Owner/Founder | Fashion Designer
Meet Amanda Dare Dougherty, The New Blak's fearless leader. Amanda’s dream has always been to have a sustainable and ethical fashion line, at an affordable price point. With a background in theater arts and retail management, Amanda first began to incite positive change in the fashion industry at the local level. The New Blak was created in Louisville KY to combat fast fashion in 2015 and has continued to grow ever since!
" Hey there girl gang! Amanda here!
If you are interested in diving deeper into my story,
well you are in the right spot...
I began with the simple idea that there must be another way. Another way to look fashionable and chic, without creating harm during the process. I wanted to ensure that my contribution to the fashion world would allow for women to be empowered through the entire process.
I was a part of the fast fashion system. When I was 24, I began working in retail management. My bosses would constantly pressure me to wear the clothing that the store was selling in order to look fashionable. I found myself purchasing clothing on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. I could never quite keep up with the changing trends that were brought into the shop each week. My wallet could barely keep up as well. I found myself wearing a garment once or not even having the time to wear it before the next week's trend arrived for me to buy.
I just couldn't keep up. I was financially not making ends meet with my new fashion habit, which caused me a lot of distress. Then I began to question all of the clothing in my closet, and I couldn't help but wonder who made my clothes. I was opening sometimes 30 boxes of shipment a day to restock the sales floor. Where was it all coming from?
I had owned my own business before this rush of fast fashion came into my life. I made custom clothing in my own little shop called The Hanger at Mellwood Arts Center, in Louisville Ky until I could afford move into the more trendy Highlands/Bardstown Rd area. I didn't quite have a full vision of what brand or business. I did know however, I wanted to create but I was young and trying to make custom clothing for anyone who walked into the shop.
Photo above: Outside my custom clothing shop- The Hanger.
I did have a costuming background but mostly had taught myself to sew around the age of 20. I was working in the costuming department for the College Program at Disney World. After completing that program I was hooked on sewing and creating art with my hands. I took a sewing class at the University of Louisville, and worked as the Wardrobe Master for the Costume shop for 2 years. This is where I learned to do alterations. Some people love alterations but for me the goal was custom clothing. When I had my shop, The Hanger, near the end I was sewing mostly alterations to keep the business going. Not ideal for me so I decided to separate myself from sewing and get into retail management.
So back to staring in my closet wondering about my clothing.
Who made it? how could they make it for such a cheap price? why was it falling apart after one or two wears? Where was the fabric from? Who designed the garment?
I had so many questions and wanted to end my cycle of fast fashion ignorance. So I began to research. My favorite dose of information came from the documentary - The True Cost ( available on Netflix). So many of my questions were answered there. But one additional piece of information was that the garment workers around the work were over 80% women. Now I identify as a fiercely feminine woman. I was managing a team of all women in retail and basically worked in creative fields with women my whole life. I knew right then the experience of the seamstress, the garment worker, the designer would need to be redefined as an empowered position.
I started to work on my ideas of a fashion blog with sustainable and ethical fashion as well as a wide variety of fun and pretty girly topics. This was my outlet while I was still working in the fast fashion industry. I had 4 other girls as a part of the first blog. I was the best outlet for my creativity. However, I didn't feel that it as my calling or the place I would eventually end up. I wanted to create more of an impact. So I began to dream of a place where women were working collaboratively towards a common goal of empowering women through sustainable and ethical clothing design.
The photo above is the last day at my retail job. I left my job when I was 26 (March 2015), the same week that the kickstarter ran for the first $5,000 of The New Blak investment. I knew I was ready to take this leap and have my own business again. I was ready to dive full force in and I did.
The fist year we began production of the garments in June, after our kickstarter money arrived, and we found the perfect organic cotton (sourcing alone took 6 months). I say, we because at the time I had partners enter the business in 2016. We planned to used a woman-owned manufacturer in Massachusetts. She was amazing but we were both new in business and I needed to keep the designs close. I decided that I would throw back on my seamstress hat and sew the garments myself.
For the first year, I had designed three dresses (pictured above) and we were selling maybe 10 dresses a month. We sold in tents at festivals and eventually shared a store space with a jewelry designer for a short while. I had always wanted to travel with my clothing company so I had purchased a mobile boutique ( well really an old shuttle bus the needed a ton of work). When it came time to move forward with the construction/transformation of the bus into a mobile boutique. My then partners and I worked to raise $10,000 Kiva Loan. At then end of the year my partners and I decided to part ways. I continued with the construction of my dream, a mobile boutique.
My family was such a huge help in the construction of the mobile boutique, especially my mother (Hi Mom!). She understood my vision from day one and it gave us an amazing project to complete together. All of my family joined in and helped paint, remove bus seats and the gum on the floor under them, craft cabinets and clothing racks, install a dressing room, and put up the cutest "fake" silver tin roof. She was a beauty! Her name was Betty the bus, Full name: Woah Blak Betty. I launched the Mobile Boutique on April 22, 2016 (earth day).
For the next year I drove Betty the bus all around Louisville, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. I sold my clothing at festivals, craft shows, farmers' markets, and private parties. I was also able to hire some of my first seamstresses. We worked to sew the garments during the week in my studio, then I sold the garments on the weekend. People would message me all the time saying that they saw Betty driving down the road. I worked hard to utilize the big billboard on wheels I had to get out the name of the company.
After the holiday markets had closed in 2016, my girl gang was asking where to come shop and hang out with me on a daily basis. The New Blak was becoming a staple shop in Louisville, and it was time to open my first solo storefront location. After a ton of searching, I found the perfect designer showroom and studio space combined that also happened to be in a mall! The mall was the perfect sport for me to challenge fast fashion every day! I knew I had to jump on the opportunity.
On April 22, 2017 (earth day/fashion revolution week/opening of the show girl boss on Netflix) I opened my shop! I ran another kickstarter to help with the costs and raised another $5,000. Once again, my family and friends stepped up to help make my dream become a reality. I couldn't be more thankful for them.
Now I have 10+ girls on my staff that help make The New Blak a reality every day. I am exactly where I am supposed to be and loving my life each day. I know I glossed over the struggles I faced along the way, but I merely see them as lesson and experiments. I try something new and if it feels right, I keep doing it. If it feels wrong, i pivot while still keeping my mission front and center. I am very happy to have the love and support from a talented group of women that keep me going and keep me sane every day! Thanks to these ladies for being my Girl Gang!