Recently, I had the pleasure of connecting with and meeting Delcia Norwood, designer of Love, Dia Couture and aspiring humanitarian. When I learned that Delcia was looking to expand her humanitarian efforts and solidify her role in the community at large, outside of business dwellings, I seized the opportunity to sit down and learn more about her and her goals.
It’s so great to meet other people who have a vested, or a developing vested interest in community and global initiatives. Before discussing your good deeds, can you tell me a bit more about yourself?
My name is Delcia Norwood and I am a military wife and secretary by day. In my “true career”, I am a fashion designer in Chicago and owner of Love, DIA Couture and Fashion. I have over 12 years of seamstressing and pattern-making experience and training. I graduated from Bradley University in 2005 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Retail Merchandising and Minors in Business Management and Marketing.
I started my first company, “Dia Crafts and Fashions” while still a student and transitioned into a career in retail sales. Although the ten years I spent in this industry definitely gave me superior sales skills, I realized that I wanted a more meaningful career. I wanted a career that felt important, and fashion design was in my heart. With the encouragement of my husband, I decided to go back to school and get my degree in Fashion Design from the International Academy of Design and Technology. After graduation, with an arsenal of new techniques and information, I began my business again, under the name “Love, DIA Couture and Fashion”.
I truly love fashion and design; I love that something I create has the power to completely change the way a woman feels about herself, even if only for a short time. Each piece I create is a signed letter of love and encouragement to the women I design for, showing them that their beauty is inherent and indisputable; that it is not contingent upon any arbitrary standard of beauty.
How lovely; is this how your interest in the community began?
Yes. My core mission is to use my work to uplift the women we serve. It was from this mission that our community efforts arose. In 2010, we held our first Amalgamation Fashion show. This show was originally intended to be a small church fundraiser, however, the church unfortunately, had to cancel. As we’d already sold tickets, we decided to move forward on our own and held a show with the intention of benefiting the Red Pump Project. Our show didn’t make much money, coming in just shy of breaking even, however, we found that we had a great opportunity to impact girls’ self esteem and awareness of their value with this event, and decided to make it a yearly event to benefit girls’ in our community.
We wanted to make a more powerful impact directly on self-esteem year round, so in 2011, we partnered with Girls Rule! Chicago, an organization that seeks to build up girls through social events, workshops and education. Last year, together with Girls Rule! and The Red Pump Project, we produced a professional and creative showcase of 15 independent designers. AMALGAMATION2011 was selected by the Mayor’s Council on Fashion to be an Official Fashion Focus event and we sold over 200 tickets. This year, we’re working even harder to top last year’s success. I have also worked this past year as a featured designer for Beau Ideal. Although this is strictly a non-paid, volunteer position, I had the opportunity to hone my skills and efficiency further, producing five collections in a year for presentation at their fundraising fashion shows (and all while managing to spend less than $1000 to do so).
Community service is at the core of my business model, as evidenced by our commitment to supporting the efforts of Girls Rule! Chicago and The Red Pump Project. However, just raising money simply is not enough to make a meaningful impact in the lives of girls and women in our communities. Just creating clothing that enhances natural beauty is not enough to make a meaningful impact. I believe that the only way to truly make a difference is by giving of one’s self and time
I totally agree! How are giving your time?
I volunteer as a Design Mentor for the Hinton Elementary Girls Rule! by Design program. I, along with two other designers that I asked to participate, donate time and supplies to teach the girls to sew and how to develop fashion designs. This last session, we participated in information sessions, teaching the girls about HIV/AIDS awareness, protecting their integrity, recognizing their value in relationships, and appreciating other women for who they are, without judging based on the assessments of others.
I also volunteered this past prom season, performing alterations on donated dresses for Tiffany Torrence-Davis’ Prom Drive at Banner South High School. It is my hope that we will be able to donate seamstressing and alterations services to prom drives on an annual basis.
You sound very passionate about your involvement with the community and as a woman’s activist; from where does your inspiration come?
I think I am most inspired by my own experiences. As a kid, I always felt so out-of-place, because everyone else around me seemed to be trying so hard to blend in, but I didn’t have the option. I felt like my worth to the people surrounding me, was contingent upon my hair texture, or my skin color, or my cup size. As I grew older, I had to learn to love what I saw in the mirror, and often, I still struggle with this. I just want to give women the security and comfort of knowing that they are beautiful, original, perfectly acceptable in their God-given forms.
My next immediate efforts are for helping to boost the Chicago Fashion Industry. I want to be a force in showing the world that we are a world-class city, with a unique perspective on design and fashion, and I want to show the world that Chicago is better than our media portrayal. I also want to show girls who may be interested in fashion, but afraid to try (like I was), that this is a viable, important, and rewarding career. I also want to determine a way for Dia to begin supporting RAINN, in an effort to further our mission to serve underserved women in our communities.
As we are planning to expand both our boutique presence and our online sales, we also hope to eventually open studio space that can double as educational space for teaching community sewing classes.
What advice would you give to other professionals who work hard to achieve their dreams, but may fail to contribute to underserved or underappreciated communities?
I would advise any professional who doesn’t contribute to these communities to realize that the more we uplift underserved communities, the more we empower underprivileged communities; and the more we educate and employ impoverished communities, the greater our potential markets become. Business is not a segregated entity from community; the success of any business is dependent upon and correlates to the success of the communities they serve. Business cannot exist without healthy communities, therefore it is in everyone’s best interest to make serving the community a priority.
Well said. Do you want to tell anyone reading this about any forthcoming events?
The second anniversary of Love, DIA Couture and Fashion! Instead of celebrating with some posh party, (maybe next year) we thought it would be a good idea to celebrate in a way that provides all of our businesses with an opportunity to grow! To celebrate, we put together our first networking event and resource fair for fashion professionals, which brings together designers with small business lenders, SCORE Chicago, graphic/web design, modeling agencies, and any other entities that they need to build their businesses. This is happening July 17 from 6p to 8p at Output Lounge, 1758 W Grand Ave in Chicago.
This event is a great opportunity to grow your individual businesses, by meeting and networking with the service providers YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS. Get information on business registration, web design, product labeling and packaging, graphic design and suppliers of materials, AND book fashion photographers, makeup artists and stylists,or purchase stock items for your next photo shoots. You will also have the opportunity to meet with providers who specialize in creating epic fashion events, from food to production.
Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door- Don’t miss out on this awesome opportunity to secure new partners, trade ideas and grow your businesses!
Also, the AMALGAMATION 2012 Fashion Show and Benefit is scheduled for Saturday, October 27 at St Stephen’s, 3042 W Washington Blvd in Chicago. Submissions for designers are currently being accepted at email@example.com. We will feature 12 independent designers this year, and are highlighting and showing our respect and appreciation for Chicago’s independent Bloggers and Media. Again, we are hoping to raise four figure donations for both Girls’ Rule! Chicago and the Red Pump Project.
Delcia Norwood will also be receiving Honorable Recognition at this year’s Fashion and Arts Humanity Fete on August 30, 2012 at the Beverly Arts Center to celebrate the beginning of her humanitarian efforts!! Be sure to purchase your tickets so you can meet and congratulate Delcia for her achievements and community efforts.