WHO REALLy is…
Co-Founder and Director of Product Development @ Dovetail Workwear
Sara DeLuca is Co-Founder and Director of Product Development at Dovetail Workwear. Based in Portland, USA, she makes all-season, all-reason utility apparel for women who get dirty in their jobs and lives.
How did you meet your co-founders? How did the magic happen?
Sara: My co-founders, Kate and Kyle, are former landscapers. I was a client of theirs. Knowing I’d spent my career in the apparel industry, they asked for my help to make a workpant they needed for their jobs but could not find in the market – as women. When they asked for something stylish but functional for their dirtiest task, I told them they’d better be really serious. Because I’ve always wanted to make utility apparel for women. I’ve seen utility apparel shortchanging women for too long, with the “pink it and shrink it” approach, where everything is designed for men and women’s workwear is an afterthought. And it’s so refreshing to make apparel to fill a real and long overlooked need, versus designing in a vacuum. Kate and Kyle’s challenge was the one I’d been waiting for. I dropped everything and we’ve never looked back.
So you have created a workwear brand… for women. How did your market react?
Sara: The response was beyond anything we could have imagined. Our first pant, the Maven Slim, sold out so fast we couldn’t keep up. Women embraced that pant like they’d been waiting for it their whole lives. Because for many of them, they had. A well-constructed workpant, with truly functional pockets, in a stylish silhouette, made of a comfortable and really high quality stretch denim (by Cone), with 4 inseams, and patterned for women… we did extensive testing to make this pant right for working women. We partnered closely with tradeswomen and other testers in very tough jobs to develop the proto, so by the time the Maven Slim made it into the world, she was good and ready.
Who are your targets? What kind of jobs are they doing?
Sara: We make clothing first and foremost for anyone who does physically demanding work, indoors or out. Our core demographic is tradeswomen (such as construction workers and plumbers), women in natural resources (such as farmers and environmental scientists), and makers/artists. The job descriptions run the gamut and we love talking to and about women who do tough jobs. But our clothing is also stylish enough to appeal to anyone who simply wants great pants with real and thoughtfully placed pockets, for their DIY/ gardening/ outdoor adventuring lives.
Despite the fact that it’s a women’s brand, what differentiates Dovetail from the other workwear brands?
Sara: Relationships. Be they with individual women who wear test for us, or with trade organizations, or suppliers, we take business personally and we have been building our relationships from the get-go. Also from the beginning, we rejected the notion that functional workwear couldn’t be stylish and well crafted. We love bringing in performance fabrics, functional details from the outdoor world, and premium details that often get overlooked in workwear. We look to Europe and Japan, both regions that have much more progressive attitudes towards workwear in general. And I think it’s fundamentally different when you are making a product not because it’s “a market segment in which a corporate leadership team sees potential,” but because you and your extended team, partners and weartesters ARE the women – you live it, you breathe it.
Why did you choose this name, Dovetail?
Sara: A dovetail joint in hand-crafted carpentry is very strong: strength and quality come from the interlocking of pieces, which aptly describes our company’s collaborative nature. We started as three founders and we continue to prioritize collaboration in every facet of our business. When things “dovetail”, they just come together in a beautiful way. That’s been our journey so far.
Workwear is related to sturdiness. What are your secrets to make long-lasting denims ?
1 We pay more for our fabrics, we invest in custom fabrics, and we partner with suppliers who are constantly innovating.
2 Great partnerships are key. Our most innovative fabrics come from collaborations with ISKO, Artistic Milliners/ Cordura and most recently, Foison.
3 We take craft to the yarn level, whether it’s a beautiful slubby yarn or perfect shade of indigo. We believe workwear denim can and should be as beautiful as premium denim. Many of the women we work with are craftswomen and artists. Our fabrics speak the same language of texture and color as wood, metal, glass — just a different substrate.
4 We believe in circular design, designing products that can be used more, made from safe and recycled or renewable inputs and made to be made again.
Your instagram account shows workers in their everyday job outfits, far from the mandatory aesthetic of other denim brands. Is it important for you to show real life women ?
Sara: We’ve never needed to rely on models because there are so many incredible real women who love wearing Dovetail. To see a person you admire wearing your brand is to see it come to life right in front of you. We are making clothes, but there’s a purpose behind our brand. And no one wears Dovetail better than the women who really need Dovetail. For this reason, we’ve never had sponsored influencers or ambassadors. We want Instagram audiences – and anyone else – to know that the women they see wearing Dovetail are wearing this brand because they love it, not because they’re paid to love it.
Where can we find your brand ?
Sara: In more than 200 stores across the US and Canada and at our site shop.
Can you tell us a relevant trade show anecdote you have witnessed ?
Sara: I do have one story of love at first sight a few years back. I’d been doing some research on the innovations between the women at Artistic Milliners and Cordura. Separately they had been hearing about this new scrappy women’s workwear brand out of Portland, OR (us!). When Ebru Ozaydin, Cindy McNaull, and I met in person and realized how much our brands and ideas aligned, it really was one of those perfect moments in time. I think men have designed and produced what they think women want for so long, it feels really freeing to take that power back – nowhere more so than in workwear.
What is your very personal passion and why?
Sara: Being outside. I live in the Pacific NW. Whether hiking, biking, stand-up paddle boarding, or skiing, being outside is pretty much where it’s at. I’m trying fly fishing this weekend!
If you could meet one legend, who would it be?
Sara: I meet legends every day at Dovetail. My work is filled with weartesters doing the most extraordinary work. Truck drivers, plumbers, wind turbine technicians, ranchers, women who make, build, farm, fish, and otherwise do jobs that many might consider ordinary, but they require real grit and guts and are not always in welcoming workspaces for women. When I read our newsletter or look at our Instagram, it blows my mind that we get to associate with such exceptional women. These are the true groundbreakers and innovators. I’m in awe of them.
What’s your favourite song?
Sara: “Yer So Bad,” by Tom Petty.
If you could teleport yourself right now, where would you go?
Sara: We recently did product development with the women on this amazing fourth-generation Lakota ranch in South Dakota. I told my daughter that if I disappear, that’s where she could find me. Or out sailing on a schooner in Maine, with longtime weartester, Christa (We named our latest pant after her).