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Interview | Darcy

If you know the Aisle 9 team, you know we keep the near x dear close in our whirlwind of a circle [whether they like it or not. . .], and over the years, Darcy is one of the women we’ve constantly turned to for inspiration. We think everyone deserves to get to know the amazing business owner, designer, mama, and incredible human, Darcy Munoz. Our EIC, AC, chatted with Darcy on how she grew her brand into fruition and some of the high points along the way. . .

Anna: I want to give a little shpeal about what Small Talk is. Everyone, thanks for joining and welcome to Small Talk with Aisle 9. It is a series of short conversations with women that we admire and we hope that our take on small talk, which is a traditionally mundane occurrence can provide a mini dose of inspiration for people and become something we can actually enjoy. These are little conversations with people we are totally inspired by and hitting the high points of what’s going on in their life. Let’s get started with Small Talk…

Darcy: Thank you so much for having me! This is so cool.

Anna: Oh my gosh well Darcy, it’s no secret. I’m such a fan of yours, I have been for a long time now for a multitude of reasons. For anyone who isn’t familiar, today I’m joined by Darcy Munoz of Darcy Apparel – someone that we at Aisle 9 really admire. I’m just so thankful that you agreed to kickoff this series with us. I’m really honored. Welcome Darcy!

Darcy: Thank you! I’m super excited to be here and be the first – it’s really cool. But yeah, I’m doing well.

Anna: Good! For those that aren’t familiar, could you give us a little rundown of Darcy and how it came to be.

Darcy: I started online in 2017 and I opened the store front in 2018. And then I started the clothing line, Darcy Collection. I actually did some fashion blogging… I wouldn’t necessarily call it successful fashion blogging. I was dipping my toes into the fashion world through blogging after about 4 years of doing the retail side of things. So that’s kind of how it started.

Anna: Talk about fast and furious, Darcy. That is really rapid change and growth. That’s pretty impressive. And your background is actually in nursing, right? So nursing to shop owner, clothing designer, most recently the role of mom. That’s a lot of hats. A lot of fashionable hats. How do you strike the balance among the different roles in your life?

Darcy: I feel like I’m going through a season of learning right now, especially after having a baby. She just turned one, so I’ve had a little bit of time learning how to cope, but I would say I’m not quite there yet. It’s a journey and I’ve had to ask for help more this last year and get used to that. That’s hard at first and then you start to realize you can’t do it all. You have to lean on others a little more. With your baby, someone told me one time it’s a little hard to let go initially and let other people care for her, but it’s also really special to see them love her so much and her love other people as well. That gives me chills!

Anna: I love that. You and your family are so loved in this community. One of the things we’ve noticed around Darcy from the very beginning – and you and I have done a panel about this before – is your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and all different body types represented in your branding. Those were very intentional steps very early on. In your photography, in your branding, it makes women feel extremely seen. It’s one of the things that I personally respect the most about your vision. I would imagine that it’s not always easy being where we are in the South. 

Darcy: Thank you so much for saying that! I want to answer humbly as well because I think we can always do better. That’s the biggest thing about being a business owner, or just a human, is feeling like there’s always space to be better. Representation really matters. We all want to be able to see ourselves in different clothing. We work with professional models, but also with women who come in and shop with us. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying, “you’re really beautiful, will you model for us?” I have women that model for us that work in finance, are doctors, do real estate. I think seeing these women feels authentic and resonates with people that are watching. I hope I can keep pushing the envelope there.

[a9_pullnote text=”Representation really matters. We all want to be able to see ourselves in different clothing.” author=”Darcy Muñoz”]

Anna: You’re doing a beautiful job. You’re also paving the way through your clothing line, Darcy Apparel. I have a couple pieces in my closet – I reach for them all the time. It feels so good knowing it’s a piece my friend created. I’m extremely inspired by it. With each drop, I feel like you really push the limit. How do those ideas come to be? What is the behind the scenes brainstorming process look like for you?

Darcy: It’s probably been a little different for each collection we’ve done. I grew up dancing, which inspired a ballet line. I also love old movies, so there’s definitely been some early 90s rom com inspo.

Anna: Beautiful. I’m learning so much about you! Another layer of your clothing line is your commitment to design your pieces locally. I’d love to go into the challenges and/or bright spots you’ve found along the way. How many drops have you done so far?

