DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who Are You?
My name is Virginia Arrisueño and I am the owner and designer of DeNada, a DC-based knitwear apparel and accessories brand for men and women. I received my BFA in fiber art from the University of Maryland in 2002 and transitioned from fine art to designing in 2005, when I founded DeNada. The brand blends contemporary elements with traditional knitting techniques to offer unique, handmade pieces. Our merchandise offering includes a variety of knit and crochet wraps, shrugs, and tops, as well as scarves, gloves and hats. I draw on my Peruvian heritage a lot when designing DeNada knits, and work alongside skilled Peruvian artisans to bring each collection to fruition. I work and live in Washington DC with my husband, artist Kelly Towles (another great DC talent!), my son, and our two dogs, Mia and Kobi.
DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?
VA: Being funemployed means doing what it takes to follow your passion. For me that has always meant not being afraid of failure. Truly living your most authentic life can be scary, because it usually means living unconventionally, and that always means taking risks. When I started my career I wanted to be an artist, which is the opposite of a traditional 9 to 5. But I went to art school and when I graduated I truly felt like I had all of the tools to succeed, and I went for it (DCF: and we are so glad you did!). As my career progressed, I realized I wanted to try something different and I transitioned from fine art to designing.
DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?
VA: My parents were my first cheerleaders. They immigrated to the states from Perù. Growing up, I saw how hard they worked to create a life for themselves and for me and my siblings (I’m the youngest of four!). They instilled such a passionate work ethic in me from a young age, and I always felt so encouraged by them to follow my dreams and to work towards my goals to the fullest extent possible. My parents were also the inspiration for what I’m doing now. My father always loved the arts and my mother has always had incredible sense of style. They are my cheerleaders and my inspiration! (DCF: They sound like wonderful people, you reflect them well!)
DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?
VA: Studying art and being an artist early on in my career gave me the artistic backbone that it takes to bring each DeNada collection to life. Designing our knitwear takes me back to my roots in fine art, which was my first love and my first dream before stepping into the world of fashion. My experiences as a young artist are at the core of DeNada’s aesthetic, the core tenets of which are minimalism, functionality, style, and ease.
DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?
VA: Family has always been really central to my life. My husband is a fellow artist and has supported me throughout my entire career, from when I was pursuing art to when I decided to start DeNada. He and my son, as well as my parents and my siblings are what keep me grounded, motivated, and passionate about making DeNada succeed (DCF: It is so important to have those people that keep you rooted).
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?
VA: To me balance means living harmoniously. I have a 4 year old son, own a small business, and also take on creative projects outside of DeNada; I’m always busy! Finding balance between business and personal time takes work, but making time for family and for just living in the moment is a priority. Productive mornings are key for me when it comes to balance. I wake up really early, I run, and try to get the absolute most out of each day. Staying active is integral to the way that I maintain personal balance.
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
VA: Any free time I have that is not spent working is spent with my family. Family is the most important part of my life, and I love what I do, so it isn’t a huge sacrifice in the grand scheme of things. But my social life is definitely affected by my busy schedule. If I want to go out to dinner or do brunch with friends, that’s something that I have to plan out in advance.
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
VA: I have faced struggles that unfortunately are really common for women in any industry, but especially for women who are entrepreneurs. When DeNada first started it was essentially just me, along with much help from my wonderful husband, Kelly. But for the most part I built this brand from the ground up and I have always been intensely motivated and passionate about making DeNada successful. And while I have always received support from family and friends and from many fellow artists, there are always going to be people who don’t like women who are “too” intense or “too” passionate. All of our products are handmade by skilled artisans in Perù. While I love working with such talented people there, I have also been faced with a lot of “machismo.” We’re doing a series on our blog now called #ChangeMakers (DCF: Love it) and all of the women we interviewed talked about this double standard a lot. This concept of being considered “too much of something” is mind-boggling to me, but I look past it and carry on.
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
VA: When I was a kid my mom used to always tell me to enjoy my childhood, and to not stress. Looking back, I wish I had reveled in that childhood freedom a little bit more. I get it now.
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
VA: I can’t pinpoint a specific failure. I try my best not to look at mistakes as failures, but rather as opportunities for growth!
DCF: What is your proudest moment?
VA: When I see people wearing DeNada products on the street or on Instagram, or hearing from one our retailers that our products are selling well. Seeing that my designs are valued is an amazing feeling. It’s wonderful to have people who are excited to contribute to the brand from customers to team members who are excited about the work we do here.
DCF: So what are you Currently Conquering?
VA: DeNada has always been known for its Autumn/Winter collections. I have wanted to do a Spring/Summer Collection for a long time now. I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and debuted our first ever Spring/Summer Collection at the beginning of this month (DCF: Soooo excited to check it out in person and worried I’m gonna buy everything cause it looks so good). I want to expand DeNada to be a brand that offers collections year-round, and it’s finally happening! The Spring/Summer Collection features light, airy, and open designs created with a cotton-blend fiber. The new collection is all about knitwear that’s perfect for summer but still has the signature DeNada aesthetic. Includes a range of lightweight shawls and jackets that are effortlessly stylish outerwear for summer nights, and a selection of knit & crochet tops perfect for any daytime look. All styles are handmade in Perú by amazingly skilled artisans whom I’ve been working with since starting DeNada back in 2009. Shop the collection online at here or stop by our studio to shop in person at 52 O ST NW on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays from 12pm-4pm.
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