Here's Theresa Dapra donning her custom goat hair and mouse ears.

Here’s Theresa Dapra donning her custom goat hair and mouse ears.

There is great sense of reality being lost and fantasy being realized with Theresa Dapra’s unconventional new spring 2013 accessories line.  Mainly, her pieces are deeply imaginative in a surreal sense.  Yet each piece is characterized by familiar, nostalgic references that will draw consumers back to a childlike state of excitement.  It’s basically for the playful eccentrics in all of us. I talked to her about her myriad inspirations (which include Disney characters!), maintaining creative autonomy in a corporate-branded world, and being bold and beautiful.

Where does the inspiration behind your work stem from?

I think there are a lot of factors behind it. First of all, a lot of people seem to ask me where I get the ideas for the outfits I’m wearing, or what the blogs and magazines I like to read are, but I never really pull inspiration from fashion. A lot of the time my inspirations come from an art piece I’ve seen, anatomy, skeletons and horror films, and music. It’s usually a general feeling from within, whatever’s going on in my life. I’m really big into characters and themes. So a lot of times it comes from focusing on the character or theme and portraying it the best I can. I really like Disney characters, and I’ll go through a phase where I want to look like Cruella de Vil or some kind of anime character. My line is really all about play and costumes to me.

KERIN - spiked fox gloves


I translate a romance between fantasy and edge when I look through your collections. What truly defines your designs?

I think that’s actually a really cool way of putting it because I am definitely a really romantic person. I romanticize with things, and I think one of the best outlets for me to portray that through is fashion. A lot of the time I like to look at the pieces as actual pieces of art. So everything I make is not just a fashion piece, it can become an art piece as well. I try to give them each their own personality and characteristics. Even though pieces can be recreated, I really look at them as one-of-a-kind, so I romanticize with them in this way. Also, another thing is there is definitely a villain and super hero fantasy thing going on with the pieces too.

What made you go the fashion design route?

Actually, I started making bags for my friends and myself out of old jeans and glitter shoelaces that I had gotten from Hot Topic. I was always playing around with that when I was like twelve or thirteen, but I didn’t think I could turn it into a career. I went to Manhattan College in the Bronx, and I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was taking all liberal arts classes, and actually my dad said to me “You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re an artistic person, so check out F.I.T. in the city.” I ended up going and it went from there. I realized design was something I really wanted to do. I honestly didn’t even know it was something you could go to school for before that because I came from a small town outside of the city.

As an independent designer, what challenges do you find yourself facing in the fashion industry?

The main thing that has always been challenging to me is the business aspect of it. I’m a creative person, and sometimes it’s hard to figure out marketing or advertising. I have to think “Who am I targeting, and how do I get this out there?” It’s a lot of those aspects that are hard for me. Even though I have a huge network of people in all aspects of this business, it’s still something I’m figuring out. My mind works differently because I’m very creative. I’m not that great with numbers. Honestly I don’t want to be some big corporate designer; I want to be that smaller independent brand. It’s all about finding the right balance, and that can be difficult, especially in the fashion world.


SYLVIA - double skunk headpiece

high priestess mask

With such loud and unconventional pieces, what is your design process like? And do you ever come up short on new ideas?

Well I think once you get on the roll of something, it’s really easy to stay with it. There are times I’m working on one piece and I’ll test it out with different fabrics that I wanted to use, or put something on a beret instead of a headband. When I’m working on pieces, sometimes I’ll surprise myself and have an idea for something else, and I’ll accidentally make a spinoff on what I was originally working on. Everything really vibes off of the other. I don’t really go through phases where I lose my creativity, but sometimes I may find myself in a mood where I don’t want to make anything, so I’ll sketch instead or do something else. I won’t make anything for a while, but I think you have to do that because then I get really anxious and excited to delve back into the design process. It’s really therapeutic.

Who are the people you are finding your customers to be?

It’s usually people who aren’t afraid to stand out. It’s definitely the experimental crowd, but at the same time, it’s people who don’t have anything outrageous on but they come to me looking for a crazy troll print bag or something. It’s not good to judge people because they really can surprise you.

Last but not least, what does 2013 hold for you?

Everything! I was actually really excited for 2013 to arrive because I felt it would be awesome. I had some really cool opportunities happen and I made a lot of new connections: I’ve had a stylist borrow some pieces for a SNL skit; I’ve gotten to make a custom mask for Kanye West. And so it has been a pretty great year already, with a lot going on. For the rest of the year I’m definitely going to reach out to more people and really get the line going.

For more on Theresa Dapra’s collections check out her website.