Some up-and-coming labels like to launch with a big splash. Everywhere you turn, there they are: splattered on subway walls, taking over your sponsored Instagram stories, and bubbling up to the top of your inbox. And while there’s nothing wrong with coming in hot via deft marketing, there’s also something to be said about the emerging designers who take a more subtle approach. They exude the confidence of knowing that if you create compelling designs, fashion girls will come running (and appreciate the mystique — ahem, Phoebe Philo).
Newcomer Dahm House undeniably falls into the latter bucket. After nearly a decade of collaborating with fellow creatives, founder Catharine Dahm decided to branch out last year and do something she’s been dreaming about her entire life: quietly create a namesake brand. Because she had such a strong vision for her first solo venture, which debuted in Paris this past February, the designer wanted to take her time before introducing it to world and didn’t bother seeking out out retail partners. “I wanted it to be a chance for people to start to understand the brand and not put pressure on myself.”
That said, Dahm does know a thing or two about building a business. Following a stint at basics-focused favorite Buck Mason, she co-founded Los Angeles-based line Rabôt with a friend in 2016. (She amicably parted ways with the company in 2021.) But this time around, Dahm is marching to the beat of her own drum. And her goal behind her latest venture is crystal clear: “I never want anything to look or be too conceptual, or too costume[-like],” she explains. Her first collection — called “Welcome to Earth” — includes 26 pieces that all feel like things you might stumble upon in in a hole-in-the-wall Paris vintage shop, or maybe your impossibly chic great aunt’s massive walk-in closet.
For her first drop, Dahm explored “beauty, fragility, and graceful circularity of life.” These themes come to life through symbols, a prominent one being the spiral beads seen on the busts of the garments, like the Leffers Top and Yireh Dress. “The spiral is the symbol of evolution, the beginning of life to the end of life, and then the continuation of that,” she tells me on a call from Paris, where she’s now based. Although it was 10 p.m. her time, Dahm reassured me that working late hours has become commonplace, as she still has a full-time gig helping with the creative direction for Equinox’s line of luxury hotels. “It keeps me busy,” the designer, who is currently self-funding her work by juggling both jobs.
Harnessing raw materials is a core tenet of the design process as well. “All the beads and stones used are natural, like jasper, malachite, lapis, lemon quartz, and pearl.” Plus, 70% of the fabrics in the lineup, including wool and silk, are dead stock, sourced in Paris. Dahm skipped polyester plastic altogether; even the linings of her garments are made from a cotton or silk blend.
One of Dahm’s main sources of inspiration for her inaugural collection was undoubtedly her family and friends. The Yvonne Dress, for one, was named after her mother. Then there’s the Linda Pants: “They were the first piece I ever made with my pattern maker here in Paris,” the designer says about the style, which pays homage to her grandma, who once attended Catholic school with a strict uniform policy. But after being sent home for wearing pants, she helped get the rule changed so the bottoms were acceptable during class. “She was such a renegade and a cool woman,” says Dahm.
It’s fitting that Dahm’s creations nod to the most important people in her life — she credits them for introducing her to the style world, after all. “I remember my mom taking me to a fabric store when I was nine to buy my first paisley fabric to make a dress,” she recalls. And her neighbor, who was a wedding dressmaker, taught her how to sew when she was young. From there, Dahm’s fondest childhood memories involve marveling over all things wardrobe-related — even growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she says her exposure to the wider fashion world was extremely limited.
Of course, creativity is only half of the equation — a successful designer must have technical chops as well. Dahm’s first official training began in 2020 when she enrolled in a two-year design program at the Paris College of Art. “My pattern teacher was working full-time at Y-Project down the street,” she says about the experience, noting that such close proximity to the experimental French house helped her hone her craft and deepen her style vocabulary. “I learned a lot; they have very complicated patterns over there at Y-Project.”
Surprisingly, the designer’s bachelor’s degree in journalism from Indiana University has also come in handy. Dahm taps into her education by basing each collection around a storytelling theme. “It gives so much substance to any experience,” Dahm says. “For me, it translates depth to the brand. It's a personal pleasure to be able to explore that.” To wit, Dahm House launched a magazine made in conversation with its first collection. Retailing for $36, the brand’s Volume 1 iteration spotlights other creatives, including photographer Jacques Brun, artist Lesley Schiff, and poet Nanako Oka. “I want them to feel like their work is not going to just go on and off the shelf in six months, which can happen with a lot of magazines.” That said, Dahm is aiming to make her second version in a book format. “The actual printing of it will be in hard cover so it’s an object to keep and come back to.”
Regardless of all the side projects on her plate, Dahm’s biggest passion remains making beautiful garments and building on her body of work. Currently, she’s prepping to show her second collection at a presentation in Paris this coming January. And while she’s laser focused on the future of her company, her next assortment will be about looking to the past. But that’s all the spoilers she’s sharing at the moment — and in the meantime, there’s a beautiful selection of Dahm House items to shop right now. Click through TZR’s favorites below.
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