Welcome back to the Sit-Down Series, lovelies! Last week’s focus was on my mother, the corporate side of working women, and today is about the entrepreneurial side of womanhood. We are speaking to Cynthia and Najla Burt, the mother-daughter team behind Dur Doux, an accessible luxury fashion brand based in Washington, D.C. I absolutely love them both, and was fortunate enough to soak in some gems from these ladies. I hope you can too!
Kam: Who do you take inspiration from?
Cynthia: I think people like Carolina Herrera…Dior, Chanel and Alexander McQueen have always been sort of our standard. And though we study all of the top designers, we immediately go to those collections to look at them and study. I guess many designers don’t do that, as it takes hours and hours of work to go through each collection and study each design, talking about the technical things…those are the ones we want to know what they are doing in their collections, because there’s a lot of stuff we read from it.
Kam: What do you love most about what you do?
Najla: I think what I love the most is definitely the creative process. The process of actually coming up with ideas for a collection, selecting fabrications and the color palette. We probably would be doing couture and not ready to wear [if we were wealthy and doing this just totally as a passion], because couture is really just art. You are doing it strictly from passion, and never really considering how to mass market, or whether people will want to buy it. You just want them to be able to see it…we will get to that point, where we will have a whole team of people doing ready to wear and we will just focus on couture.
Cynthia: I think it’s like when a child says, “I want to create a world where people don’t take more than they give.” I liken that to what Najla and I started out with and still feel. We really truly want to be the first African American house of fashion, like a real house of fashion, like Dior…the House of Dur Doux. Nobody believes that, or thinks it can be done, but it’s the absolute truth of why we do this.
Kam: I think you’re well on your way to becoming couture designers. I absolutely loved your last collection, I feel like that was more of a couture collection. I think it was a combination of ready-to-wear and couture…I absolutely loved it. Okay. How do you push through your tough moments?
Cynthia: It seems to me that the harder we work, the more time added and the better we get, it just gets tougher.
Najla: I think the way we push through it…we believe in God, we are faith-filled women. I think the two of us come together and remember 1. why I started this business, and 2. Why I asked my mom to join. It’s a lot of prayer…I think if I didn’t have my mom, I would’ve quit this business a long time ago. I’m trying to build that level of strength and tenacity required to do this, even when you don’t see results or see other people doing the things you want to do. We come together, we talk a lot, we fellowship and pray a lot…it’s always a bigger and grander purpose…Oprah was one of the first black woman billionaires, and I want my company to be the first African American house. I want people to see the power and beauty of what black people can do, and especially black women can do, creatively.
Kam: What advice would you give to current and future women?
Najla: They should get some technical training, especially in this area, there are a lot of self-taught designers. The fact that I received my degree from Parsons taught me a lot. It taught me how to select fabrics, the history of fashion, the business side of fashion. Weekend courses, online courses, find a reputable school. I would also say, don’t quit your day job. Don’t do that. The likelihood of you starting out and just making a bunch of money is like winning the lotto. You need to be able to pay your bills. You may not receive funding from a bank, or be in a position to do that, so you need to work and use the money from your job to pay both your personal and business bills.
Kam: What do you love most about being a working woman?
Najla: I think for me, it’s being able to show my mom, that maybe everything she did to help bring me and my siblings up, raise us, along with my father...I’m showing her that I can be that as well, and she did a fantastic job. I’m living out the things she wanted for me. I’m also building myself up for one day when I have my own children, and I definitely want a little girl, to be able to be a great example. As women, we can be multitaskers. Working women, mothers, business women, all of those things.
Cynthia: I always had this thing in my head, “you can do it all. You can have it all.” That was not a phrase that anybody would want a woman to be saying. I think that Najla is expanding on that…it’s definitely a big expansion of what I thought of originally, and had tried to pour into my children.
Kam: I really appreciate both of you for talking to me!
Check out Dur Doux on Instagram and at their website, www.durdoux.com. Tune back in next week for my next guest!