Q&A with Jackelyn Dacanay, Founder, THE ART OF FATE

IMG_0353Founded in 2014, THE ART OF FATE is the first conscious fashion and wellness house created for all womxn. They partner with emerging brands in social impact and showcase the brand’s stories with the world.  

Cameron Keegan: Jackie, it’s so great to meet you and thank you for sitting down with me! First off, tell me about yourself, your story, and how you developed your passions for fashion and social entrepreneurship.

Jackelyn Dacanay: Fashion has always been a constant passion of mine throughout my life. I was born and raised in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, an area that I later learned has a long and storied history in the fashion and jewelry industry. When I was growing up, my grandmother worked at K&M, a jewelry distributor based in Rhode Island. On occasion, she would bring home boxes full of costume jewelry and my little sister and I would light up with excitement as we dressed ourselves up in it.

Being the first born, I was given a lot of freedom at a young age to experiment with my style and self-expression. My grandmother would take me shopping, and I would pick out my own outfits. In middle school, I was that girl who was known to have a different outfit on every day. I went through a lot of unique “phases” and now that I look back I think I was trying to channel a sense of individuality within myself and conveyed that message through the way I dressed.

I was devastated when my mom told me I would be attending St. Raphael Academy for high school where I would be forced to wear a uniform consisting of high-waisted khaki pants and purple polo shirts. I learned to hack my way around it by dressing it up with colorful sweaters and sneakers (much to the dismay of my high school’s administration). I remember getting written up more than a few times for being out of dress code. Despite the strict dress code policy, I still knew that I wanted to pursue fashion. I applied to 3 fashion schools  (Boston, NYC, and LA), and settled on LA after flying out for my admissions interview. Being immersed in a big city and getting my first taste of luxury retail was one of the most exciting times of my life. I moved to NY with a fellow classmate after graduating, and quickly became enamored with all that NYC had to offer. It wasn’t until I had a few more years in the industry that I found a way to bridge my passion for fashion and social impact.

 

“My vision is to build a new industry standard for social change in the fashion world and beyond.” – Jackelyn Dacanay

 

CK: What experiences and realizations led to founding THE ART OF FATE?

JD: The company I was working for in LA and NY was a highly prestigious luxury fashion brand that found its beginnings in the late 1800s. After opening their first location in LA, and then transferring to NY I realized how quickly I needed to adapt to be successful and remain competitive. I learned everything I know about clienting, customer service, merchandising, and how to market myself. I earned my place as one of the top 5 sellers in the company, generating over $1 million dollars in net revenue my last year. It taught me at a young age that success is a measure of tenacity, commitment, and hard work. But I was under a lot of pressure and high levels of stress. It was during this time that I realized just how problematic the fashion industry is. I was working in a cutthroat environment with an extremely toxic culture that took a huge toll on my mental health. I also witnessed firsthand how and why the fashion industry is the second most wasteful industry behind big oil. There’s a tremendous amount of waste being produced at every level of the supply chain––from raw materials, to chemical runoff in the production process, to the excessive packaging of products, to damaged and dated merchandise that needed to be thrown out to make room for the next season.

As I started to educate myself more on the environmental impact of the fashion industry, I asked myself: if I knew then what I know now, would I choose to go down the same path? Knowing that the world of fashion I came to understand did not line up with my own values and beliefs, I decided to leave New York and move back to Rhode Island to start THE ART OF FATE. The name dropped into my head like a fallen star. I never pictured myself moving back to my home state, but it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. THE ART OF FATE truly is the story of my life and how it came around full circle leading me back to where my journey first began. Over the years, we’ve evolved to become the first eco-fashion and wellness house for emerging brands in social impact that are all centered around our core values: environmental awareness and social good. I’m extremely proud of that.

CK: What were some of the early challenges and milestones when you were first starting THE ART OF FATE, and how did your business grow from there?

JD: I started THE ART OF FATE with my savings from working in NY. Starting a new business venture with no MBA or business experience is obviously a huge risk and brings many challenges. I also had no experience as a jewelry designer, so add that to the mix and you have one long road of learning it all as you go. One of my mom’s good friends who used to make jewelry suggested I check out Wolf E. Myrow for material, one of the last closeout jewelry warehouses in Rhode Island. From there I built myself a mock-up studio in my parents basement and with two mannequins taught myself how to make jewelry. I started pushing myself to get more involved in the community by going to networking events and doing pop-ups at artisan fairs, restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques. One introduction led to another, and I was lucky enough to build a close relationship with one of the largest jewelry manufacturers in Rhode Island. But it took a lot of hard work and diligence to get there. I was starting from zero, so the beginning was a lot of trial and error.

