Donna Mizani – LA’s Hardest Working Designer

Originally published at lookbooks.com, August 31, 2010 – Read the full text here

Donna Mizani works harder than most, and she loves and respects clothes. As an “up-and-coming” fashion designer in Los Angeles, her stock is on the rise, as she can count Kristin Cavallari and Kourtney Kardashian as fans. Despite her on-the-go mantra and her commitment to making a wearable, sexy brand women can trust, she still found a few minutes to tell us about what it takes to be a designer, what is in her future, and why she takes her job so seriously.

You’re 25, but you’ve been designing clothing and you have been inspired by the creative aspects of design for quite some time. Do you find that your age helps or hinders you as you establish your brand?

DM: It definitely helps. Being amongst a younger generation, concepts and new ideas are always flowing through me. I feel more inclined to take risks. When I was designing for a dept. store you have to be really safe. I was always getting into trouble for being too risqué.

I always knew that my thinking was too out-of-the-box, and I was more challenged by the prospect of being fearless. People look up to younger designers, because the youth tend to stay connected to what is current and relevant.

Kourtney Kardashian just wore one of your dresses on “Lopez Tonight.” Kristin Cavallari is a fan of your collections, and AnnaLynne McCord has been seen out in one of your dresses. Obviously, for a designer, exposure is a massive part of the industry. How do you react to growing interest in your creations?

DM: I was jumping out of my seat when I got the email [about Kourtney]. I thought it was a joke. It becomes so inspiring and it makes me want to create something that is bigger and better. It keeps me going. I feel like, “Okay, how do we get the next big star wear something by me?” It means a lot to me, and there’s an obligation to the people who are following these stars and learning about my brand through these stars to keep getting better.

You launched your official namesake brand in 2009, but you designed private-label lines prior. How different have the experiences been?

DM: It’s as if I left one industry and began in another. I had no hand in anything business-related before. When I started my company, it was as simple as figuring out what ink will be in my office’s printer to my budget and shipping arrangements. I basically gave birth to something. Now I’m creating looks, finding showrooms, meeting salespeople and marketing… Anything and everything you could think of, my hands are on it, all day long. It’s a different animal.

Not to say that I didn’t learn from the experience of working for someone else, but starting this company taught me so much. It’s still new, and I expect things to continue happening that I’m unprepared for. And it was worth it 100 per cent. As tough as it gets, there’s not one day where I think I made a mistake or I wish I did anything differently. Of course I have tough days, but we are building such a solid foundation for success. I have a great team around me that really believe in me and the line.

What do you think of the term “up-and-coming designer” as a description for you? Accurate, or are those terms just archaic?

DM: I think it’s a great name. People don’t know the brand yet, even though I’ve been designing for seven years. People always want to know what is “up and coming,” and the term tends to spark interest.

One example of how that term works is Alexander Wang, I feel like he is finally huge enough to not be “up-and-coming” anymore.

Where do you find, or seek inspiration from?

DM: I seek out inspiration through travel, my culture, my upbringing and everyone in my life. My life is far from dull. I’m always experiencing things. I paint a collection in my head, I look at fabrics and then, I begin to sketch. My pattern designer is a lot more practical, so she keeps me grounded. I daydream all day long and I have a constant ball of inspiration going through me. It has everything to do with what I surround myself with. But the process of design is very inspirational to me, one sketch allows me to create an entirely new collection.

What designers continue to impress, or shock you?

DM: There are so many amazing designers out there: Alexander Wang is at the top of my list. I feel like I can relate to him and his stuff is so gorgeous and wearable. Rick Owens is so dark and it is something I appreciate very much. I love drama and I think Rick Owens brings that to the table.

What is your relationship with clothes? How do you shop?

DM: I can spot ‘good style’ from a mile away. I wear my own stuff, but when I’m shopping in stores, I have an intuition for what works. You can just tell when a garment is well-constructed and is going to work well with your form. It may just be a by-product of working in this industry, but it’s like a sixth-sense. When you see a style that works, you just study and deconstruct it until you understand it. I really know what I like, and I can’t let go of clothes. I have such an organized library of clothes.

What is your current assessment of the industry?

DM: I don’t worry about it, and I don’t think it’s in trouble. I do think it is about price points. People are still buying luxury brands, but the most successful brands are the ones that are priced to sell. I’ve seen private-labels suffer, but there is still a demand.

I think it is going to improve, but we still need to be conscious as designers. I am always mindful of developing styles that bring costs down, especially as a smaller brand.

What is next for you, and what kind of reaction do you hope your collections evoke from buyers?

DM: If I knew, I wouldn’t be worried all the time! I want to continue to establish myself and find my place in the market. I want to build a trust with buyers, and give everyone the opportunity to know—and have a piece of, Donna Mizani. I will continue building those relationships. Ideally, this becomes a lifestyle brand, but it will take a lot of time to raise and create a mature, solid brand that people know and trust.

When a woman is wearing one of my pieces, I want her to feel confident that she’s going to look amazingly beautiful and sexy. I want her to know that the quality is great. My customer has an appreciation for style and fabric, and she’s a confident woman, and I know that. Whatever she ends up doing with the dress on, she is going to stand out in a crowd. She is going to look awesome when she leaves the house. What you’re wearing makes you feel good and that’s where confidence comes from. I want to help women show that side of themselves.