Dolores Haze designer Samantha Giordano is a girl after our own hearts - her feminist label (which launched in the Spring of 2014) is focused on social and environmental responsibility, which informs each step of their design and production processes. All pieces are made in a women-owned factory in NYC from vintage, deadstock fabric or eco textiles. The brand is extremely vocal about advocating for women's rights, and their muses are real women with inspirational stories. We had the pleasure of speaking with Samantha to learn a little more about her and her revolutionary label.
"Dolores Haze is inspired by juxtaposing Lolita's story in the novel with her portrayal in pop-culture. The duality of appearing hyper feminine, yet possessing an undercurrent of darkness continues to inform the brand aesthetic."
Can you summarize the inception of Dolores Haze the brand, and the context behind using the main character of Nabokov's Lolita as the inspiration for the name?
The conception of the brand came after I finished reading the book Lolita during a high school internship in fashion design. I thought to myself "Dolores Haze is a bad ass name for a fashion line" and I went ahead and bought the domain, knowing one day I'd have a fashion line. I was so inspired by the stark juxtaposition of Lolita's melancholic tale in Vladimir Nabokov's novel against pop-culture depictions of her as a precociously flirty archetype. The layers of Lolita, and duality of appearing hyper-feminine, yet possessing an undercurrent of darkness, provides an endless source of inspiration. I loved the notion of naming a fashion line after an infamous female archetype, and chose the name as a form of artistic commentary on the representation of female sexuality in Western culture. The wistful fate of Dolores Haze in the novel is prophesied by the root-word of her name, Dolor meaning pain or sorrow. This has provided so much inspiration, and has led us to incorporate Virgin Mary textiles in our designs. The name Dolores finds its origin from the Virgin Mary's name "Our Lady of Dolours", used in reference to the seven sorrows she endured.
What are some of the biggest environmental and social initiatives that your brand incorporates into your regular business practices?
We believe feminist fashion is ethical fashion, and we put that into action. Our environmental and social initiatives are all intertwined with our brand's everyday business practices. For environmental initiatives we seek to raise awareness about the fashion industry's impact on the environment by offering consumers transparency on the specific ways our production and sourcing methods are sustainable and reduce carbon footprints. All of our styles are made with love in NYC, primarily made with dead-stock vintage fabric sourced from local immigrant small business owners.
Socially, we strive to inform consumers about the meaning of fair labor regulations, and how the garment industry provides a means of social mobility for many immigrants. Often consumers don't know that they can support their political beliefs by how they choose to shop. We directly support women's issues via donating a portion of proceeds from our "Girl Power Collection" to Planned Parenthood, as well as by casting models that inspire us beyond just what their appearances. We advocate for a multi-dimensional portrayal of femininity.
What was the genesis of your passion for sustainable manufacturing processes?
I studied Sociology during undergrad so social responsibility (fair labor regulations etc.) were always of paramount importance. It was not until I later graduated from design school and embarked on a career in the corporate world of fashion design did I become passionate about sustainability. I saw first hand the chain-of-supply, and the amount of carbon emissions that can from only one style. I learned about the number of plane rides a product goes on before ending up in the consumers hands, the environmental consequences of harmful dyes, the use of pesticides in cotton production, how a dye-lot of discolored fabric often ends up in a garbage dump, and the harmful processes used to produce some synthetic textiles that are banned from commerce in states such as a California. After I gained that knowledge, I knew sustainability had to be, without question, part of my brand's identity.
Can you tell us more about your zine, The Female Gaze?
We produced the newsprint zine after teaming up with a girl gang of creatives: Brooklyn-based photographer Cheryl Georgette Arent and director/musician Nina Ljeti. The zine features a Q&A with Ljeti, Arent's 35mm and polaroid photography, and our own feminist text and favorite feminist quotes. The zine's namesake, the Female Gaze, is a play on the film theorist Laura Mulvey's concept of "the male gaze." Mulvey asserts how often in the film industry men were behind the cameras, creating their own narrative of femininity, and often portraying women as passive objects of desire. The name seemed perfect for a zine about featuring women who go behind the camera for work. We launched the zine with an interactive art installation that played with the idea of the gaze. We had several '70s televisions that looped photos from the zine, but every 9 seconds that screen would cut to a CCTV feed of the viewer watching the television taken from a security camera. The piece brought the concepts that influenced the zine into 3d.
What can we expect from Dolores Haze in the future?
More cute clothes, of course! More collabs with the fine artists and other creatives, video interviews, and informative feminist and ethical blog content!
What you’re currently reading:
I'm rereading Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity by Erving Goffman. The book changed how I perceive the world.
What you’re currently listening to:
I'm pretty PodCast obsessed! I listen to my favorite NYC comedians, Corinne Fisher & Krystyna Hutchinson, GUYS WE F****D: THE ANTI SLUT-SHAMING PODCAST. I'm also guilty of listening to NPR daily. My Spotify playlist is an eclectic mix of genres.
What's currently inspiring you:
Recently, I've been referencing Norwegian Black Metal. The musicians in the '90s adorned leather pants, jackets and vests, with lace up detail and silver eyelets. I'm a little obsessed. I'm also always inspired by childhood nostalgia. I spent so much time in Chinatown as a kid, buying fresh fish to make Italian food, and tagging along with my dad while he bought antique blue-china pottery. I was enamored with the dragon motifs, embroidery, lanterns, and mandarin collar dresses. I still the wear the Chinese pajamas I bought when I was little.
Do you have a regular self-care or beauty ritual?
It's pretty nonexistent. My self-care and beauty ritual is making sure I get enough sleep, which as an entrepreneur is easier said than done.