by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
After just a year, 'Dapper D Fashions,' a new menswear-inspired clothing line for women, will soon be available thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, a network of dedicated friends and donors, and the one savvy power couple behind it all.
Dapper D is based out of the Portland area and is the brainchild and dream-come-true of Vanna Pecoraro and her wife, Rasha Pecoraro. Having spent a year building the brand, the two launched Dapper D's Kickstarter on May 19. The project reached its $15,000 goal on June 11, six days before the deadline.
'I only shopped in the men's department. I never felt comfortable in dresses or feminine blouses,' said Dapper D's founder, Vanna.
Vanna began shopping for menswear at 16, after she got her first job, and she never quit. During her career in law enforcement, she felt the unique sense of pride and confidence that comes with a well-kept uniform. But as good as this dedication made her feel, the dream of Dapper D was already taking shape. Once Rasha had entered her life, and subsequently their daughter, Leilani, Dapper D had become a passion. Vanna retired from the force with Rasha's full support, to start a clothing line for women like her.
'From the minute I told her that I wanted to do this, she told me to just 'go,' Vanna told SGN. 'It feels amazing! I am so thankful that I have someone who is so supportive.'
'Every step I have taken in my life has led me to Dapper D,' wrote Vanna for her Kickstarter campaign. Vanna has also been performing as 'Emilio, Latin Drag King' since 2008.
So what does Dapper D offer that the men's department lacks? For one, it's building a community, in which customers needn't face strange looks or insensitive comments - something Vanna knows well. It also offers clothes that, quite simply, will fit. A year of research on Vanna's part has yielded a selection of shirts, t-shirts - all manner of casual wear - v-necks, hoodies, hats, sweaters and more.
'Dapper D is like H&M for Lesbians,' said Rasha.
It aims to be an affordable lifestyle brand that is comfortable - carefully tailored to fit a women's body while retaining the menswear appeal. After the initial release, the brand will introduce a new line of pants, belts and other accessories.
Dapper D's philosophy is that 'fashionistas' doesn't simply mean pumps, a silk romper and $600 bag - the garments themselves are irrelevant - it's the confidence they give that counts. It's clear from the brand's success that many women find this confidence in Dapper D.
Menswear-inspired designs aren't a new concept to fashion, but they remain mostly on the runway in the realm of couture. Dapper D isn't the only local retailer with this kind of philosophy either. Based in Seattle, TomboyX sells 'women's clothing, menswear inspired.' They have some great pieces, no question; but the flavor is very different from Dapper D.
'There are wonderful companies out there that already cater to the LGBTQ community, and this has inspired us greatly. We love knowing that there are choices out there. This is a great sign that our community is loyal and that they appreciate companies that cater to them. It takes a lot of work and overcoming obstacles to start a business, but the love and support we have been shown is all worth it,' Vanna told SGN.
'We really feel that if we all work together instead of seeing each other as competitors, we will be a great force for our community and [that will] make us all a stronger group. At Dapper D we want everyone to be themselves, and be proud of who they are. Be Brave. Be Authentic. Be You.'
The brand has taken off surprisingly quickly, a clear testament to its niche. The Facebook page has nearly 2000 fans. Dapper held its first commercial website shoot last Sunday, photographed by Portland area fashion photographer Mark Daniel Muzzy and has already been featured in the Portland Mercury and on afterellen.com. Features in Curve and The Advocate are also upcoming.
'We're in talks right now to be in Portland Fashion Week,' Rasha told SGN.
'Rasha's good with social media and customer service and I'm good at the business end - picking out the clothing and researching the clothing,' Vanna told SGN. 'I'm thankful that's she's really good at that,' she added. 'I couldn't have done it without her.'
Indeed, Rasha is very good. The couple is on 'talent hold' for a reality TV show that would potentially profile not just Dapper D, but all aspects of their lives - Vanna's drag and the full-time job of being moms. The two are a true power couple.
'We are going to be very, very busy from now on,' the two admit.
The two will be in Seattle for Pride weekend, with Emilio performing in 'Inferno' at Neighbours Nightclub on Saturday, June 28, 5-10 p.m.
'I love it. I love being able to be a somebody else onstage,' said Vanna, who admitted to being somewhat shy.
Shy or no, it was Vanna people were coming up to and thanking during Portland's Pride celebration last week, saying of Dapper D, 'we've been waiting for this.'
Unsurprisingly, the line's initial release has plenty of things right up Emilio's alley, so while the two aren't coming in a Dapper D capacity officially, those interested in the line might not want to miss the show.
Dapper's tagline, 'Be brave. Be authentic. Be you.' is meant to empower all women by allowing 'butchfashionstas' to be the confidant, fashion-forward women they deserve to be. The website, www.dapperdfashions.com, will be up and running in the coming weeks and the rollout will begin. Check it out.
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