Local indie fashionista Domini creates custom clothing to embrace your body as well as your beliefs
Your body is fine—it’s the cut that isn’t. These are the words of Domini, a local fashion designer and ergonomic clothing architect who creates custom clothes designed to fit each individual’s body, lifestyle and beliefs.
“People come to me saying, ‘I have to lose five pounds so I can fit in this outfit,’” says Domini. “There’s something wrong with the cut—it’s not you. Body types are different. Manufacturers will cut to a median that everyone tries to fit into. I’m trying to get people into the mindset that if something doesn’t work, they can change it—rather than people thinking they have to change themselves.”
A recent transplant from the San Francisco Bay Area, where she was one of the front-runners of the underground “indie fashionista” movement, Domini currently works out of her design studio in Sand City and is expanding into the Santa Cruz area.
Her philosophy of couture seems a perfect fit for this eco-groovy enclave. Not only are her clothes designed to embrace an active lifestyle so characteristic of Santa Cruz, but she also avoids mass-marketing, focusing instead on ‘upcycling’ used clothing and remnant material to create unique custom-made fashions designed to express the personality of the individual wearer.
“I like the styles that have come out of Santa Cruz,” says Domini. “They are very body-friendly, put-together and ready to dance.”
After holding several trunk shows in the area, she became excited about the potential of collaborating with underground artists and designers in Santa Cruz. And now that one of Domini’s colleagues—Anastazia Louise, owner of the couture costuming company Bad Unkl Sista—is relocating from the San Francisco Bay Area to Santa Cruz, plans are underway for a slew of trunk shows, local runway walks and Swap-O-Rama-Ramas.
The idea of a Swap-O-Rama-Rama, first conceived in New York City by textile reuse visionary Wendy Tremayne, is a concept that complements Domini’s fashion design model. It’s akin to a clothing swap among friends, but with a twist: designers are on hand to help turn someone else’s old digs into a new outfit, custom-fitted and embellished to embrace the new wearer’s body and style. Everyone brings a bag of old clothes and they all walk away with haute couture that can’t be found in a catalogue or department store.
“We are actively looking for collaborators to participate in this type of event,” says Domini. In fact, collaboration is the cornerstone of her design philosophy: collaboration between artists and designers interested in building a local, grass-roots fashion industry—but also, just as important, collaboration between clothing designer and wearer.
“I like people to be involved in the process of creating (their clothes) because I’m creating off their personality and energy,” says Domini. “It’s so important to me that we give people some autonomy in their clothes and their look.”
This is partly why Domini has made an active decision to move away from the mass-marketing retail model of the fashion industry. All of her clients come to her for personalized clothes that she more often than not designs on the spot. She has clients that travel from San Francisco specifically to buy her custom designs. And there are several people who wear nothing but clothes created by Domini.
Why would someone travel from a metropolitan area to the quiet fringes of Monterey Bay for fashion? Perhaps it’s because of Domini’s sleek designs that complement the individual body structure in a way that commercial pattern grading, based on a “median” body type that no real person has, does not. Domini says it’s all about the pants.
“People say I have ass voodoo. They tell me, ‘My ass looks really good in your pants.’ All my friends who have been pregnant say my pants worked the best throughout their pregnancies. They wore my pants the most and up to full term—and they made them feel good.”
This isn’t because Domini makes maternity pants. Rather, she makes stretch pants, jumpsuits and body-hugging garments that are designed to move with the wearer—even if the wearer’s body is “moving” to accommodate a baby.
This makes sense, considering that in addition to being a fashion designer, Domini is also a classically trained dancer and Gyrotonics instructor (an exercise system often compared to Pilates). She considers her “bread and butter” to be her line of active wear that she creates for Gyrotonics trunk shows. But if you ask how her philosophy of clothing design is different for exercise wear versus dance wear or the edgy street wear she creates, she’ll tell you that it’s not.
“I don’t see much usefulness in segregating your wardrobe,” says Domini. “Clothing should clothe you in all the things you do throughout your day. You shouldn’t have to change your clothes for exercise or work or going out. People shouldn’t have to look sloppy—even when exercising.”
Dressed in sleek black stretch pants and matching tank, both subtly embellished with a red velvety ruffle that seems to curve perfectly with the contour of her body line, Domini adds, “I live in these clothes. In Gyrotonics I’m doing fluid, dancelike movement. If I want to get fancy, I accessorize—I add heels, a necklace and a belt.”
Combining her passions of movement and creativity with fashion design, Domini views the garments she creates as holistic clothing. She adds, “I see my career coming together so I’m working my whole life so that people feel really good in their bodies.”
How a particular garment feels on a person’s body is one aspect of holistic clothing. But another aspect—and an equally important one to Domini—is how people feel about where their clothing comes from. This is another reason that Domini chose to move in a different direction from commercial fashion design.
By avoiding mass production, which often depends on low-wage overseas labor as well as an enormous amount of fossil fuel emissions, she keeps the environmental impact of her clothing design to a minimum. By purchasing the ends of fabric bolts from the fashion district in Los Angeles, she salvages up to 10 yards of material per bolt that otherwise would have gone into the landfill. And by reconstructing used clothes, she saves garments from the fate of the more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person that the EPA Office of Solid Waste estimates Americans throw away every year.
“One of the best things to do to stay eco-friendly is to look at your old clothes and upcycle them,” says Domini. “We’re so close in our culture to taking control of our own fashions.”
For updates on fashion events, to inquire about collaboration or to set up a design consultation, see clothingarchitect.com, badunklsista.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.