Even though cottagecore fashion has become a trend over the past two years, it's still a struggle to find brands that honor the cottagecore movement's values as well as its aesthetic appeal. Every day I'm bombarded with Instagram ads for fast fashion websites that sell cheaply-made prairie dresses in hopes of attracting the cottagecore crowd. What these ads fail to realize is that most of us who identify with cottagecore actually care about the planet, and we're interested in supporting brands who are dedicated to reducing waste and making the world a better place in general. Cottagecore is about appreciating the natural world-- why would we want to support fast fashion websites that seem fixated on destroying it?
Dynasty Casanova, founder & designer of sustainable fashion brand Dynasty George, understands that cottagecore is about environmentalism and inclusivity, as well as vintage-inspired fashion. Started amidst the pandemic, Dynasty George sells ethically made, meticulously created garments that seem plucked from the pages of a storybook or an antique photograph. These pieces are not meant to feel restrictive in any way; rather, Dynasty George dresses allow the wearer to grow and change. Armed with extensive knowledge of vintage fashion and a mission to help others feel beautiful, Dynasty Casanova has made incredible strides towards her goal of creating a lifestyle brand over the past year, and the future looks even brighter.
Who are your inspirations and what lessons have they taught you?
I think my biggest inspiration is my mom, and she taught me how to be hardworking, how to be kind, how to be giving. My mom is a nurse, and she was a single mom, raising us. She's always there for her family. She goes out of her way for people. She teaches me how to be a good person. It inspires me that she had a career and was also able to raise a family. I really love her.
Why did you start your shop?
I've always wanted to be a fashion designer. I went to FIT and got my BFA in Fashion Design. I knew I wanted to have my own line and my own collection, but I realized that seemed a little far-fetched. So I did what most people do and I started working and designing for other brands. I realized I didn't like this industry because of how toxic it was. So, as another outlet, I started making clothes and selling them online. It was a way for me to express myself.
During the pandemic, I found out I was pregnant, and I had to work from home at my freelancing job, which was a blessing in disguise because I used that time to hone my craft and start an actual business. I started getting sales, and I wanted to take it a step further. I made a Kickstarter to help fund the business. When I was pregnant, I realized I really wanted to be there for my son, and I thought the best way to do that would be to work from home.
How would describe someone that chooses to wear Dynasty George?
I would describe someone who chooses to wear Dynasty George as someone who is creative, someone that wants to feel beautiful and cares about the planet, and is generally just an awesome, romantic person. I really do design things that I love and would wear. I've always been inspired by vintage fashion and whimsical, beautiful things. I love Dior and Oscar de la Renta, so I was thinking, how can I create that vibe for dresses that we wear everyday? People who wear my dresses want to feel like a princess every day.
How would you describe your creative process?
I start by thinking about what inspires me and what's trending now. A lot of my designs are inspired by what I need. The first collection I did, a lot of it was maternity-friendly because I was pregnant at the time. I wanted to create clothing that fit me, and that I would feel beautiful in. It's important to design things that are versatile, and things that can grow with you. Everyone deserves to feel beautiful.
What has been the most transformative experience of your life?
That's easy-- being a mom. I've always been very introspective, and someone that tries to better themselves. You really want to show your child the best version of yourself. And me being unhappy at a 9-5 job is not what I want my kid to learn. You want to provide a better life for your kids. Being a mom showed me how strong I was. Giving birth is not easy. I also felt even more in love with my husband-- he was such a great birthing partner, he's a great dad and a great husband. It's been a transformative year. I was just newly married, then I got pregnant, then my business sort of blew up. A lot happened in a short amount of time. I just hope I can continue to grow as a mother, as a wife, as a business owner, as a person in general.
What's the biggest problem in the fashion industry right now?
The fashion industry is not diverse. I get so annoyed when I see these bigger brands advocate for certain things, because it's not genuine. I've worked in the industry, and a lot of times, I was the only Hispanic or Black person in the room, in a very low-level role doing a lot of very high-level stuff. It taught me that if I could do this for someone else, I could do it for myself. But I do think that a lot of campaigns are very tone-deaf.
Also, the industry is very wasteful. I used to work retail at this designer store, and when someone returned a shirt that was damaged, instead of fixing it or giving it to an employee or giving it to a homeless person, the security guard ripped it up, put it in a bag, and threw it out. I was like, 'That's such a waster of clothing!' And the guard said 'Yeah, but if a homeless person wore it, and a rich person saw that, it hurts the integrity of the brand.' I know everyone wants to make money, but if we made smaller quantities and supported smaller businesses, I think that would cut down on waste tremendously.
How do you hope people feel when they wear Dynasty George?
Beautiful. I hope they feel empowered. I was raised by my mom, my grandma, my aunt, and my older sister. I grew up around women, and I am a very feminine person. So I hope that they feel that power of being feminine and being soft. I think sometimes there's a stereotype that if you're girly, you're not strong. I've been viewed that way. But you can be nice and strong.
How does your identity inform your work?
I think my culture is pretty evident in my work, though some might not see it that way. People think cottagecore is Eastern European. I'm Puerto Rican and Trinidadian, and I grew up with my Puerto Rican family and our farmland. A lot of that type of lifestyle is very on-brand with cottagecore. And Puerto Rican culture is a combination of Taíno and Spaniard and African, so those cultures really do inspire me.
I remember I went to a museum in Mexico City. They reenacted the lifestyle of the Aztecs, and I was very inspired by that. I personally feel that, when you think of traditional Puerto Rican fashion or Hispanic fashion in general, you see a lot of that Victorian, Spaniard influence. But you also see that Native American and African influence. I hope that's seen in a more modern way in my clothing. I also think that a lot of the dresses that I wore growing up make a comeback through my designs.
I've also always loved fairytales. I'm such a Disney girl. I grew up on the thirteenth floor of a building. My mom was very strict with us-- she didn't want us to just be kids that played outside. We were outside sometimes obviously, but when I was around ten, I had friends who would hang out outside without a parent, that was totally normal for them. But my mom was not that type of parent. So when I went out with friends, there had to be a parent present. So there would be days where I'd just be home by myself. On those days, I would pretend I was a princess and just let my imagination soar. My grandmother had a lot of plants and animal figurines in the living room, so I would pretend it was a jungle. I think a lot of that imagination and creativity is in my designs. I always saw myself as a princess, even though I lived in a not-so-great neighborhood in Brooklyn. I spent a lot of time inside, so I didn't witness any of the crime or violence happening in my neighborhood, because the adults in my life protected me from it. I grew up in an urban environment, but the clothing I make isn't really urban, so I think that's why. But the women I grew up with are very much reflected in my brand.
How do you hope to grow Dynasty George in the future?
I really want Dynasty George to become a lifestyle brand. I want to go into home decor. I want to open my own store. I want to keep doing mommy & me clothing. I love being creative and designing and curating. I want to expand that to different industries in a way that still aligns with my brand and my values. I want to help women. I want to start a nonprofit through my brand. I just want to help in whatever way I can, whether it's teaching a sewing or design class to a low-income community or teaching women how to be entrepreneurs. I want to impact my community. I've always wanted to help people. I think a lot of people in these areas that are struggling are overlooked. I still live near some of these struggling areas, and you see the lack of attention, and how things aren't changed or fixed. No one cares about it because of the area. I know I'm a fashion brand, but I want to help in some way. Maybe I could donate clothing to developing countries or go on mission trips. Through my church, I've done some missionary trips to Colombia and to Mexico. So I want to continue that in some way.