“Is that D?en?” Typically that sort of instant brand recognition is the result of a flashy logo, but not for D?en, the three-year-old label run by sisters Margaret and Katherine Kleveland in Los Angeles. D?en doesn’t have a recurring print or color, or a single style you associate with the label; it’s more about a feeling: one of romance, worldliness, nostalgia, and a touch of earthiness. It’s never too much of any one of those things, nor does it ever feel overly referential. (Just as often as you hear “Is that D?en?” you also get, “Is that vintage?” or even simply, “What is that, and where can I get it?”)
Much of that comes down to D?en’s sixth-sense understanding of how women want to look. The Klevelands don’t do “trends,” nor do they cater to a specific, otherworldly “D?en woman” (because there are dozens of types of D?en women.) “It’s really just about what our community and the girls in our office want to wear, and where that energy is taking us,” Margaret says on a call from L.A. “There’s never a ‘key word’ for the season or a specific reference. Being a direct-to-consumer brand, we make the best products for the moment, which allows us to be really authentic.”
Authentic and community are words used so much in this industry that they’ve started to lose their meaning. With D?en, they feel genuine—which is all the more impressive for a brand that exists only on a screen for most of us. Today, that’s changing: D?en is opening its first permanent store at the Brentwood Country Mart in L.A. It’s a response to customers’ requests to see the clothes up close—particularly jeans and shoes, “things people like to try on in person”—and it’s a transportive, 360-degree expression of the D?en world (the space was designed in partnership with Nickey Kehoe). “We wanted it to be a little jewel box that feels cozy, collected, inviting—something that lives and breathes our lifestyle,” Margaret says. “We wanted it to feel more like a home or a closet, and I hope it can be a community-building space.”
That D?en is opening a store at all reinforces the fact that even the most successful online brands can benefit from a brick-and-mortar presence. For D?en, the hope is to introduce customers to its premium fabrics, which can’t be touched on an iPhone. “We develop all of our fabrics and prints in-house, and it’s a really thoughtful process, but it can be hard to translate that online,” Margaret says. “I hope this will give people an opportunity to feel the quality [and give them] a better understanding of our prices. For someone to come in and see that we’re using a really beautiful cotton-silk organza, which is such an elevated fabric for our price point—I hope people will get more excited about the brand that way.”
Fans who stop by the store today will discover a few new things you can’t get online, including a collaboration with French sock label Collegien and a handmade quilt by the D?en team (a first test of home items). Later this fall, they’ll introduce their first winter coats as well as a range of base layer pieces, having noticed that so many women are “winterizing” their D?en dresses by layering turtlenecks and bodysuits underneath. It’s easy to picture the D?en team brainstorming those ideas in the studio: Should we make turtlenecks? Yes! They aren’t staring at spreadsheets or proposing a complicated social media campaign; they’re simply doing what feels right. “I think we have a unique position of being part of the community we design for,” Katherine says. “Every season, we’re evolving towards what inspires us, and it doesn’t have to exist in this wholesale world of ‘trends’ and ‘pop colors’ aligning. We feel connected to our community, and when you’re designing for yourself and what you believe your community wants, it feels really organic. We’re speaking to people the way they want to be spoken to.”
That’s certainly coming across to their Instagram followers, many of whom appear on the label’s Instagram feed, @shopdoen, alongside editorial shots. They seem to know there isn’t a team of guys in suits making the decisions at D?en; it’s a label that is clearly run by women—and not only that, but they’re women whose first instincts are to support and celebrate women. “I think our customers know that these are clothes they can live in, from the morning drop off to the office to dinner, but they also know that by wearing them, they’re supporting the power of women and a brand that fights for women and speaks up for women,” Katherine says. (D?en works with Planned Parenthood as well as Room to Read, an organization that supports education and gender equality in India and Africa, among other charitable initiatives.) “I think being willing to speak from a platform of supporting gender equality and Planned Parenthood has made people feel like they can identify with our mission,” Margaret adds.
It’s safe to expect some exciting in-store events for those causes later this year. Until then, they’ve shared a first look at the store and their new early autumn collection; if you’re in L.A., stop by the Brentwood Country Mart to see it in person.