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If short dresses and pleated skirts don't sound like the makings of a feminist fashion label, you're probably not familiar with Dolores Haze–or its creator, Samantha Giordano.

The sustainable fashion brand borrows its name from the titular character in Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, and its coquettish aesthetic stems from a subversive reading of the book. "I'm inspired by the dichotomy between her sorrowful story in the novel and the flirtatious, hyper-feminine Lolita" portrayed in pop culture, Giordano says.

We caught up with the #girlpower advocate (who earned a sociology degree from Barnard College before attending Parsons) to explore the brainy bent behind her line. Which, by the way, is made at a woman-owned factory in NYC.

designer samantha giordano feminist

Giordano has unapologetically positioned Dolores Haze as a feminist brand.

When did you first read Lolita? Did you know at the time that it would have a lasting influence on you? I first read Lolita at 17, and upon finishing thought, “Dolores Haze is the most badass name for a fashion line.” My initial experience in the design world coincided with reading Lolita: interning at Nicole Miller. It was clear then that I wanted to work in fashion and that I had found the perfect name for a future line. Shortly thereafter, I bought the domain, knowing that one day down the road I’d have my own brand.

“When I first read Lolita, I thought, 'Dolores Haze is the most badass name for a fashion line.' Shortly thereafter, I bought the domain, knowing that one day I’d have my own brand.”

What is the story behind your SS15 collection, A Stranger I Know? Each season, I seek the sentiment of nostalgia for inspiration. The SS15 collection was inspired by the notion of a memory of someone eroding and fading over time, thereupon becoming “The Stranger I Know.” This idea was mirrored with the floral graph-check print. I took photographs of flowers and then manipulated them to look as though they’ve been xeroxed over and over again, leaving a grainy image less sharp than the original.

Related Story: The Making of Dolores Haze's Must-Have SS15 Print

How is the undercurrent of darkness that defines Dolores Haze manifested in this collection? It's manifested in an array of manners, be it creating menswear-inspired motorcycle jackets with feminine silk floral linings or unexpectedly using leather in pastel shades for sexy halter tops and tanks. The juxtaposition of color and fabrication is our go-to way to bring in the layer of darkness that informs our aesthetic.

A Dolores Haze rack

Styles from the Dolores Haze SS15 collection.

Can you speak to the idea that women self-objectify through their fashion choices? How is Dolores Haze a response to that? Many women self-objectify through their fashion choices by becoming hyperaware of how to hide whatever their perceived physical flaws may be. The media socializes many young women to conflate their worth with their appearance. You flip open magazines and they're filled with pages touching on an array of insecurities: how to dress to conceal X, Y and Z physical faults.

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Giordano outside her Brooklyn studio wearing Dolores Haze SS15.

I have fashionable friends with an array of body types–they wear what they want, and style it well. We need to teach girls that your confidence isn’t dependent on what the media teaches us a flawless body is. It’s your confidence, drive, passions and empathy that make you attractive. Shopping and getting dressed up should be a means to make women feel positive, because nothing’s sexier than confidence.

We love that you openly approach fashion design from both a sociological and artistic perspective. Why do you think so many designers are reluctant to express an ideology? This notion that having an intellectual identity might undermine good design feels reminiscent of stereotypes that polarize femininity, beauty and intelligence. Thank you! That’s so great to hear that my approach to design is appreciated. I’m not sure why many labels shy away from incorporating an ideology into their brand identity. My first assumption is a concern with commercial viability, and the dilemma that haunts many creatives as to whether or not to dilute your voice to make it more accessible. The two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

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The Dolores Haze SS15 lookbook.

What gave me the impetus to fully embrace and integrate philosophical and sociological inspiration was my experience studying abroad at Central Saint Martins in London. During our first class, the professor proclaimed that we could be inspired by anything from German philosopher Martin Heidegger, to the emotions evoked after a one-night stand. This innovative approach to cultivating creativity is what possessed me to design with an intellectual approach.

Within the fashion world, womanhood seems to be unintentionally cast into female stereotypes of girly, goth, office-wear, preppy, etc., but women’s identities are far more complex. This feeds into the notion of polarized femininity. What I gravitate toward is a mix, and I felt there needed to be a label that embraced the complexity of femininity.

Scenes from Samantha Giordano's studio

Scenes from Giordano's studio.

For all the literary D.Haze babes out there, what are some other novels that you love or found influential? Some other novels that I love for all the literary D.Haze babes are: Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground, and Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust.

During my youth, my influences were confessional poets such as Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. As I got older, I began to be influenced and engrossed in the world of philosophy, reading Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. I was often told by people that my appreciation of philosophy would be useless in whatever career path I choose. I’m so grateful that I’m actually able to integrate this into my work.
 

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