Feature Friday- Dana Gelenter of Dana Bands
I have to say this is one of my favorite Q&A's I've done so far! Get to know Dana Gelenter the fabulous headband designer behind Dana Bands. You can spot her pieces on the girls of Jerseylicious and the Glam Fairies. Get ready to get inspired after reading this and do a little online shopping ;).
How long have you been creating your Dana Bands? How did you come up with the name and concept?
I began creating Dana-Bands back in May 2009, during my second to last week before graduating from fashion merchandising at the University of Delaware. In between parties and work, I read tons of magazines looking for affordable trends. This wasn't out of the ordinary for me as I'd spend my last $5 on an issue of Elle before buying a sandwich. There was a particular accessory that stuck in my mind that issue, the feather headband. Accessories were a big must in college with less money to change outfits as frequently. I recall the design being very simple and over $50. Growing up, I was known for rocking a different headband with every outfit and hated having my hair in the way. Hair accessories were hard to come by as they were either mass produced and cheaply made or way over priced. That's when I decided while shopping with roommates at the local fabric store to mimic my own. It all started with a bag of feathers, flowers, and some bobby pins along with hours of creating. Each pin was better than the next, then came the headbands.
When people offered me money for my items, that's when reality set in. I was juggling two part time jobs and this small business (wasn't official just yet). Since the fashion industry was facing a hiring freeze and many lay offs, this struggle continued for a year. My boss at LBI tanning in Fair Lawn, NJ knew of my situation and was kind enough to showcase my designs for sale. I didn't realize this then, but people were falling for my handmade goods. It was my boss Tony who said, "Dana, you definitely need to have a name and slogan for these." I thought he was nuts! Sure enough, he was 100% right and came up with Dana-Bands.
Does anyone help you make the product?
I wish! I really hope one day I will have people work for me and help put them all together. My one friend Steph helps me sew rosettes and things here and there. My mom and dad tried burning/sewing for me a while ago and ended up quitting within no time. Unfortunately, I haven't come across many people able to put forth the amount of time and energy I dedicate to these. I realize now just how intricate my pieces can be and how close to perfection I try to reach for every single design. Regardless of the labor required, I refuse to turn to mass production overseas and take away from the quality. I've already tested a few styles in China and there was no comparison.
Where do you pull inspiration from for the designs and names?
My inspirations come from everything around me. I work full time on Fashion Ave in addition to my business and get to see the craziest trends in the streets. Working in the garment district also allows me to shop on lunch for new materials: fabric, gems, trims, elastics, chains, crystals, studs, ribbons, etc. I love to shop every day and dream up new techniques/designs to keep the line fresh. I try to research trends and colors ahead of time when it comes to color stories and prints; however, I don't look to other designers and actually avoid seeing high-end accessories or what other businesses are up to. I aim to be as original and exclusive as possible.
Some of the Jerseylicious girls have been seen rocking Dana Bands. How did you start working with them?
Working with the Gatsby Salon and ladies of Jerseylicious has been very rewarding for me. They are all so sweet and unique! The designs Christy P. goes for is different from those of Tracy D. or Briella. I also work with the Glam Fairies and have become close with them. Jess Romano is a talented make-up artist and huge headband fanatic! She enjoys the silk chain wraps and has started a big following with young girls for wearing them across the forehead, hippie style.
I couldn't tell you exactly how it all started. New Jersey to me is almost like a separate entity and everyone is somehow connected. I grew up with Briella's boyfriend and used to work at French Connection with Jon Kutlu (Alexa's right hand). Andrea from Sugar Rush and the Sassy Shop Girls introduced me to twitter and connected me to Christy P. Ever since then I've been a social butterfly, interacting with loyal customers and fans of my work and connecting with fellow business owners.
What do you love most about making the bands and what is your ultimate goal?
My favorite part about making bands is getting to share them with everyone and seeing them worn. All the positive feedback and comments lets me know what works and what doesn't in order to better myself on a daily basis. Seeing them on TV has been a new level of excitement. The first time I saw a Dana-Bands rosette worn on Jerseylicious, my mother and I screamed. It is humbling to see after many sleepless nights and tired hands.
Ultimately, I would like to focus solely on my business. I enjoy carrying through salons/boutiques, charity events, and website. Down the road, I could see myself partnering up with a major department store or working out of a studio/showroom, where Dana-Bands would continue to be made by hand with a larger team.
Are there any new projects you’re working on?
I've expanded so much within the past year and am continuing to work on new projects. Not only hair accessories, I now carry hats, flip flops, rings, and dog collars. I have dabbled in a few Men's designs for hats and hope to add even more styles soon. My Fall/Winter 12' line is just about ready to debut and I'm very excited! It will feature bold prints/colors, studding, and silk just to name a few. I have the techniques down to create even more and can't wait to see what everyone thinks. I'm also awaiting a shipment of leather cuffs and gold/silver metal bangles, which will be a new category added with their coordinating headbands.
What has been an obstacle you had to overcome on your journey to creating Dana Bands?
Starting a business is always rough and comes with its ups and downs. The hardest part for me was starting literally from scratch. There was no loan, bank of dad, or handouts given. I bought all my materials a little bit at a time based on what I could afford. It always was and will be a balancing act. I invest at least half of sales made back into business inventory and expenses. Growing up with my father, who owned a small business most of my life, made it come naturally to me.
The biggest obstacles of all are those internal. Am I good enough to do this? Am I in over my head? Is it worth juggling a full time job in the city and staying up till 1am every night? Also, some outside factors such as family saying, "Those are nice but don't quit your day job" or "headbands are going out of style soon." Talk about crushing the dream! These are things I've learned to take with a grain of salt or block out and keep pressing forward.
One more issue.... knockoffs! You know you are doing something right when you see other small designers taking your ideas. I am very open to giving advice and supporting others to go after their passion. However, copying a Dana-Bands exact style, fabric, and name is a bit ballsy. I really work hard to set myself a part from the rest; hence why I continue coming up with new items and collections regularly. If someone is two steps behind me, then I need to move ten steps ahead. Now I know how Louis Vuitton feels! but as their new campaign says, "You can't fake fashion".
What advice can you share to other girls who want to start their own business?
Go for it! If you feel this is what you are meant to do then give it 110%, no less. You have to be willing to sacrifice a lot to get where you want to be and realize you can't succeed without the possibility of failure. I feel our economy will thrive again once we start to rely more on small business and less overseas. I encourage everyone to utilize their God given talents and take a leap of faith.
When you have your Dana Band on and you need an extra touch of glamour -- what beauty product do you reach for?
Hair spray! Every girl should give their hair a spritz no matter how they wear a Dana-Band. The Gatsby Salon has their own line of products to obtain a great shine and hold.
What is your definition of beauty?
Beauty is natural. It is in kind eyes, a big smile, and a warm heart.
P.S. - the best accessory a girl could have (besides a Dana-Band)... confidence!