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Conversations with Denise Samson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Denise Samson.

Hi Denise, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
In 2000 when I just had my first baby, I was purging my closet and found a pair of thrifted Lucky Brand jeans that no longer fit. I didn’t want to donate it because I liked the four leaf clover pockets so much, and that gave me the “spark” that started everything. I pulled out the sewing machine and went to work.

It was my mother-in-law’s vintage Singer single-stitch machine that I used to sew the Lucky jeans into an inside-out tote bag. From the first day I took it out in public, I received many compliments and requests. “Where did you get that?” “Does Lucky sell those?” “Can you make me one?” I knew I had something special!

In 2003, a long-time friend approached me and told me he loved my ideas and he’d help me design a logo, which I fell in love with at first sight. That’s how the graphic tees and streetwear part of my brand was born. My three year old son had even drawn a cute bunny with a pink marker with one small eye and one large eye that I used on men’s T-shirts and women’s Tank tops which was a hit. That sparked my online business before any social media was even popular and word-of-mouth was the marketing strategy.

Later a friend who was a celebrity makeup artist saw the tank top I was wearing and wanted to wear it during her photoshoots to experiment with feedback. She had gotten an overwhelming response to my clothing so she started giving them away to whomever would ask. Celebrities like Finola Hughes, Lindsey Lohan, and Shakira have worn my tank tops.

Eventually, I was invited to be part of a few fashion shows to feature my brand on the runway. I was featured at The LAB Anti Mall in Costa Mesa and at BB Kings inside Universal City Walk. Before I knew it, I was asked to include my “My Bunny” T’s and Tanks inside the Oscar party giveaway bag. It was going to cost me $8000 to have my products in the bag, which I didn’t have at the time, so I decided to take a short break. Well, that short break turned into a 10-year hiatus where life happened.

Fast forward to 2019, I was hit with a flash of inspiration again and just for fun, I upcycled my first denim jeans into a fringe convertible tote bag. I had forgotten how much I loved it! My partner of 5 years really pushed me to chase my dream again and since that day, I’ve never looked back. I have been sewing almost daily ever since. Eventually, I opened up an Etsy shop to add my creations like upcycled t-shirts to facemasks which got a lot of attention during the pandemic, where I sold over 2000 hand-made masks. I have since become a Star Seller and continue to grow my product line.

Combined with my love for thrifting and upcycling, my collection for pre-loved clothing lead me to meet Joe at ReDress. That’s how I got to where I am today.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has not been a smooth road. My own ego and that “cautious little voice” took me away from the thing I loved told me I needed to be more practical and make a steady salary. And so began my ten years hiatus where, although I absolutely love being a mom to two beautiful boys, I lived my life with little inspiration and creative freedom. I went into the healthcare industry because it was stable but I wasn’t completely happy. I always felt a pull to continue with my passion for clothing. On the upside, I gained stability and even paid my debt back. But I realized my main struggle was with myself. Reading books and listening to podcasts to do the inner work has been the most helpful and transformational.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I have since left healthcare to focus on my art. I specialize in taking what already exists, a second-hand item that I thrift with joy, and I make it beautiful through upcycling and adding my own flavor to it. Working with denim is challenging, but it’s also my favorite fabric to work with and perhaps what I’m best known for. I’ve broken more needles than I can remember! I’m most proud of my denim fringe bags, my vintage Wrangler button-down with a floating applique geisha girl, and the colorful applique pinwheels from my recycled mask scraps. What sets me apart from others is the intention and love I infuse into each one-of-a-kind piece. I do believe we can make the world a better place and prolong its life by reducing our carbon footprint with each recycled piece made and purchased.

How can people work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
I have a studio in the Arts District where I can meet with artists or clients to make something beautiful out of something that already exists. You can reach me through Instagram. I have a “book now” button for style or custom order sessions. You can support me by a follow or by favoriting my Etsy store!

Contact Info:

Image credit:
Daissy Sanchez
Jessiah Monsod

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