Dagne Dover’s Female Cofounders Champion Sustainable Fashion
By MeiMei Fox
As the fashion industry moves increasingly in the direction of sustainability, Dagne Dover has emerged to meet consumer demand. The eco-conscious brand creates bags, backpacks and wallets with a functional minimalist design built for today’s modern lifestyle, able to transition easily from work to play to travel. It was founded in 2013 by three women – Melissa Mash (CEO), Deepa Gandhi (COO) and Jessy Dover (CCO) – all of whom have a passionate commitment to environmentally and socially conscious business practices.
All products from Dagne Dover’s signature + leather line feature Repreve recycled linings and dust bags created entirely out of plastic bottles. Many items are 100% vegan. The company focuses on ethical manufacturing, minimizing waste and avoiding toxic chemicals in production. Dagne Dover’s flagship store is in Soho, and products are also sold in all Nordstrom locations in the U.S. and Canada, as well as online.
“As a company, we’ve always loved what we do, but initially the lack of sustainable material options was an issue that we didn’t feel 100% great about,” say the cofounders. “Now, we are prouder than ever before about the products we’re introducing to our customers. Sustainability hits home because as parents, we always are talking to our kids about climate change. We have to do our best to preserve nature for them.”
Melissa Mash is a cofounder and the CEO of Dagne Dover. She says her life purpose is “to discover, innovate and advocate. My life’s purpose isn’t something I decided — it’s what I noticed energizes me and what I gravitate towards. Your life purpose reveals itself to you when you really sink into who you are and attune yourself to the things in your life that fill your cup.”
Mash remembers reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau in high school and learning about the concept of “sleep-walking through life.” It had a profound impact on her. “For me, pursuing a career that I’ve created for myself is the best way I’ve been able to achieve the feeling of freedom. Having pursued entrepreneurship, I can choose how I keep my work ever-changing and fulfilling,” she explains.
“There is nothing more empowering than turning dreams into reality, especially for others,” says Deepa Gandhi, a cofounder and the COO at Dagne Dover. “I love celebrating and championing people, and I want people to feel empowered to live a life they’re proud of. I’m inspired by others that built their own path and didn’t let the rules stop them.”
Gandhi considers herself fortunate to be able to pursue a career that has value and meaning. “Being able to spend my day doing what I love allows me to bring a positive and empowered energy to anything that I do,” she says. “This path allows me to combine my passion with my day-to-day which leads to a sense of immense fulfillment and joy.”
As the cofounder and Creative Director at Dagne Dover, Jessy Dover designs the company’s products. “My passion for design led me to product design, and I fell in love with designing bags from there,” she says. “My successes guided me, and my family and friends encouraged me to move towards my desires despite all the challenges I encountered along the way. Bold humans who have overcome prejudice and beaten the odds have always been my inspiration: my mother, Frida Kahlo, Virgil Abloh, Jil Sander, and RBG to name a few!”
Being an entrepreneur is difficult, Dover says. “Your conscious mind is in overdrive more often than not. It’s needed to make important decisions, so there can be a lot of feelings of fatigue and pressure. Being a designer is also very vulnerable. Putting your heart out into the world day after day can be heart-breaking and even embarrassing.” However, the rewards make it worthwhile. “The beauty is in the wins and the successes, and the people you meet along the way.”
As soon as the Covid pandemic started in spring 2020, Dagne Dover and Rhone co-founded Brands for Better, a group of digitally native brands who came together to donate a portion of proceeds to Covid relief organizations such as Feeding America, The CDC Foundation, and Save the Children. The program has donated over $4 million so far.
To others who are looking to align their career with their life purpose, Dagne Dover’s three co-founders offer this advice. “When you’re just starting your career, it can feel like ‘everyone is on a path but me.’ Don’t compare yourself to others. Invest time and energy in pursuing things that light you up. Additionally, just because you’re good at something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s serving you. There’s a distinction between the two, and understanding that distinction helps you also make better decisions about your career.”
Photo Source: Dagne Dover