Mom Muse | Donna Berry
An amazingly talented fashion designer and mother of 6-year-old twin boys, Donna Berry is living her dream. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she came to her career in fashion by way of law school after her family convinced her that law was a more practical choice. Everything definitely happens for a reason, as while attending law school at University of Arizona, Donna met her future husband Ryan. After two years of practicing law in LA, Donna and Ryan were married and he convinced her to go back to her original dream and pursue fashion design. While in school, Donna worked at a tiny atelier in West LA where she learned couture techniques and further honed her sewing and patternmaking skills until she was offered her dream job… designing for Monique Lhuillier! When her twins, William and Cole, were born, she decided to take a break from fashion because “as it turned out, newborn twins were a 24-hour/7-days per week kind of gig.” Once the boys were a little bit older, she started Donna Berry Designs and went back to her roots creating couture, custom gowns. In 2010, the Berry family moved from LA to Phoenix and Donna has been designing and creating one-of-a-kind frocks for Valley ladies ever since.
Photo Credit: Kara May Photography
Q: Describe your style in five words or less.
Be interesting. Look interesting.
Q: As a designer for celebrity-favorite brand Monique Lhuillier, what was the best part of your job? The biggest challenge?
One of the best parts of my job was the fabric! All that wonderful lace from France that our Solstiss rep would bring us, just yards and yards of the most beautiful lace and silks you’ve ever seen. For a creative person, especially a designer, having such wonderful material was the best inspiration. We would also get to play with boxes of fabulous trims, mostly from India. They were incredibly ornate pieces that we would cut up and put back together to make a belt or some other adornment. But my very favorite part would be when Monique would send me to the FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising) fashion library to pour over books and the fashion collections to gather inspiration. I loved studying fashion and it was incredible to see and feel (albeit with gloves on!) a Vionnet gown or to run my fingers across Fortuny pleats.
The biggest challenge would have to be changing the direction of a collection just weeks before Fashion Week! Before one season in particular, Monique had her designers working on a WASP-inspired collection; we had focused on the images of Slim Aarons and poured over pictures of C.Z. Guest and the rest of the blue blood set to shape the collection. I can’t tell you how many photos of dachshunds and boat shoes I rifled through! Anyway, our direction completely changed when Monique announced that she had discovered this beautiful floral vase in Paris. Only deft hands could have produced such a piece of art; each flower was articulated in paper-thin porcelain, so fine and life-like that it looked like real flowers had been coated in marshmallow. From that seemingly inoffensive vase, the direction of the collection took a sharp left turn away from country-club chic to an overtly feminine, polished sophistication. After that it was chocolate-covered espresso beans with cappuccino chasers until Bryant Park.
Q: What motivated you to start your own business?
Before I designed for Monique, I worked at a little atelier off La Brea in Los Angeles. I loved it there! It was small and everything was custom… every pattern was literally tailor-made for just one woman. I loved working one-on-one with clients so when I contemplated going back to work, I knew I didn’t want to go back full-time because I still wanted to be able to have some time with my boys – and given that there aren’t many fashion houses in Phoenix — having my own custom atelier made a lot of sense. It afforded me the flexibility I needed to make my own hours and as far as I could tell, it was the closest I could get to creating high fashion in the Valley.
Q: From where do you draw inspiration for your designs?
From everywhere! My clients, of course, and the runway shows, vintage pieces, art, what I see on the street, movies – even cartoons! I think there were some great necklines in the movie “Frozen”!
Photo Credit: Eyes 2 See
Q: What’s the one item in your closet you can’t live without, that makes you feel both chic and comfortable?
Like me, this item changes all the time! Right now, it’s this very delicate necklace my husband recently gifted me. But my shades are always high on the list as an item I can’t live without!
Q: Do you have any tips on how you streamline your morning routine?
I get dressed in stages most mornings. My first progression is to put on what I fondly call my “kid drop-off uniform.” Right now this “uniform” consists of a slouchy harem pant, TOMS espadrilles, a flowy tank top or shirt, and is finished with a light sweater layered on top. I do some version of this outfit every morning so getting dressed is a no-fuss exercise. For the most part, I feel polished and pulled together without having to resort to yoga gear. I change up my “uniform” regularly, but I find that once I establish some formula for a go-to outfit, I can get dressed quickly and painlessly.
But I’ll be honest, if I’m working in my studio all day, the “drop-off uniform” becomes my outfit for the day. If I need to leave my studio and especially if I am seeing clients, I change into a more stylish ensemble that I usually try to pick out the day before. Often this outfit will include pieces from my drop-off uniform albeit elevated a bit. For instance, I might wear the same harem pant, but will change out my knit top for a silk blouse and different jewelry.
Since I’m always short on time, I use a lot of dry shampoo (Rene Furterer Dry Shampoo is the BEST…life-changing if you ask me) and I have a basic make-up regime that I stick to every morning. Streamlining is all about establishing a good routine and, while I will switch out a lip gloss here and there, I stick to a basic formula for my day-to-day.
Q: Developing a unique style comes at an early age for some children. Do you let your children choose what they’re going to wear? How do you talk about getting dressed with your little ones?
My boys have what we call their “cool guy clothes.” These are the pieces I’ve picked for them that are stylish and comfortable, though not so comfortable as the basketball shorts and t-shirts they live in! I started putting them in “cool guy” clothes when they were toddlers so wearing a vest and a bow tie is second nature for them. They also have pieces from trendy urban clothing lines like BAPE and Munster Kids that we mix with more preppy lines like Mini Boden and Crewcuts. We talk about mixing pieces together and I tell them it’s not about matching colors but choosing things that work together. They look at me like I’m crazy when I say things like that. My boys are 6 and they let me dress them for the most part so their style is really just an extension of my own. They do, however, care about their footwear. They have 9 pairs of Nikes between them!
Q: What’s your best style advice for other moms out there?
Buy what flatters your body and makes you feel good. As a tailor I can say any outfit is elevated when it fits properly, so concentrate on finding pieces that look good on your body – or at least have them tailored so they do! Don’t worry about looking like everyone else either. Real style is unique and different for every person, so trust your instincts. I believe we are drawn to pieces that we know (at least subconsciously) look good on us. I am constantly looking out for pieces that challenge my style, and in doing so, I think my look stays fresh. Don’t be afraid of switching things up… change your handbag… buy crazy sunglasses… constantly reinvent yourself. People will notice that you never look the same and they will equate that effort with style and class. Great style is always appreciated. After all, as Tom Ford famously articulated, “Dressing well is a form of good manners.” When I look good, I feel good and that makes me a nicer, well-mannered mom!
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