Another pivotal milestone happened when I met Ralph DiDomenico, a local RI resident and second generation fashion jewelry wholesaler. I credit him for introducing me to the terms “deadstock” and “overruns,” which is now an incremental part of our business. Deadstock is unsold merchandise that has been sent back to warehouses by big department stores or brands that have gone out of business to be auctioned off––in other words, complete, finished, perfectly good pieces of jewelry. THE ART OF FATE searches through thousands of these pieces to find ones that meet our standards and vision for quality and design. Featuring deadstock has become a core tenet of THE ART OF FATE’s social impact mission, since we’re helping to divert perfectly good merchandise that would take up space in landfills and warehouses, which also offsets any waste we would generate from putting new material into production.

Lastly, introducing deadstock designs has allowed us to use our time more effectively since it’s no longer necessary to make every piece by hand. This has given us the opportunity to allocate that time to expand our product offering and curate our first subscription box. We find emerging social entrepreneurs on Etsy and Instagram who are producing quality made products that meet our social impact standards––products that are free from harmful chemicals, presented in minimal packaging, and made with as little impact on the environment as possible. Regardless of the type of product, whether it be a piece of jewelry or a knit sponge or a reusable bamboo straw, we want the brands we feature to be mission-driven as well.

CK: What does social impact mean at THE ART OF FATE and how do you practice it?

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JD: Social impact is woven through every facet of our business. We feature real people in our community for our campaigns from all different ethnicities, gender identities, and sizes. We also do not photoshop our images. This is an important way of communicating our values for diversity and inclusivity in the fashion industry with the hope that bigger brands will step up and make the change to represent real people, not the retouched and unrealistic standards of beauty we’ve been subjected to for so many years.

Introducing deadstock was one of the most important environmental components of our social impact mission, but we’ve also partnered with a non-profit based in Vermont called One Tree Planted to help plant one tree for every product sold through our business. We’ve helped restore over 500 trees throughout California and Oregon in areas critically impacted by wildfires since January 2017, a small number with a huge impact. It extends to our standards for the mission-driven brands we partner with, and to the zero-waste products we sell, such as our upcycled produce bags and bamboo straws. Even our business cards are made from 100% cotton t-shirt offcuts, which is essentially fashion industry waste regenerated into something beautiful and sustainable. We’re proud to say that none of our products use plastic packaging.

CK: Tell us more about the products you feature––what makes them unique?

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JD: The common thread that runs through the brands we feature is they’re all mission-driven. Each brand shares a social mission, whether that be increasing sustainable practices in production, promoting a zero-waste lifestyle, or fostering inclusive practices. We feature small brands locally and nationally, since a big part of our mission is to build a platform that supports emerging social entrepreneurs and helps share their stories.

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One product we feature is a gender-neutral additive-free deodorant created by Pittsburgh-based artist and musician Andrew Fox, founder of Woke Teas. It’s completely natural and made from ingredients like coconut oil, baking soda, and fresh herbs. For wellness products, we feature a number of all-natural aromatherapy products. Our best-seller is called the “Calm the F*ck Down” massage oil roller, a delicious aromatic blend infused with relaxing essential oils like chamomile, lavender, and vanilla handmade by herbalist Devri Speaks from Orange Blossom Apothecary out in California. We also feature these wonderful facial plantwaters made by the founder duo of Dryland Wilds based in New Mexico that are made with foraged Piñon and Willow trees, designed to repair and soothe skin.

CK: What’s your ultimate vision for THE ART OF FATE?

JD: My vision is to build a new industry standard for social change in the fashion world and beyond. It’s so important for brands to use their platforms to do right by the consumer and the planet. There is an opportunity to educate, empower, and inspire future generations to use fashion to create a better world. From a business standpoint, I can see us growing into a global incubator that connects emerging brands in social impact with the resources they need to accelerate faster and more efficiently.

CK: Lastly, what will 2018 mean for you? What are you especially focused on this year?

JD: For 2018, we’re focused on building a stronger direct-to-consumer relationship through our digital platforms and experiential events. We’ll be expanding the scale and scope of our products by providing a more seamless process for emerging brands to connect and partner with us. Expect more product collaborations between THE ART OF FATE and our partnered brands, especially in clean beauty and wellness. We’ll be introducing new categories for New Moms, Kids Skincare, and Secondhand Clothing. We’re currently building out our website’s capabilities, adding new features such as bios and interviews that highlight our partner brands, and a ‘shop by location’ feature. We have even bigger and more exciting news for 2019, but that announcement will have to wait!

Jackie is excited and overwhelmed by the amount of socially-conscious, do-well do-good businesses that are popping up all over Rhode Island––to her, it’s fate. To learn more about THE ART OF FATE and to order products online, visit theartoffate.us and follow them on Facebook & Instagram.


Cameron Keegan headshot

Cameron Keegan
Digital Marketing Intern

Cameron is a senior concentrating in Business, Entrepreneurship & Organizations at Brown University and splits his time between Providence, Seattle, and the San Francisco Bay Area. When not pursuing eclectic experiences in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, he loves running, reading, exploring city vistas, and considers himself a newly-converted podcast junkie.

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