“I connected with Dakota through my sister and I’m so glad we did. The unofficial theme this month on The Modern Bee has been women who have redirected their paths, stayed true to themselves and have taken a chance on pursuing a dream. I’ve found Dakota’s journey to be so inspiring and interesting and I can’t wait to keep following along. She’s made me want to up the bravery and take a chance-ness (yup, just made up that word) in my own life and I thank her for that. I’m sure it’ll rub off on you, too. Welcome to the circle, Dakota.” – Michaela
Let’s start at the beginning. At 18, while a lot of kids are wondering what to major in in college or how to get a job that gets them out of their childhood bedroom, you hit the ground running and were starting a swimwear line. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired making this dream a reality?
I always knew that I was interested in working in fashion from a very early age. When I think about the course of my life and how many things have shifted or changed over the years, my love for fashion has truly been consistent for as long as I can remember. So even though the decision to start a swimwear line seemed somewhat impulsive at the time because I wasn’t ever necessarily pursuing design in particular, it also felt like something I had been working on in my mind for years. I was in a place in my life where I was going through something kind of difficult and I needed an outlet or a project to help me get through it, so I literally sat down at my desk and sketched enough pieces for 3 years or something like that, and from there it just became the thing that I most wanted to put all my energy into.
I decided on doing swimwear because I thought it would be easy enough to manufacture (and I was paying for everything myself so I wanted to start with what I thought would be most cost effective for me as well), and because in South Florida it’s swimsuit season 365 days a year. But I also loved the idea of creating pieces that could work on and off the beach. All of the tops in the line are designed to be worn with other every day pieces like under t shirts or blazers or even on their own, if you’re bold enough. I saw there was an opportunity to really get creative in the swimwear space and make something that wasn’t just another bathing suit, and that’s definitely what drove me the most. I wanted to create pieces that you could literally live in, and I just got to a point where I realized that I didn’t have any reason not to at least try.
I love how fluid life can be and how it leads us in directions that are seemingly so different from where we started but are really just part of the flow (pun intended!) It was through your swimwear line that you met tennis great, Serena Williams and your flow redirected to becoming her executive assistant for the past three years, while also assisting her with the launch and development of her womenswear line, S by Serena. How was that transition?
The decision to make the transition was definitely easier than the transition itself. I remember being SO excited and grateful for the opportunity, but at the same time I felt a lot of guilt for starting the swimsuit project and then essentially putting it on the back burner so quickly after launching it. That was pretty difficult for me until I realized that the opportunity to work with Serena definitely wasn’t this thing that would ever keep me from pursuing my dreams but that it actually would better prepare me to pursue them. Working with her was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made- I’ve had the most unbelievable experience these last four years.
You’ve really spent the past four years traveling the world non-stop and I’d imagine, sometimes headed off at the drop of a hat. How do you stay healthy and maintain a sense of home with you on the road?
I loved all the travel! I think I just mentally prepared myself for a lot of extensive travel so I kind of made peace with it early on. But I definitely spent a lot of my free time FaceTiming my family and friends.
I’m always inspired when somebody has the courage to pursue a dream or truth; so I am so excited for you because you are about to take a leap in 2020 and relocate to Los Angeles where you’ll be delving back into the fashion game with freelance styling and photography. How have your experiences over the past four years and your initial start in fashion shaped you? How do you think things would be different if you had made this move at 18 and had not started your line or worked with Serena?
If I’ve learned anything over the last four years, it’s how to roll with the punches and how to have patience. My life is not at all what I imagined it would be when I was younger- it’s so SO much better. But part of the reason it’s better is because I’ve learned to fully embrace change, especially last minute change, with arms wide open. You have to be completely open to the way life ebbs and flows or else you might miss out on something incredible, even if it feels scary. If I never went through that difficult experience when I was 18, I might not have ever started my swimsuit line. If I never started the swimsuit line, the opportunity to work with Serena might not have ever happened either. I never envisioned any of those things for my life, but when the opportunities presented themselves, I took them, and the decision to accept these opportunities as they came led me to something greater each time. When we hold onto current experiences or situations out of comfort or out of fear of not knowing what’s next, we completely close ourselves off to growth. I can’t say whether my life would have been better or worse had I made the move to LA when I was 18, but all I know is that I would have probably missed out on some very important life lessons, and I am incredibly grateful that I didn’t.
The inspirational speaker, Iyanla Vanzant said: “[i]t’s time for you to move, realizing that the thing you are seeking is also seeking you.” How did you know it was time for you to redirect your flow and focus to new opportunities in LA?
When I started to notice that my attention had shifted and I found myself waking up every day really eager to start working on my portfolio, I knew it was just time for me to make the change. Fashion and photography are the things that make me feel the most inspired and creatively fulfilled, and I think life is just too short not to pursue the things that make you feel that way. Above all else, I truly am always seeking personal growth, so I tend to push myself to do things that will make me uncomfortable because that’s where the most growth happens. Leaving an amazing and stable job that you love, working for someone you really respect and admire and care about, to go freelance in LA is a massive leap of faith but I know that I’ll be learning and growing through this new experience so I can’t wait for it!!
In a world of possibilities, what would you do with your life if failure wasn’t an option? What advice would you give your younger self just starting out yourself or at a trying time in the past that you’ve since overcome?
If failure wasn’t an option, I’d still be doing exactly what I’m doing now even though failure IS an option. I would tell myself not to believe in the overall idea that failure is something negative. I would tell myself that failure is sometimes the greatest teacher and you should aim to make friends with it instead of spending a lifetime trying to avoid it. I genuinely believe that the only time we fail in a negative way is when we’re too scared to try something we’re really passionate about.
What traits do you value most in your circle of friends? What traits do you most value in yourself?
Self awareness, accountability, honesty, and kindness.
I always wrap things up with some fun rapid-fire questions. What is your stance on:
Shooting in color or black and white? I love both!! It depends on my mood but I’ve been loving color more lately. US Open or Wimbledon? US Open because I love NYC (and NY has much better food haha). One piece or bikini? Bikini for sure. You on Netflix or The Crown on Netflix? I actually don’t really watch TV so I haven’t seen either of them! Dark or milk chocolate? Dark with almonds (:
You can keep up with Dakota on Instagram (and also her website) and if the stunning photos she posts are any indication, her next chapter will be one filled with beauty, adventure and infinite possibilities. A journey we’re excited to cheer on and follow along.