Starting your own fashion label with Danielle Kay
Ashlee Smale | On 22, Jul 2020
Brisbane born, Danielle Kay is an entrepreneur through and through. Having started the first of many businesses when she was just 19, four years ago Danielle launched dk active which has grown to be a worldwide brand.
Having just launched the latest collection for dk active and Sleepy Dee, we were beyond excited to chat with Danielle about building a brand, her journey in the fashion industry, and her advice for those launching their own label.
The Creative Issue: First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. I am so excited to get to ask you a few questions and I know our readers will be excited to hear a little more about you, your journey and dk active. Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Danielle Kay: Sure thing! I grew up in Brisbane and have always been creatively minded. I’m very hands on and I love to DIY! I married my partner of 8 years last year and we have a beautiful rescue dog named Otis and our first baby on the way! I find there’s nothing better than spending time with my friends and family at the coast, where I feel most at home.
TCI: You are an entrepreneur through and through. I know you own other businesses as well, so tell us about your journey to deciding to work for yourself? Did you always know you wanted to work for yourself?
DK: I am very independent and driven, so I knew from quite a young age that I wanted to have my own company. I started off with a property management business when I was 19 and grew that for a few years, however decided to pursue my real passion – design so I moved to the apparel industry instead.
TCI: Since launching in 2016, dk active has grown exponentially. Can you tell us a little about when you developed an interest in fashion and why you decided to launch dk active?
DK: This is something that fell into place for me along the way. I’ve always been passionate about design. Throughout my childhood, my head was always full of design ideas; from fashion, housing and even industrial design. I was fortunate enough to follow my passion through different courses, with studies in both design and creative arts.
This really translates through to one of my favourite facets of activewear design – it’s almost like problem solving! I work with the shape of the body, and I really take the time to think about how people move and feel in their clothing, and what I can do to make that a better and more positive experience for them. I noticed the lack of empowerment and diversity in the activewear industry and I felt strongly called to fill that.
TCI: You’ve made it a founding concept of your mission for dk active, to be that your clothing line is ethical and sustainable, which we absolutely love, can you tell us about this as a priority for you?
DK: Being conscious of my environmental impact is something that resonates through each part of my life, so it was very important that this carried through to our business practices. In the beginning, I visited lots of manufacturers and was really unsatisfied with the conditions that I saw – and after a long time of trying different manufacturers, I still couldn’t find the quality I was after. So that’s why I decided to do it myself! I couldn’t accept anything less than a fair, fun and ethical workplace for all of my team that help me work towards my dream! Plus, I am such a hands-on person I just love being part of the team creating the products here in Brisbane.
TCI: What does a typical day look like for you?
DK: Well… it looks a little different lately! But usually it begins with an early AM walk with Otis, a coffee and then get ready for work. Once I’m in the office I check in with our manufacturing team to see how production is going, then I start fielding emails and phone calls. From there a typical day might include checking analytics, deadlines, designing, testing or tweaking new garments, planning photo shoots or working on new marketing ideas!
TCI: I know you launched Sleepy Dee in August last year. Can you tell us a little about how Sleepy Dee came to fruition and how the first year is going?
DK: Sleepy Dee had been quite a while in the making before we finally had the chance to launch it last year! I wanted to bring those same ethical and environmentally conscious business principles to the sleepwear sector. We only use the highest quality, natural fabrics and we are very proud of this product. The first year has been a great experience – we’d learned so much from the dk active launch that we were able to implement with Sleepy Dee. It’s been a lot of fun working across two very different brands that stand for the same message of ethical production and diversity.
TCI: What key 3 pieces of advice would you have for someone that is wanting to start their own label?
DK: Do your research! It’s very overwhelming, but you are better off being prepared. It also helps you to connect with other businesses/suppliers/consultants etc. if you have a clear idea of what you want and what you are looking for.
Don’t let others lead you astray from your goal! Everyone will want to put their own two cents in, and whilst that feedback is important, make sure it aligns with your gut instinct and your idea of what you want your company to look like.
You don’t have to settle for less. If you want the best, you will find it, it might just take a little longer 😉
TCI: Out of all of your achievements, what has been your proudest career moment so far?
DK: This is a hard one to pinpoint! My favourite moments are when I see people out and about in my brand. I always do a double take and get super excited seeing it! Also seeing celebrities in our clothing, recently Eva Longoria posted her dk active and that was a really amazing moment.
I also think a massive achievement is having such an amazing team – I feel really proud of all the work they do and what we are all working towards (stay tuned!).
dk active and Sleepy Dee are sustainable and Australian Made products manifesting from Danielle’s commitment to delivering sustainable fashion. Each piece is modern and sophisticated and expertly handcrafted in Brisbane, Australia.