Meet The Designer Breathing New Life Into Vintage Outerwear

Photos courtesy of Dauphinette

Dauphinette’s sustainable pieces are the answer to your fall and winter needs

It’s no wonder that Dauphinette founder Olivia Cheng has made the tagline for her label “The happiest outerwear on Earth.” Take one look at the color palette, and you’re immediately entranced by the rainbow spectrum of brights and prints we crave when the weather is cold and gloomy.

Made for the fashion-loving, thoughtful shopper, Dauphinette is a new sustainable outerwear and accessories label that uses recycled vintage and artisanal components to create truly unique, one-of-a-kind wardrobe staples. While your eye is likely immediately drawn to Cheng’s hand-painted leather gems, the brand’s offering involves much, much more. In addition to hand-painted bags of the same caliber, Cheng does everything from hand-embroider coats to hand-press flowers onto clutches and moto jackets, and she uses the most unconventional objects—from ammonite fossils to quartz crystals—as buttons.

Launched just this past August, the label was born from Cheng’s appreciation for vintage clothing and her love for art and painting, an idea that formulated over the last two years. A self-described obsessive of everything from Impressionist art to Andy Warhol to Georgia O’Keeffe, painting these vintage finds was Cheng's way of combining her two passions. “Vintage has always held a certain magic beyond the practicality of dressing,” she says. “Wearing vintage is probably the most visually and psychologically fascinating way to interact with history, and by choosing that piece—or allowing it to choose me—I felt like I was exposing my identity to that past wearer’s emotions and energies.”

Still, her interest in using recycled materials in new ways remains the foundation of the brand. “More than anything, I wanted to share a new way of interacting with recycled materials that I wasn’t seeing in the industry, and to create a community and conversation around that,” she says.

But don’t be quick to name Dauphinette as just another repurposed vintage brand. Cheng wants you to know there’s more to the story of each piece. “I think of it more like experiential layering,” she says. “Yes, each piece begins with vintage qualities, but it’s a different energy being lent to it that makes it Dauphinette. Like other designers, I have a specific silhouette I want, a particular color. The means by which I access that product is just different. It’s a small sacrifice, not always being able to source and have patterns cut for exactly what I’m imagining, but in the end, it’s always worth it to give that piece another layer, another life.”

If there’s one thing that can convince you to opt for a hot pink ombré painted moto jacket or a coat covered entirely in hand-embroidered faces, instead of a typical, neutral “goes with everything” winter jacket, it’s the sustainability factor. Most of the pieces that Cheng works her magic on are thrifted or acquired second-hand—from all over the world; she breathes new life into pieces that would otherwise be sitting untouched and unappreciated. Still, other pieces come from sustainable, artisanal textiles. Even the scrunchies sold on her site are hand-knit by Cheng's mother in recycled yarn. “Sustainability factors into every single, seemingly small decision [for the brand]—it’s not an image thing; it’s just an ingrained part of the thought process,” she says.

Cute and mindful? How could we resist? Take a peek at some of Dauphinette’s current, colorful offering, below.

Photo courtesy of Dauphinette

Dauphinette, Mariam Hand-Painted, $495, available at Dauphinette; Dauphinette, Le Sac Bespoke Hand-Painted Bag, from $225, available at Dauphinette.