At first glance, Dinna Soliman belies the caricatures painted by the media of a hot, new design talent. Dinna Soliman is not self-absorbed or ostentatious. No grand gestures or lengthy diatribes on fashion as art, or on how she is going to take the fashion world by storm. Forget funky coifs or body hugging, peekabo statement garb; that’s just not her mode of expression.
Don’t be fooled by Dinna’s diminutive frame and demure visage – still waters run deep. And that rich pool of creative genius is expressed in her signature collection that brings in North African elements, nautical influences and non-traditional fabric choices.
I first saw Dinna’s collection at Harlem Fashion Row, where her collection stood out as the most retail friendly of all the collections. This is a woman who knows how to combine innovative design techniques with a business acumen that not only attracts consumers, but keeps them coming back.
With positive reviews and layouts in WWD, Lucky, and A La Mode, Dinna Soliman is making the fashion world stand up and take notice. Good things do come in small packages!
What is your background and how did you get involved in fashion?
Dinna Soliman: I started out as an architectural student at the University of Maryland, College Park. I loved architecture, but I missed NYC and came back to the metropolitan area and transferred to FIT. I was interested in fashion as a teenager, but didn’t imagine myself having fashion design as a career. It wasn’t a career path my parents would have chosen for me, but I went ahead and did it anyway.
After FIT you worked for a variety of design brands. What was that experience like and what did you learn working for those brands?
Dinna Soliman: What I learned working at other companies was an understanding of fashion design as a business. I learned how to merchandise, deal with sales peoples, work with factories and teams of people. The product that I was working on wasn’t necessarily my dream product or my specific aesthetic, but I learned how to design for a specific customer.
Way did you decide to branch out on your own and start your own brand?
Dinna Soliman: I felt I needed to get out my own creativity. I needed to bring together what I learned in the eight years working for other companies and marry that with my own product. I worked for an outerwear company for a while, and I took some of those outerwear elements and worked with that type of product and paired it with my sportswear aesthetic. I use materials that you don’t normally think about using as sportswear materials.
What is your design aesthetic?
Dinna Soliman: I try to take unconventional techniques and fabrics and bring them into sportswear. I take a lot of inspiration from technical things, like wire from hardware stores, or padding from upholstery shops, and nylon from rip parachutes. For my DONUTS by Dinna Collection, I take some of those elements and makes them more utilitarian for a mass market. The concept of DONUTS is fun, sexy, easy garments.
Why the name DONUTS?
Dinna Soliman: A friend of mine gave me that name. I decided to use that nickname for my collection because, like donuts can be comfort food, this line is comfortable, easy clothing.
What was the inspiration for your Spring 2010 Collection?
Dinna Soliman: The inspiration for this line is the aquatic. I take inspiration from nautical things like the seersucker, the pastels, and mesh netting. My colors are sand and a seafall blue. My DONUTS Collection is more bright pop colors, street influences, and some North African influences.
Back in October you showed at Harlem Fashion Row. Could you talk about that experience?
Dinna Soliman: The show was amazing, and the producers were professional and did a great job. Four designers, including myself, were given the opportunity to present our collections. We all got a lot of great press out of it. Some of the press said that of all of the designers, my collection had the most retail viability. Also, the producers helped put the four designers in contact with Federated Department Stores that turned into a great consulting opportunity.
In January 2010 you launched an e-commerce site for DONUTS by Dinna?
Dinna Soliman: I decided to start the site as a different avenue to reach customers. Since a lot of my clothes are in boutiques located in big cities like NYC, a lot of consumers outside of metropolitan areas don’t have access. This commerce site will hopefully fill that void. This brings the consumer directly to me, and I can control what is available to the customer. I don’t have to rely solely on stores carrying my line. I may have pieces that stores don’t believe in, so that garment won’t get picked up; however, my commerce site makes my entire collection available to shoppers.
What has been the response to your e-commerce site so far?
Dinna Soliman: The response has been good. I am going to do some promotional campaigns for Valentine’s Day. And bloggers are spreading the word about the site.
Do you think a lot of emerging designers will be following suit and starting their own e-commerce sites?
Dinna Soliman: Emerging designers have already picked up this trend as a way to increase sales and broaden their customer base. And more designers are jumping on this train.
What type of woman wears your clothes?
Dinna Soliman: The Dinna Soliman customer is really edgy, a showstopper who wants to standout. Metropolitan, downtown, artsy girls could use Dinna Soliman for their entire wardrobe. The DONUTS woman is more utilitarian, and the clothes can be dressed up or dressed down.
Have any celebrities worn your clothing?
Dinna Soliman: Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas has worn some of my garments, and R&B singer KeKe Wyatt performed in one of my dresses a couple of weeks ago. On Ugly Betty, some of jackets keep getting recycled from one season to the next.
Where can shoppers find your collections?
Dinna Soliman: Dinna Soliman can found in smaller boutiques in NYC like Patricia Fields, and both collections can be purchased through my website.
What are the price ranges for both collections?
Dinna Soliman: Everything for DONUTS retails for under $150 and Dinna Soliman retails for $200 to $600.
What can we expect from your 2010 Fall Collection?
Dinna Soliman: For the DONUTS by Dinna Collection, I will be using jersey and French terry. For my Dinna Soliman Collection, I will also be using the parachute fabric choices that were in Spring Collection, but I will inject leather. Dinna Soliman will have glammed-up, futuristic looks while DONUTS will have a more American utilitarian approach.
Dinna Soliman’s collections can be found in Patricia Fields and several tristate boutiques. For more information about Dinna Soliman, go to dinnasoliman.com.