to supporting Canadian artists, AND using a fabric that is sustainable, AND changing beauty standards in the fashion industry (we know we are taking on a lot haha), in 2017 we launched a product called the "Kindness Boxers". The Kindness Boxers have the words "instead be kind" written on the waistband 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. 

As our way of giving back, Dee also collaborated with other organizations (free of charge) to create unique, one of a kind, wearable art pieces. These projects worked to elevate awareness around the specific cause the organization is trying to help. Examples of such projects are as follows...

1. We have made a series of hand dyed silk gowns for the Heart and Truth Gala which raised money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
2. We designed and styled hand dyed silk scarves for a mental health campaign with Wear Your Label.
3. We created screen printed, decorative throw pillows in partnership 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?
As a small business we are constantly faced with SO MANY challenges! I guess the hardest things for our brand are:
1) getting it in front of the right audience.
2) educating people on the benefits of silk.
3) trying to streamline everything that we are doing into one cohesive message.
4) selling enough inventory to raise more capital to expand on what we are already doing.

The Dee Silkie brand has two separate product lines. One is a loungewear line which currently consists of the Kindness Boxers. The Kindness Boxers sold exceptionally well and we would like to further this line with more messages such as "spread love, practice peace, and be joyful." The minimum order quantities for these products are quite high and we need to raise more capital to expand on this line.
We are so proud that our second line (our signature silk line) is made right here in Canada! This enables us to support the local economy, create employment opportunities for other Canadians, and create a line that is sustainable and ethical. The problem we are facing with this, however, is that there are so few sewers in Canada. This means they are charging premium rates which are extremely challenging for a small business to afford.

Are there any important or critical moments for your business coming up in the next 6-8 months?
We have been invited to showcase at San Fransisco Fashion Week. This could be a huge milestone for the Dee Silkie brand. 
We also plan on teaming up with another well known surface designer. The goal with this partnership will be to create new prints for our new sleepwear products and boxers, bridging the gap between our two current lines (casual loungewear and luxury silk line).

I hope this clears things up for you as much as it did for me! I welcome any feedback you have and would love to discuss the future of Dee Silkie further! 

- Dee

Photography: Trevor Lowe
Location: Steam whistle