Christina Castle founded her sustainable womenswear brand Dagny after becoming frustrated with the amount of waste produced by the fashion industry. She talks to Drapers about her passion for ethical production and her journey to building a brand.
Christina castle dagny
Founded in January 2017, Dagny creates ethical womenswear in a factory owned and operated by women in Romania. It uses surplus fabrics from defunct mills or other brands, or eco-friendly materials such as Tencel. Dagny’s clothes feature bold colours and playful prints, and are currently sold exclusively through its website, where dresses retail at £275. Having worked for brands including Mara Hoffman and Haute Hippie, founder Christina Castle used her industry experience to build her brand.
What is your background? How did you come to be working in fashion?
I feel incredibly lucky that as a young girl I knew what I wanted to be and I really never waivered from it. My parents still encouraged me to get a traditional education, but as soon as I finished that (I majored in English Literature), I attended Parsons School of Design in New York. I finished my associate’s degree in a year and a half and started my first job at Haute Hippie, as their fabric manager.
I wanted to get my foot in the door any way I could, even if that meant schlepping fabrics around the fabric district, and not actually designing the clothes. Looking back, it built and toughened my character, gave me an insight into the garment district that very few have, and made me absolutely sure I was in the right industry for me. Plus, designing is often a small fraction of the job of a fashion designer. From there, I went on to design for many amazing designers and brands.
When and why did you decide to launch your own brand?
I moved to London with my husband in 2016, leaving behind my role as Design Manager at New York label Mara Hoffman, and started freelance designing for a few brands here. I was looking for a more permanent role where I could continue the sustainable initiatives I had started at Mara Hoffman, but I could not find a brand that aligned with my idea of a modern, sustainable fashion company. So I founded Dagny, for women like me, who want to dress responsibly, but without compromising their unique style, love of colour, and high standards for tailored fit and luxury fabric.
What’s the story behind the name?
It the name of a character in one of my favourite books, Atlas Shrugged. She’s a force to be reckoned with and does things her way, which is definitely a guiding ethos of the brand. The name derives from the Old Norse for “new day”, which is befitting of the brand, as sustainability and non-traditional practices are at the core of Dagny.
Why is sustainability important to you?
I’ve worked in the fashion industry for almost a decade, so I have seen how much waste and irresponsibility there is in the creation of a collection, or even just a single garment. It always nagged at me. I wanted to create a brand that solves these problems, while still creating beautiful and approachable clothing.
My vision is for the brand to continually reuse the resources required to make the garments through select partnerships, recycled fabrics, and repurposed trims. We have set firm company-wide sustainable benchmarks, such as geographically streamlining our supply chain, joining key sustainable organisations, acquiring sustainable certifications, and instigating zero-waste policies.
During your career you have worked for several high profile brands – what was the most important thing you learned from them?
I learned that no detail or trim is insignificant, that the first idea is rarely the best idea, and that there is always a team behind the final dress people see or behind the face of the brand.
What have some of the challenges been setting out on your own?
Having to educate myself (through trial and error) in areas of the industry that I had no prior experience in, like logistics and ecommerce. It was (and continues to be) like learning a new language, but a language I am growing more and more confident in. It’s important, for me, to truly understand every aspect of my business, as every part is connected and depends on each other to run smoothly.
How do you keep yourself motivated and creative?
Travel, for inspiration and also to recharge my batteries and get out of my everyday surroundings. Fabric shows are also important for me. When I see or feel a fabric or a colour, I can usually quickly envision the final design.
What’s the best piece of business advice you hve received?
Seek advice from as many people as you can, but at the end of the day, stay true to your vision and trust your own instincts.
Favourite clothing brand?
I love the flair and femininity of Johanna Ortiz
Favourite places to shop?
Farfetch has a great assortment, but if the brand I like has an online shop then I try to buy directly from them.
Last fashion purchase?
Amélie Pichard heels.
Last book you read?
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It was incredible.
Last film you watched?
The Meyerowitz Stories on Netflix.
I don’t know what it’s called, but I would love to set the soundtrack for movies.
What would we find you doing at the weekend?
South Kensington farmer’s market, cooking in the kitchen, and cosied on the couch with my husband and some wine, watching a movie.