Darcy: We’ve done 3. I started with a group in Austin. I did a lot of research and talked to some people in LA and New York. Realizing there’s a group here locally I was like what!? This exists!? It was actually through a mutual friend that was working there. It was interesting because I had to do a little bit of a presentation with them with some of the stuff I had already made. We were both interviewing each other to see if it was a good match. Once I started working with them, it helped so much. Being in front of someone, touching the fabric, talking through the alterations in person – you can’t put a price on something like that. 

Anna: Huge. Just being able to touch something and get a feel for it right away. I’m sure that’s a huge part of the process. Just being able to drive up the street a little ways is amazing, especially when you’re wanting to turn out a collection pretty quickly and get it on the floor – I’m sure it makes it extra convenient to get it just right.

Darcy: Absolutely. Sometimes there’s some confusion – we do our development here but our manufacturing – when the clothes are actually sown for the pieces to be sold – we actually do that overseas.

Anna: Ok! I’ve seen you use the phrase “ethically sourced.” What does that entail for your process?

Darcy: I’m glad you asked – being ethical and sustainable can get confusing. Being ethical is more about the garment workers and ensuring that they are working in safe working conditions, that they are of a certain age, that they are getting paid a fair wage. We only work with factories who meet certain standards and certifications that we are able to call them “ethical.” I had to learn a lot about this as well. There are groups that go into the factory and interview the workers. They won’t just visualize what they’re seeing, they’ll also privately interview several workers to hear firsthand accounts of what’s happening. You can actually make stuff in the US and they aren’t meeting ethical standards. That can be mind blowing and sad. 

Anna: Absolutely – that’s so enlightening. Anyone on my team knows what I’m about to say… the film “True Cost” really changed my approach and view of the fashion industry. I know that it is not easy to make these decisions. I know that in terms of financial capital that you’re having to put up front… it’s not made easy for small brands to do things like this. Consumers are getting so much smarter about what they’re asking and looking for when they’re buying clothing now. Aside from being a smart business move, it’s one with heart, too. Very proud of you.

Darcy: Thank you so much!

Anna: Obviously Covid had a huge impact on small businesses. What did you do to ride the wave? What learnings came out of it? Is there anything key that helped lead to your success and overcome the hardships of the last year point five?

Darcy: I think we were all in survival mode. You just did what you had to do. We met our customers where they were at. We did a lot of curbside. We did what we called “bundles” where people could give to friends and family or essential workers. We did as much online as we possibly could. We let women take things and try them on at home before purchasing. We just did as much as we could. That being said, it wasn’t something that could be sustainable long term. We just had to say, “This is how it is right now. My decision is that we’re going to persevere with making no money, sitting on product, or whatever.” You’ve probably heard this, but as a small business owner, you don’t go into it for the money anyway. At some point, you want to make money but you’re really here for different reasons. I think that’s the underlying reason we just made it work. 

Anna: I’m curious… Did the wholesalers work with small businesses? Did you experience that at all? Or was it just kind of a “that’s the way it is” mentality?

Darcy: There were a lot of wholesalers that did not allow you to cancel.

Anna: Wow.

Darcy: There were times where I felt frustration with that. But there were also times when I thought, you know what, we’re not going to cancel. It’s just a ripple effect. If all of us cancel, that’s hard on them too. My hope in that was to not just think about us but to think about everyone. We’re all in a really bad spot. I wanted to stay afloat. I wanted to stay committed to what we had already ordered and just do the best we could with it. So that’s what we did.

Anna: Wow, Darcy. Wow. I bet there were some hard days in there. But you came out the other side of it! It’s amazing. So daydreaming to the future a little bit. Thinking big picture – what are you personal hopes when it comes to the future of Darcy Apparel and how would you like to see it grow and evolve?

Darcy: This was maybe the hardest question for me!. I would love to see my collection in other stores around the US. I would love to do some wholesale at some point. I have done a little bit – we’re in a hop in San Francisco and one in Portland and doing some stuff in KC right now.

Anna: I didn’t realize that – that’s so cool!

