Global Young Designer Spotlight: Dauphinette

Global Young Designer Spotlight: Dauphinette

Dauphinette founder Olivia Cheng believes that her fun-loving clothing, jewellery and accessories can lift your mood. We spoke with the up-and-coming designer about style icons, sustainability and how to spend 24 hours in New York City.

of the greatest things about fashion is its ability to
instantly change your mood, something Dauphinette’s founder Olivia
Cheng knows all too well. In fact, the rising star describes the
New York-based brand’s uplifting clothing, jewellery and accessory
collections as “the happiest on earth”.

She’s right on the money – the wispy plumes fluttering at the
collars and cuffs of the label’s coats are enough to make anyone
smile, and they’re always realised in serotonin-boosting hues and
lively patterns. What’s more, aside from just looking good, since
Dauphinette’s inception in 2018, Cheng’s designs have all been made
locally and sustainably using recycled fur and leather, plus
hand-painted techniques. Here the designer tells us about how
travel and art provide endless inspiration, and the best way to
spend 24 hours in NYC.

Designer: Olivia Cheng
Homebase: New York City

Where are you from?

A small town outside of Chicago, Illinois.

When did fashion first spark your interest?

I’ve always been very interested in fashion – first as an
experimentational tool and later as a way to navigate our cultural
atmosphere. One of my earliest memories about clothing is from when
I was four and my mom sewed me a pink swing coat with leopard print
buttons and a matching beret. I was extremely shy and didn’t speak
up much, but I remember wearing the outfit to preschool and feeling
like an emboldened version of myself. In my designs today, I try to
capture that childlike essence of excitement and imagination.

What inspired you to start your own brand?

A trip to Paris. I was vintage shopping in Le
Marais and noticed how people were neglecting the incredible
selection of vintage furs and leathers in favour of 80s and 90s
nylon sportswear. I knew I had to pay it forward to these pieces
and their histories and give them a new life in a contemporary

Where did the name Dauphinette come from?

“Dauphin” is the French term for the male heir to the throne,
and the word had been on my mind a lot when I was first thinking
about the brand. Since Paris was where I came up with the brand
concept, I decided to feminise Dauphin in a subversive way, and it
became Dauphinette.

What does your design process look like?

It’s very internal and would probably seem chaotic from the
outside. For our repurposed styles, I source a vintage piece to
follow a particular vision I have, or sometimes I discover an
incredible vintage piece and build the design around it. For our
main seasonal collection – which will be new for SS20 – I began by
thinking about the types of materials I wanted to use, sketching a
lot, and approaching a more traditional development process with an
unconventional perspective on materials.

You often hand-paint things. Have you always been into

Yes! As a kid I was always, always drawing. Later, I also
trained in classic oil painting and metalsmithing. Some of my
favourite artists are Monet, Manet, Sargent, Rothko and Warhol.

How would you describe the Dauphinette customer?

A joy-seeking human who approaches dressing optimistically.

Which items have been the most popular so far?

The Jackie coat, Rambutan bag and Garden Party earrings.

Where can we shop your collections?

I have a website – – and also at
Assembly NY and Fancy in NYC, plus Macondo in

Who do you dream of seeing wearing Dauphinette?

Michelle Obama, Gemma Chan, Zendaya, or any of the women in John
Singer Sargent’s portraits.

Who are your style icons?

My mum and Princess Diana.

How would you describe your personal style?

In the summer: a flowy combination of sunshine colours, flora
and fauna. In autumn and winter I prefer darker colours and styling
a turtleneck underneath something bright. I always carry a
colourful bag too. My most-loved item of clothing is a vintage
fuchsia sequined dress from the 80s. I haven’t been dancing in a
long time, but I love to wear it backwards at night.

Where do you find design inspiration?

Inspiration comes best through experiencing and imagining, not
from the pursuit of it. Ultimately, I derive a lot of inspiration
from food, flowers, art and my journal. I’m extremely fortunate to
have travelled frequently, and I find that the opportunity to
travel teaches us how to be ourselves in new contexts. I write down
every idea in the Notes section of my phone, which may be one of
the best resources to come out of the digital age.

What’s always in your suitcase when you travel?

A Dauphinette Rambutan bag and Garden Party earrings, my
journal, vintage dresses, a 35mm camera, refillable water bottle
and snacks galore.

Tell us three destinations on your travel hit-list.

and a long drive through Italy.

Tell us about Dauphinette’s stance on sustainability.

We only us recycled fur and leather, and we repurpose a lot of
vintage. I believe that sustainable practices and objectives should
be expected from all companies, rather than seen as being
exceptional and brand-enhancing. We should all take action in our
part of the supply-and-consumption cycle.

What’s next for Dauphinette?

I’m currently developing our first collection for SS20. It’s
just a small number of styles, but each full of love, soul and a
bit of madness. Longer term, I would love to open a store and a
restaurant. I’m deeply in love with the idea of a Dauphinette
clothing store/ cheese-and-wine bar.

Insider Guide to NYC

Best place to shop for stuff that’s not fashion…

Bibber and Bell in Williamsburg has an incredible selection of
biodynamic and organic wines. Pick up fresh peonies in the Flower
District, a block-long flower market, or books from The Strand. For
small furniture and antique jewellery, there’s a store called
Pippin Vintage on 17th Street and 7th Ave – the store is inside a
19th-century blacksmith’s cottage, and you enter through a narrow
alleyway lined with baroque mirrors.

Top three places to thrift:

  1. Madame
    in the West Village. Rosemary, the owner, is fabulously
    eccentric. Her store is luxurious, tiny and packed with magical
    pieces. Whenever I go in, Rosemary is always busy embellishing silk
    handkerchiefs with broken vintage jewellery, chatting with
    customers about some historical event, or quietly boycotting the
    Starbucks around the corner while wearing pounds of vintage Chanel
  2. East Village Thrift Shop on 12th street. You can find some
    amazing pieces here for under $15.
  3. Vintage Thrift
    on 3rd Ave. It has an incredible edit of homeware and antique art
    for reasonable prices.

What are your favourite museums and galleries?

The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dia
Beacon and the Brooklyn Museum.

How should we spend 24 hours in New York?

Start with brunch at Miss
in Brooklyn, then walk through Fort Greene Park before
heading to the Flower District in Manhattan to buy some fresh
Japanese peonies. Walk downtown along the Hudson – if it’s summer,
you can kayak for free at Pier 26. Stroll through West Village and
soak up the magic of a New York sunset. Stop for dinner at Delice & Sarrasin on
Christopher Street. It’s a small vegan French spot tucked under a
twisted tree. Order the vegan cheese plate and mushroom escargots,
the buckwheat galette with konjac “salmon”, and finish with the
lavender rice pudding. Cap the night off by taking in a jazz show
and heading to one of the neighbourhood speakeasies for elderflower

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