Daniel Dugoff began his menswear label, DDUGOFF, in the Fall of 2014. His clean and carefully curated collection caught the eye of all the right people and took off quicker than he could have imagined. Growing up, the now twenty-seven-year-old designer always wanted to be an artist. In school, he became attracted to architecture and, rather than having to choose one medium as with much fine art, discovered that the field allowed him to use any means necessary to achieve the desired result. This discovery encouraged the exploration of furniture, object and fashion design. It was the precision-focused yet experimental practice, paired with his honed technical skills, that landed Dugoff a place on the design team for labels such as Patrik Ervell and Marc by Marc Jacobs before launching his own line. DDUGOFF is a collection of un-basic basics, thoughtful in their design and precise construction, with an effortless appearance.
Coming from a background in architecture, with a degree from Washington University in St. Louis, how did you get into fashion design?
For me architecture school was an opportunity to study design at all scales. In the last few semesters of college I realized that I was doing my best work at human scale, and as I began to think about what I was going to do when I graduated I became increasingly interested in fashion design. It’s an industry working with how material and people interact in such a direct way. And I was excited about how fast the industry moved. In architecture projects can take years, but in fashion you’re working on dozens of projects for a few months at a time and then the process starts over again. I learn the most when I can go through an entire process and then try it again, and again.
Have you found that your education lends itself to your current field of work? If so, how?
Oh definitely. I was taught to develop projects from initial concept to final product, and to be conscious of how to show and explain both the process and the final product clearly through images. Architecture school stresses process, often over the final product, and as a result I’m very careful about keeping all of the various parts of the process in check as I’m working. Running a brand means I’m constantly being pulled in different directions to work on production, sales, PR, making samples, developing new prints… but I’m pretty good at keeping focused on what’s important.
When did you decide to start your own men's line? Why?
I was working at Marc by Marc Jacobs and in my free time I was designing a little capsule collection, just for myself. A few friends saw the drawings and we started talking about what it would mean to make samples and show them to stores. It got to the point where I had fabrics picked out and the patterns developed, and I needed to order fabric by a certain day if I was going to have the samples in time for sales meetings. I pulled the trigger, ordered the fabrics, and quit my job a few weeks later. I needed to jump completely into the project to take it seriously.
When envisioning a collection or, more specifically, a new garment, who do you imagine wearing it? Do you design for yourself or is there a dreamed up DDUGOFF character (and now customer) that you're dressing?
It starts with imagining myself wearing it. But then I imagine it on a bunch of my friends. Would the chef wear it? Or the UX designer? Yeah, the architect would definitely wear it, but would the finance guy? I have to be able to see it on a range of guys (and women, too) for it to work. I have to love it and want to make it, but it has to work for way more people than just myself.
Judging by your background, you're incredibly interested in the details. How do you begin the design process and does it stem from a desired silhouette or special fabric?
The details are so important. Little tabs and loops, specific pocket constructions, the shape of the shoulder – this stuff is what makes clothes good. Over the past few seasons I’ve built up a little language of details that is beginning to define what makes something DDUGOFF. The design process starts with fabric research. The fabrics inform the shapes. The whole time I’m doing color research and working on prints and sweater designs. Usually it feels quite organized at the beginning, and then feels like it dissolved into something a little muddled for a few months, and then the samples start coming in and it all begins to make sense again. There’s a long period in the middle where I have to keep reminding myself not to second guess the decisions I made at the beginning.
Where do you source your fabric? Are there particular mills you're loyal to? Do you have the same relationship with the artisans and factories that produce your clothing?
The fabrics come mainly from Italy and Japan. I have some suppliers I go to each season because I know they’ll have exactly what I’m looking for, but it’s also exciting to see things I haven’t seen before.
I am very loyal to my factories. Building strong relationships with them takes a lot of time and I’m so thankful to work with each one – they each have their specialties.
What, in your opinion, sets DDUGOFF apart in the menswear market today?
My goal is to create a line of seriously good clothing that has a bit of a sense of humor. These are easy to wear clothes that fit into your life seamlessly. You buy the brand because the fabrics are beautiful and the pieces fit just right, but I don’t want everything about each piece to be immediate apparent. I love finding a detail a month into owning a piece, and I hope these clothes surprise people over time like that. I think there are a lot of brands that build characters from their clothing – but I’m not interested in that. I want DDUGOFF to be a brand of beautiful items that allow you to live your regular life.
If you could choose just three words to describe your line, what would they be?
Do you have any hobbies, interests or sources of inspiration that make their way into your collections? Where are these influences apparent?
I have a lot of plants at home and in my studio. The Fall/Winter 2016 collection has these really vibrant greens that I’m only now realizing must have come from being around all my little plant buddies all day. A lot of the inspiration from the collections happens this way – it’s more subliminal than deciding that I’m into a Studio 54 vibe blah blah blah. When I’m developing a new collection I go to a lot of galleries, look at a lot of art and design objects online, go through my art books. Sometimes there’s a color or a shape or some texture that has a direct impact on something I’m working on, but more often it’s just about being immersed in all of the material at once. It can take months or years for ideas to work themselves out. I’m still working with ideas I worked on in college in architecture projects. An unsuccessful idea is sometimes an underdeveloped one, and just needs more time to mature.
What do you have planned for the line over the next couple of years?
So much! But I’m play my cards pretty close to my chest. I’m excited with how much the collection has developed and grown in the first two years, and I’m really looking forward to keeping that up. There’s so much beyond menswear that I’m interested in, and I’m eager to push DDUGOFF beyond just men’s clothing. For Fall/Winter 2016 I worked with a quilter in Atlanta to develop custom quilts using fabrics from all the collections so far. I really like the kind of collaboration that comes from working with someone who truly knows his or her craft.