Los Angeles brand Dôen is having a full-circle moment.
The founders and sisters, Margaret and Katherine Kleveland, are opening their second store this spring in Montecito, Calif., not far from where they grew up in Santa Barbara County.
“It’s also full circle because we opened our first store at Brentwood Country Mart in 2019 and built a relationship there, and now we are opening our second at the Montecito Country Mart,” said Margaret Kleveland, the brand’s chief executive officer, referring to California retail developer Jim Rosenfield’s upscale open-air, shopping centers. “The first store has overperformed and exceeded our expectations as has our relationship with the mart. They do such a good job of keeping their centers local but also adding other interesting stuff so it’s the best of both worlds.”
The Klevelands, both veterans of Joie, launched their direct-to-consumer brand of romantic, free-spirited, vintage-inspired ditzy floral blouses and ruffle-trim dresses in 2016 through a collective of female tastemakers with social media reach. Female empowerment and motherhood are brand touchstones for the brand, which counts Busy Philipps, hairstylist Tracey Cunningham, surfer Tori Praver, chef Lori Stern and other stylemakers as fans.
They recently expanded into children’s wear, loungewear, accessories and bed linens. They drop 10 collections a year, each with its own destination look book shoot. The most recent, “Prelude,” was shot on the North Shore of Oahu; their very first collection was photographed in Santa Barbara’s Jalama Canyon at their father’s off-the-grid goat farm.
“Our customers in the area are really excited to have a brand like ours because it fits with the lifestyle,” Margaret said of the 700-square-foot space being designed by Nickey Kehoe with Spanish Revival, Mexican midcentury and coastal influences. The opening is slated for April.
“Holly joining has been a dream come true for myself and my sister. We’re at a special moment in the brand and excited to reach the customers that have had interaction with us online but haven’t yet experienced the whole world,” said Margaret.
Soroca shared that although Dôen will still be primarily d-t-c and online, one of her main priorities for the year is to expand the retail and physical footprint.
“We have a strategy but it will be slow and thoughtful and strategic. We will first follow the existing customer since we have such a strong community. Then will will look to find customer who doesn’t know us yet. For now, we have a lot of territory to cover where we’ve got customers dying for us to open in their area.”
The East Coast will likely be next, Soroca said.
“When we launched d-t-c, access to the market was being democratized by social media and this digital advertising stream that hadn’t been available before, as well as the rise of platforms like Shopify. But we’d always intended on being multichannel,” Margaret added.
The brand has managed not just to weather the pandemic but to grow during it, adding 25 more employees for a total of 85. Dôen has been profitable every year since launch, and in 2021 saw 60 percent year-over-year growth.
“Everyone from a supply chain point of view has had a terror moment, but we’re at the stage where we can be flexible and pivot. We had to pull back on event clothing but luckily we had one of our large sleepwear offerings already slated for May 2020, and that was an exciting thing to test in that environment and expand on,” Margaret said of the last two years.
The brand is planning category growth, too, including through collaborations. (Last year, the brand collaborated on baby carriers with Ergobaby.) “The goal isn’t to churn them out, it’s to find out what the customer wants and figure out if are there are categories we can’t do best,” Soroca said.
Dôen hired Kristine Kim as its first director of impact in October 2021, charging her with building on its existing standards for environmentally responsible and humane production and factory work.
“Our approach to messaging is not tag line based, it’s more in-depth and allows customers to get educated about our processes.…It’s a very trust-building approach because it doesn’t take one attribute of a garment that is positive and have that be a get-out-of-jail-free card. It looks at cost of living, environmental impact, life cycle — it’s about approaching every aspect we touch in the supply chain,” Margaret said.
All said, they are bullish on 2022.
“I have known Katherine and Margaret a long time, I worked with them at Joie, and spent seven years with Katherine as my partner in crime there. As I watch the brand evolve, it shocks me to see how much they were able to do so organically. The love and passion the customer has for the brand, I can’t think of another example of a similar success story,” Soroca said. “The customer even more so now wants an emotional purchase. They’re only so much stocking up on basics and hanging out in the house that can be done. We always give them something they feel passionate about.”