All On The Line S1E5: Dana-Maxx

Posted on April 27, 2011

Meet Dana-Maxx, who has both a kind of a cool, sci-fi heroine name and her own fashion line, which once won her a WWD Hot New Designer Award.

It’s not a line we responded all that well to, initially. But Joe was right to spend some time with her because she definitely has a point of view, with interesting structural details and a pretty bold use of color. At first glance, we thought it looked a bit on the tacky side. Of course, in fashion-ese, when you want to say something is a little tacky, you say it looks “a bit Junior.”

Dana-Maxx has a mom, who is also the CFO of her company…

As well as a staff of thousands. Our jaws dropped at the sight of this team. We know designers who actually have lines in stores, if not stores of their own, and they don’t have teams half this size.

Put that all together along with the revelation that she actually pulled out of a deal that would have but her in 30 stores because it wasn’t the kind of store she wanted to be in and you know what that spells? Dilettante, of which there are many on the fringes (and sometimes smack in the center of) the fashion industry.

But like we said, there’s definitely something there in her designs. If she was really a dilettante, these clothes would either have been direct ripoffs of other designers, or boring and nondescript, or completely cracktastic. Instead, there was a sense of style and a thoughtful construction to a lot of the pieces.

But yes, there was definitely a taste “Junior” issue as well.

But Dr. Joe is there to the rescue and he zeroed in on the two best things about her work: the construction and the color sense. He addressed the former by taking her on a tour of New York City architecture and he addressed the latter, rather brilliantly we might add, by taking her to a paint store to figure out the color story for her collection. That’s a great idea for the struggling designer or fashion student on a budget.

So Dr. Joe gets her a meeting with Linda Fargo, Head of the Fashion Office of Bergdorf Goodman and we’re a little apprehensive. Dana-Maxx seems likable enough and she does have some talent as a designer, but that seemed like throwing her into the deep end of the pool. We weren’t at all sure she could deliver.

Okay, we REALLY want this lady to get her own show. She is EXACTLY the kind of New York fashion industry personality we love the most. Forget Kelly Cutrone and her staff of sweaty, stressed out children; this gal is the real deal: smart, blunt, with no time for bullshit and an expertise that forces everyone to sit down and listen to her. She was awesome.

Unfortunately all her blunt talk couldn’t get Dana-Maxx in line and Joe was forced to reschedule a meeting. With Bergdorf’s. This is when we love Joe the most, because as polite as he is, he makes it crystal clear how much this annoys him and how wrong he thinks she is to force him into this position. She really didn’t seem to get the seriousness of an unknown designer asking Bergdorf’s to reschedule.

And then on the day of the rescheduled meeting, it took Joe to whip that bloated team into shape and actually get them to do something about the fact that two of the dresses don’t fit because of a last-minute model change. Much like Gemma Kahng and her history of having the wrong people around her, Dana-Maxx’s large, too opinionated, and unwieldy team isn’t doing her any favors. She needs three smart people – at most – who can execute orders and be a sounding board. We just don’t get why she has or needs so many people around her.

In addition, she was using what sounded like the most expensive manufacturers she could find. She was more about who those manufacturers work for (Calvin Klein, Philp Lim) than whether or not they were a smart choice for an unknown like herself. It seems to us she gets caught up in the accoutrements of being a designer without actually spending much time thinking about the business of it. Successful designers have large staffs and use the very best manufacturers, therefore she will as well. It’s a good thing she’s got some talent because her attitude fairly smacks of dilettantism.

We’ve seen Linda Fargo from afar at various fashion shows and always thought she cut an impressive and stylish figure. She seemed to be no-nonsense, but kind and savvy. We had to laugh out loud at one thing, though. Guess what she just said here?

“People are really craving color right now!”

And the trio, solely dressed in black and white, all nod and agree.

Hit it, Dana-Maxx. This better be good.

We really like that top. The color, cutouts, and sheer insets all work without being overwhelming. It has a quiet sophistication to it that’s miles away from the loud stuff she originally showed Joe. The pants are constructed very well, but we have a hard time believing a cut like that is going to fly off the racks.

LOVE this dress. That is some impeccable tailoring. Love the colors and we’re impressed that it actually flatters even though it flares out at the hips. The proportions are perfect.

A great design hampered by a poor fabric choice. It’s too shiny and pucker-y. Should have been rendered in the same kind of matte fabrics she used for the previous dress. We like the sheer yoke and sleeves.

Another really cute top. Personally, we don’t love that style of skirt, but it’s well done and there’s definitely a Bergdorf’s customer who goes for that sort of thing.

Ditto on the jacket. Very much a Bergdorf customer kind of item. That kind of metallic can easily go tacky, but she chose well and it looks sophisticated. The skirt and top are both impeccable as well.

We think Linda said it all when she whispered “Valentino would be jealous.” A really gorgeous, sophisticated dress, beautifully made. We think the ruffles could have been a skosh smaller, but other than that, it’s perfect.

We were impressed as hell with the collection. Joe’s definitely got an eye and an ability to tease out the best from a struggling designer. We were actually happy that Linda didn’t buy the collection. It would have smacked of reality TV happy ending. You could tell Linda was intrigued – and despite how disappointed Dana-Maxx was, to be put on the short list for Bergdorf Goodman is no small thing – but she was right to be wary about a designer who couldn’t meet a deadline. Manufacturing issues can wind up costing retailers tons of money. That’s the reality of the business of fashion. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the clothes are; if you’ve given Bergdorf reason to suspect you might not be able to follow through, you don’t get on the racks.

She’s good, though. We hope the disappointment didn’t get her down. We’ve seen a LOT of struggling unknown designers make their way through the reality TV meat grinder and we’d place her fairly high among them in terms of talent. If you liked any of the pieces, lucky you. She’s got the line on sale on her site.


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