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Daily Inspiration: Meet Hanna Dorman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Hanna Dorman.

Hi Hanna, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I grew up in the Valley, in Woodland Hills, not far from the canyon. The ocean was always pretty close but a little out of reach. I always loved bathing suits and as a kid I called them “baben suits.” As I grew older, I got into modeling for swimwear brands. I didn’t fully pursue modeling because I had my eyes set on attending Otis College of Art and Design, to get my BFA in fashion design. I worked really hard in school and spent many late nights sewing everything with my own hands. I was very persistent on creating pieces that were meaningful and told a story. My favorite project was the one I created with Johnson Hartig of Libertine, inspired by aliens and the film Barbarella.

Upon graduating, I moved to New York City, where I spent nearly two years as an assistant designer. I worked for Ralph Lauren and then Coach on the women’s collection and pre-collection. There is a whole language of fashion that I learned during this time and some phrases still make me laugh. For example, the word “dumb” being used as a term of endearment in reference to a detail on a jacket, like, “that button is so dumb, I love it.”

When offices shut down due to covid, I returned home to California and was working remote. By summertime, I couldn’t find any bathing suits that captivated me. I was looking for pieces that had the same attention to detail that I learned working in high fashion. This inspired me to start sketching. My whole life, I’ve always dreamt of having my own line. When the world feels like it’s falling apart, most people in their right mind would hold onto something stable, but I decided that I couldn’t keep putting off what I really strived to do. Life is too short. I realized that now was my time to start Bāben, a luxury women’s swimwear line that offers meaningful details and timeless style.

Inspired by new beginnings and things once loved but never forgotten, the very first collection is called “Break of Day.” It pays tribute to my past and the path that led me from NYC back to my roots. I spend my time between Venice, Laguna Beach and taking road trips in my boyfriend’s van, surfing and skateboarding. This collection is an expression of a life that is meant to be lived in freedom.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Like every road, there are ups and downs and that’s part of the journey to reach the destination. I wouldn’t trade the lessons I’ve received through my challenges for anything else. Trying to manufacture my designs in LA amidst a pandemic proved difficult. I experienced many delays in getting my product to the market. What was going to be a summer wasn’t launched until the end of August. I’ve learned that success does not happen overnight, but you have to persevere and learn how to adjust when the circumstances are not ideal. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t want to celebrate until I’ve accomplished my end goal, but I’m reminding myself each day to focus on small wins and that you can’t be everything to everyone. People will say no, but some will say yes, and those feel so damn good.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am inspired by the women in my life. Seeing them and the way they live inspires me to create for them. I am inspired by photos of my mother (Bāben co-founder) in the ‘70s skateboarding and of my grandmother laying by the pool with a magazine in hand, supporting a golden tan. To capture the joy in those photos seems near impossible, but I strive to create pieces equally timeless. The collection features 100% custom-designed hardware as seen on the Ryder bikini. The Tutti Frutti, named after my favorite New Order song, is inspired by my favorite ruffled one piece as a kid, revisited for women today. Like childhood dreams come true, it presents a new nostalgia. We also created high-end boardshorts for women who value fashion – forward yet playful beach attire. We show that something as casual as board shorts can now be dressed up and worn out to dinner. An ode to the sea, I am reminded there is nothing more beautiful than the sun sparkling on the ocean. This idea is reflected in our sequin boardshorts, a piece you never knew you needed. As a brand, we continually seek to push beyond the boundaries of our category.

I designed all of the prints by hand first, including a single turquoise cowboy boot drawing and a watercolor painting inspired by 18th century silk warp techniques. Our heritage print repeats the motto of our brand, “I love you, so I set you free to shine around all things like the sun,” in a triangle check pattern. After learning about 90% of California’s kelp forests being destroyed, I wanted to find a way of giving back to our greatest source of inspiration, the ocean. I partnered with Sea Trees and for each piece sold in our seaweed print we are donating 10 square feet of kelp forest restoration.

The Valley Girl bikini and headbanger jacket are adorned in phrases such as “dreams never end,” “far away lands,” and “licensed to feel.” Sarcastically chic, I’ve put “smart” on the back of the bikini bottom. You get the joke. “City of Angles” is no typo either, but a light criticism of our culture obsessed with capturing ourselves at our best angles. In a world where bikinis are often viewed as objectively “sexy,” we give them something more to say. We seek to give women pieces they can feel special in, to inspire them to get outside, to appreciate beauty, and to harness it within themselves.

We all have a different way of looking at and defining success. How do you define success?
I used to define success by accomplishment, but now I define success by level of presence. In NYC, I had been burning the candle at both ends, I couldn’t keep up, and I lost myself for a bit. It’s a tough industry. From the outside, people were impressed with me, so I tried to hang on and keep at it. I’m not sure if I was trying to prove something to myself or to others, but eventually I got so tired and I realized it wasn’t a ladder I wanted to climb.

The hard work has not changed, but now I manage my own time, and that means finally getting a normal amount of sleep each night after six years of grinding. Now, I take breaks, I take walks, I get fresh air, I live in the moment and I am so grateful. Now, my life and my work has kind of blended into one. Work, which used to weigh me down, now feels like play.

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Image Credits:

Photographers: Miramar Photo, Blake Doyle, Lindsey Englander

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