Darcy: Just a little bit. But that’s the hope – that I’ll be in more stores and we’ll have a lot of growth for the clothing brand, both online for us and around the US. That’s probably the biggest one. But I still really love the boutique side of my business, which is where we get to bring in all these other brands that are unique to our area and I’m not quite ready to let go of that… and I may never be. It’s fun to get to do both!

Anna: I  can’t wait to see these things come to life! I really think it will. You are so talented and you’ve been so intentional with all of your drops. I love that you’ve been really measured – you’ve done small batches and I think each one has gotten a little bit bigger. It’s more and more refined. SO many people think “more is more.” You’ve proven that doing a few things really well matters. You and I have talked about capsule wardrobes forever and I know that that’s how you live your life for the most part. This really lends to that. It feels true to you and it’s really inspiring. 

Darcy: Thank you so much!

Anna: So through all of your learnings, any wisdom you’ve received that you might life to pass along to other women aspiring to pursue a big idea or are sitting on a concept and aren’t sure?

Darcy: If there’s something – a bug in your ear or a pulling on your heart, you just can’t shake it or maybe you’ve tried… just go for it. I definitely tried to not want to do this… I tried every which way. But if you can’t shake it, there’s probably something there. I would say that’s one of the biggest things. If you’re listening now and something popped into your head, there’s probably a reason why it’s still there and you should go for it. The other side of it, and I’ve had to do this for myself, is getting rid of the scarcity mindset. “It’s already been done or there’s already enough of that” – you will always have your unique voice and that’s important and something I have to remind myself of as well.

Darcy Muñoz

Anna: Well I can’t say goodbye without asking – this is Aisle 9 after all. What are your 3 favourite products that are on your rotation and you cannot live without? 

Darcy: The first thing I thought of was Beauty Counter Counter Sun Face Sunscreen. It’s reef safe. I use it every day.

Anna: Nice. That’s kind of a cult favourite.

Darcy: It is! It’s really awesome. Next up is another skincare product. So postpartum is a little wild on your skin… I found these by Zo and they’ve actually helped my skin. 

Anna: Tell me what they’ve done, Darcy.

Darcy: Well you know… you get some breakouts. It helps keeps things at bay.

Anna: Amazing. And how do you use it? Is it a nighttime product or a spot treatment?

Darcy: You use it twice a day and it’s just a little presoaked pad that you swipe all over.

Anna: That’s my jam. So easy.

Darcy: I cut them in half so they’ll last longer.

Anna: Hot tip. Nice! I’ve never heard of that brand.

Darcy: It’s actually medical grade so you have to get it at a doctor’s office.

Anna: Nurse’s orders. 

Darcy: That’s right, nurse’s orders! If you’re having skin issues, this has helped me a lot. 

Anna: Number 3!?

Darcy: I found this recently. I honestly don’t love candles because I’m really allergic to them. This was recommended to me when I was at a boutique in Kansas City. It’s Rowan Los Angeles. It smells amazing. It burns forever and I don’t have any allergic reactions to it. If anyone else is allergic to candles and scents and fragrance, it’s gentle and wonderful. The packaging is lovely.

Anna: What’s the scent of the one you like to burn? 

Darcy: It’s called “Topanga.”

Anna: Oh! Is it fruity? I wouldn’t see you burning anything fruity.

Darcy: No, I don’t like anything fruity or florally. It’s really clean but it doesn’t smell like laundry detergent. You know how candles can sometimes smell like that…

Anna: Time and a place for laundry detergent.

Darcy: It has a nice, clean. That’s the best way I can think to describe it.

Anna: Darcy! I love that you have the physical product. It’s like we’re at a pitch meeting! I really like that. 

Darcy: This is why I need Aisle 9 because I’m just not really product centric so I learn from you guys all the time.

Anna: Darcy! That means so much. 

Darcy: I do!

Anna: Thank you. We have fun with it. It’s a blast. Let us do the shopping for you, right?

Darcy: Basically! That’s what I do.

Anna: Well Darcy thank you so much. I know you are a busy woman. I’m so thankful for you jumping on, participating in our very first small talk. I learn so much from you. I’m inspired by you, and I really can’t wait to see how you continue to grow and evolve Darcy Apparel. For those of you that are listening [or reading], please make sure that you are following Darcy @darcyapparel.