We caught up with our graduate and winner of Barclays New Business Award from GFW16, Danielle Reynolds. The founder and director of DVR Equestrian Sport shares with us what Graduate Fashion Week meant for her career and the benefits of the year in the industry that allowed her to make important and long-lasting connections. The young entrepreneur also tells us how revenant for overcoming financial problems was taking advantage of competitions and entrepreneurial programs available.
Which university did you attend, and what is the most valuable thing that you learnt?
I attended the University of Brighton studying Fashion Design with Business Studies. It is hard to put your finger on one aspect that was the most valuable, but I think it was a mixture of the manufacturing side (such as pattern cutting and sewing), time keeping, technical drawing and the business side of things in the final year was incredibly beneficial to me.
Tell us a bit more about your career journey.
My career journey started in my year out in the industry where I worked for designer Charli Cohen (another award winner from GFW). After interning with Charli, she offered me freelance work for after I graduate. This was part-time work I could do while preparing to launch my own brand (something Charli knew I always intended on doing). After winning the GFW Barclays New Business Award in 2016 I really wanted to push the idea and thought the collection would bring a wow factor to the launch of the brand. I carried on working on improving the designs and preparing for business further, but lack of funding was holding me back, so I applied for more competitions in 2017. Although I got nowhere in the DBACE Award, I placed 2nd in the University of Brighton Santander Ideas Award winning £1000 and a whole range of helpful business mentoring from different professionals.
After this, the Universities Alumni Entrepreneur Program ‘Bee Purple’ encouraged me to crowd fund to help launch the brand. I crowd funded via Kickstarter for 30 days in September 2017 and raised £10,000 to launch the brand. Our first products were live on the website that December, and it has been an absolute whirlwind from there with the brand steadily growing. I can’t believe it has already been more than a year since the Kickstarter!
How have you found life in the industry?
Life in the industry is great, my work with Charli is ever-changing and exciting, it also allows me to grow my skills in digital art and marketing; and Charli is also amazingly supportive in answering my questions when I get stuck on business matters for my own brand (such as working with overseas stockists). In terms of my own brand, the industry is slightly different being in the equestrian market, however, so far everyone I have met and worked with has been incredibly helpful and positive.
“IT MAY BE HARD WORK, BUT YOU WON’T REMEMBER THAT BIT; DON’T GET TOO STRESSED OUT THAT YOU FORGET TO ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE.”
Do you explore any political, social or historical notions through your work? If so, what messages do you hope to convey?
Many of my designs are made in the amazing Italian mill that creates technical fabric from recycled fishing nets and other plastics. This is a mill I learned of through working with Charli; and the use of eco-fabrics is something I am incredibly passionate about, so this is very exciting for me. My long-term plan is to have 100% of my products made from recycled or eco-friendly fabrics. In terms of recycling, I am also passionate about ‘as little waste as possible’; our hat silks are made from the leftover fabric from our leggings and base-layers and customers get to take their products away in useful cloth tote bags rather than single-use packaging. I also offer unisex products, something very new to the equestrian-wear market.
Where are hoping to be in five years time?
In five years time the brand will have its own separate premises (rather than myself working from home). I’d like to have offices attached to a physical shop in the way that Finisterre’s head-quarters do (another eco-conscious brand that I interned for in my year out) with a growing team as passionate as me about the brand. I see the STYLE VIS collection growing in terms of styles, availability of a wider range of sizes and colours. Other Core collections will include the training collection (already available), but also competition-wear and lounge-wear with a focus on recycled fabrics. DVR is about a type of person and a lifestyle, so I would love to one day even branch into home-wears and gifts too. By then DVR will be available in a wide range of stockists as well as attending international events.
Many say that the industry is undergoing a huge change, with sustainability, diversity and responsibility becoming huge themes? Do you have any opinions on these movements?
I completely agree, and I am hoping that by promoting the uses of recycled products and eco-friendly packaging will encourage competitors in my industry to consider these points more seriously too. In terms of responsibility, Charli and I regularly discuss what we didn’t learn at University that we’ve needed to know in terms of working in the industry, and this is something I am eager to pursue further in the future, through either practical ‘what you need to know for industry’ workshops or/and talking to university course leaders about what was missing. If not in these ways, I will definitely be taking on that responsibility in teaching the intern/apprentice that I am able to take on once the brand grows.
Lastly, to any students that are reading this in admiration of your career - what advice would you give to the students hoping to showcase this year?
Showing at Graduate Fashion Week is such an incredible opportunity. I am yet to know whether displaying my designs in the form of a show is something I’ll ever do again, especially in a venue like that, and for many of us that is the case so enjoy every second! It may be hard work, but you won’t remember that bit, don’t get too stressed out that you forget to enjoy the experience. Also, it may all be a bit too fresh to feel then and there, but I promise you will feel so proud of yourself when looking back in years to come; and what a way to finish your degree with a bang!
Words by Eva Kubacka