Summer Rej is the designer and founder of the most-wanted headpieces entitled Dauphines of New York. Summer and I met in the most unusual way when I was in New York in October. I was trying on a headpiece (see pictures) at Henri Bendels and the sales assistant told me “It looks great on you, the designer’s here you should meet her”. We immediately clicked and met again for breakfast, the rest is, as we say, history. There’s a Je Ne Sais Quoi about this brand that immediately appealed to me, I can’t pin point what it is exactly but sometimes you just feel it. It was love at first sight. Do you ever get emotional connections with brands? I do… That’s what I love about fashion, One day you’ll stumble upon a brand or something that will make you feel special. Dauphines of New York is all about head ornaments, and as you may know already it’s really becoming harder and harder for me to leave the house without a beanie, headband or a hat. All in all, I had a little chat with Summer, who told me all about her brand and how she launched her business. I thought it might be of interest to my readers because my blog is compilation of the things I like so it only seemed organic for me to feature Dauphines of New York, especially since I’ve been wearing her amazing pieces over and over again (click here to purchase).
Summer, can you tell us a bit more about the story behind Dauphines of New York and little bit more about yourself?
Dauphines of New York was founded in 2010. Prior to developing Dauphines, I worked in magazines. After graduating from Cornell University in 2006, I returned to New York, which is where I am originally from. I worked at Vogue Magazine in Publishing – first at Vogue Living in Advertising and then at US Vogue in Creative Services. Following, I worked for a number of stylists, where I was fortunate to work under some of the most influential and talented individuals in the fashion and editorial world, assisting on shoots for domestic and international publications. Taking inspiration from such creative settings and individuals, I conceptualized Dauphines of New York. The initial success can be credited to Henri Bendel’s legendary “Open See,” where designers bring their collection to the iconic Fifth Avenue store for buyers to view firsthand. Today, we currently maintain a floor-to-ceiling display at Henri Bendel, in the Hair Accessories room on the 2nd floor. Our introductory collection was also selected by Shopbop, which also currently offers Dauphines.
Some of your pieces have a very ethnic vibe, what would you say inspires you the most when it comes down to designing pieces for Dauphines of New York?
I usually think about the client and try to design the piece so it is unique and meaningful to our client but also functional and comfortable. Many may be worn as either headband or necklace. Our signature adjustable elastic band at back provides tailored comfort of fit and helps create an instant up-do hairstyle. You can wear in classic fashion, as a standard headband, or, drape the headband atop the hair, starting approximately 1” from the hairline, and twist a small amount of hair on each side around the elastic band. Then, either twist the remaining hair and tuck into the band, or leave hair long and flowing. Another alternative is to wear the band horizontally around the forehead, in hippie fashion.
How would you describe the woman who wears a Dauphines of New York?
The Dauphines of New York woman is inspired by glamorous style icons who exude a sense of personal style inspirational to others: those unafraid to embrace the luxe and elegant, while simultaneously remaining effortless and carefree. We like to say that “Modern, trendsetting women of today, the style icons of tomorrow, wear the Dauphines of New York collection.” The collection has been worn by celebrities including Leighton Meester (in character on Gossip Girl as Blair Waldorf) and Whitney Port. Heidi Klum and Faith Hill have also purchased pieces by Dauphines of New York! I am also very proud to say that some of the chicest women I have ever seen – those with jaw-dropping, innate style have been know to select a Dauphines piece!
What’s your best-selling item?
Our “Band of Gold” adjustable headbands are a classic favorite. This design features semiprecious gemstones in 18k gold plated bezels separated by plated wire. This piece is great as a headband or necklace. In fact, the majority of our designs are intended for dual purpose: wear as headband or necklace. The “Rock Goddess Bohemian,” a design from our very first season that has secured a place in the permanent collection, is also high in demand. We suggest starting a collection (favorites include Green Agate, Blue Agate, Turquoise, Citrine, Amethyst, Moonstone). “The One” and “The I Do” are popular for bridal or formal occasion.
Is there one piece of jewelry that you never take off?
You will always see me wearing a classic Rolex Datejust watch, and lately I’ve been wearing my Hermes Collier de Chien Cuff Bracelet, a vintage Givenchy gold tone link necklace, and a stack of various rings (a trio of vintage-look diamond and stone bands). Of course, when it comes to hair, I have a few favorite Dauphines of New York pieces: our new cashmere turbans (a reason to be excited for cold weather), our “Band of Gold” headbands (which I alternate often), and our “Secret Garden” crystal flower headband (a new favorite).
Have you ever thought of extending your line to necklaces, body chains, earrings and bracelets?
I have a few ideas in mind to extend the Dauphines of New York collection, but it will remain a surprise! I hope you will like it!
What was the most challenging part of launching your brand?
Learning to delegate responsibilities to others – at first I was insistent on doing absolutely everything myself. However, I have been very lucky to have a great team of people working to build Dauphines of New York, which has been key to its success!
What’s the best advice you can give to someone starting their own business?
Go for it – there is absolutely no reason not to. If you have an idea you believe in, you can make it happen. Be prepared to work unbelievably hard, but get excited for so many wonderful opportunities that will arise in result.
In your spare time, what do you enjoy doing the most?
I love exploring New York. I am fortunate to have a wonderful group of friends who also happen to serve as an endless source of creative energy and inspiration.
What are some of your favorite spots in New York?
I’m originally from New York. I grew up on the Upper East Side, and I am currently based in Soho. Therefore, I have favorite places throughout the entire city. Uptown, for restaurants, I love The Carlyle, The Mark Hotel, Serafina, any cafes along Madison. For shopping, I love Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys. Downtown, for restaurants, I love Balthazar, Café Select, Lucky Strike. When shopping downtown, I love anywhere in Soho – even just strolling the streets to window shop or search for something new.
Do you have any upcoming trunk shows, events or projects any time soon?
Yes, we will be doing a special “pop-up” at Henri Bendel during the holidays (where you can select new and exclusive styles) from December 10-December 16th. This event will take place on the main store of the Fifth Avenue Flagship, which is located at 712 Fifth Avenue (btwn 55th and 56th Street). Of course, you can shop the collection at all times on the 2nd floor in the Hair Accessories room at Bendels. And the rest will be unveiled soon!
Where can we find Dauphines of New York across the world?
We work with some of the finest retailers worldwide including Fenwick on Bond Street in London, Aldo Coppola in Russia, Baycrews’ Spick and Span stores in Japan. We work with luxury boutiques throughout Europe, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and across the US. In the Middle East, the collection can be found via Sophie’s Closet (Dubai; online), S*UCE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Mimosa (Bahrain), The Vanity Room (Qatar), For the Love of Vintage (Jordan), and Black Pearl Boutique (Kuwait). And of course, Henri Bendels in New York Shopbop.com and some items are also available on our e-shop. It is so exciting to have the opportunity to work with such trendsetting boutiques and meet so many amazing individuals worldwide.
For more information about the brand, visit www.dauphinesofnewyork.com
Interviewed by Soraya Bakhtiar and photos by Yasaman Bakhtiar
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