The second I stumbled across Dorshelle Guillaume on Instagram, I fell in love. The designs are simply breathtaking, every single one of them an ornate and unique showstopper. There’s a level of decadence and attention to detail here that is rare even amongst luxury lingerie brands, from lusciously-embellished fabrics to shimmering beaded fringing.
Dorshelle Guillaume is a Haitian-American designer from New York, who founded her eponymous label in 2016. She has since launched two collections, and with the launch of this second one (pictured through this article) she has already developed a clear aesthetic. There’s a lot going on here – lots of embellishment techniques, lots of silhouettes, lots of different fabric types – but it’s cohesive. It feels like all of these pieces could belong to the wardrobe of the same person. And oh, to have that wardrobe!
Below, I speak to Dorshelle to find out more about her inspiration, her design process, and her journey from fashion student to award-winning, up-and-coming designer.
What struck me first about your brand was the sheer level of decadence! I am especially in love with the gold lace basque/dress with the beaded fringe trim. I can’t tell though if that – or, actually, most of your COLLECTION II – is meant to be worn as lingerie or eveningwear. Is that crossover intentional?
Thank you! The crossover between intimate apparel and eveningwear is most definitely intentional! Originally, my initial interest was eveningwear, not intimate apparel; however, I was accepted into the intimate apparel specialisation at the Fashion Institute of Technology and that’s what inspired me to fuse the two categories. I am very pleased with how the crossover has come to life and helped shape the aesthetic of my brand.
What kind of person do you imagine wearing your creations? And if you could choose someone specific to dress, who would it be?
The kind of person I envision wearing my garments is someone who exudes both confidence and glamour. Someone who isn’t afraid to take a risk in fashion and be the centre of attention.
If I could choose one specific person to dress, it would have to be between Rihanna and Zendaya. Every time one of them hits the red carpet or is even captured in street style, they make a statement. I love people who can pioneer the industry and bring something fresh and new to the table.
Tell me about your design process. What inspires you? And do you make everything yourself?
My design process usually begins with textiles (fabrication) or a specific theme, usually inspired by architecture and or a specific culture. Once I have a clear idea of my inspiration and find the fabric that I love, the ideas of designs automatically flow.
There’s a lot of trial and error during the creative process – many broken needles, seam-ripping stitches, and a lot of refitting. What keeps me going is the end product. I love seeing how my work finally comes together in the end. I enjoy travelling, going to museums, taking walks and having in-depth conversations, as those fuel my creativity.
As of now, all of my designs are 100% handcrafted and designed by myself.
Everything in your collection looks so intricately-detailed. What’s the most labour-intensive piece you’ve ever made?
Yes, I take pride in all the details in each of my pieces; that’s what I believe makes my brand unique. Although it is very time consuming, it is what truly brings my pieces to life.
The most labour-intensive piece I ever had to create would probably be my cabaret red, four-piece ensemble: full coverage bra, sheer and lace control girdle, high-waisted brief, and belted chiffon robe with lace appliqué. The robe in particular was very labour-intensive – it was a challenge getting the sleeves to look exactly how I envisioned it. Moreover, the lace appliqué on both the sleeves and the hem of the robe took a lot of time; yards of lace applique were hand-sewn which took many hours. The end result, however, exceeded my expectations and led me to place 2nd in The Underfashion Club’s annual Femmy design competition.
Congratulations! Now, you say you’ve known that you wanted to be a designer ever since age 9. What drew you to this career path? And do you have any tips for other aspiring lingerie or fashion designers?
It’s quite funny actually. I have no idea what specifically drew me to become a fashion designer. However, I know that it was always my purpose and still is. At that age, there was just something in me that wanted to do it, and the more I learned about it, the more my interest grew. I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
The advice I have for other aspiring intimate apparel designers or fashion designers is to find your purpose in fashion. It may take some time but find the thing that truly makes you and your work unique and special. People are very much drawn to authenticity and brands with a powerful story. Don’t force the art that you make, just let it flow and enjoy the work that you are doing. That is truly what makes it worthwhile, fashion is more than just clothes.
Alongside that Femmy win, you’ve also had a look featured in the FIT Museum. Plus launched two collections. What has been your favourite accomplishment to date?
My favourite accomplishment would have to have been being named Critic Choice Award Winner for my senior thesis by Jennifer Zuccarini (founder of Fleur Du Mal) at the Fashion Institute of Technology. My journey at FIT was not easy. Specifically, in my first semester, I didn’t feel like I was as good as my peers and it was difficult for me to find my voice in fashion; however, receiving this amazing recognition validated not only my talent and craftsmanship in design but also my merit at the institution as well as in the industry.
I have a feeling you will do (more) amazing things! What’s next for Dorshelle Guillaume?
I plan to see Dorshelle Guillaume grow in the next couple of years to new and higher levels. We plan to reach a global audience, expand by selling our garments through ecom, dress more celebrities for red carpets, and have more amazing runway shows. Most importantly, we want to see everyone who wears our garments feel good in them, while working to make the industry a more ethical and diverse place [plus] open opportunities for other emerging creatives.
Dorshelle Guillaume doesn’t currently have an online store, but the designer can be contacted via her website to purchase a made-to-order look from her collection, or to discuss a bespoke creation.
I’d love to hear which of the designs pictured here is your favourite – let me know in the comments below!