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Coffee Break: The Women of Dovetail Workwear

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In Coffee Break, we catch people who inspire us during a rare break in their busy day for a virtual coffee date. We chat about what drives their personal and professional passions, how they get reenergized at home, and what they’re currently obsessing over. 

As owners of a Portland, Oregon landscaping company, Kate Day and Kyle Begley had no problem getting messy. Finding the right clothes to do it in was another story. In an industry traditionally dominated by men, they struggled to find durable, high-quality work apparel that actually fit women (and wasn’t covered in flowers). Their search for the perfect pair of work pants started in earnest when they found an apparel industry veteran in client Sara Deluca. The three entrepreneurs got to work designing, field testing, and producing their first work pant: a slim-fit jean appropriately named the Maven. Today, Dovetail Workwear outfits working women for all kinds of non-traditional work, from handywomen and construction workers to artists and firefighters. We caught up with Kyle and Sara as they were preparing for the launch of Dovetail’s Spring 2020 line (which includes our favorite, the Taskpant). 

What goes into creating workwear specifically for women?

Sara: Fit is very important, and not just from the perspective of comfort. We make 18 sizes across four inseams. Logistically, how do you create styles that fit a whole range of body shapes and sizes? I think that’s a huge challenge most people don’t consider. Then there’s fabric, the cornerstone of quality. Your favorite pair of work pants should be breathable, move when you move, have deep pockets and perfect fit, and last forever. The same performance needs an athlete has, so does an industrial athlete. 

Thinking back to your own upbringings, how did you become “handy”?

Kyle: I’ve been an armchair gardener my whole life, reading books on landscaping and learning about different plants. I went through the Oregon State University master gardener program (Kate did as well), and we just put our different strengths together to create this dynamic duo. We called ourselves Moxie and Moss, and we worked for mostly women. 

Sara: I studied languages and politics in college before ending up in the apparel industry. The best designers I worked for came from other industries, including a guy who was previously a furniture maker. Apparel is a different substrate, but the creative process and ability to think outside the box isn’t. How are you building, what attention to detail do you put in it, and where is the craft? 

Kate, Kyle, and I joined together because we share a common aesthetic, a love of craft and beautiful substrate. Even though we’re building a functional line, it’s still something that intermixes color, texture, and fit. How art, form, and functionality intermingle are quite beautiful. 

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What’s your “work uniform”? How would you describe your workwear style? 

Sara: I wear the original Mavens pretty much every single day of the week. I pair them with a t-shirt when it’s summer, throw on a wool sweater or vest in the winter, or one of our outerwear pieces. It’s my go-to.

Kyle: I like the Maven Slim but recently we just launched the Cosy Britt, which is a more hardcore workpant. I’ve been rocking my black Britts with a paprika orange chore jacket and gray beanie. 

Tell us about your work style. Where do you draw inspiration? What conditions, environment, and motivation do you need to do your best work?

Sara: I grew up on a farm. My parents were professors, and my mom worked day in and day out. She’d teach, and then the next day get up at 5am because the lambs needed to be born and she was there to take care of them. She inspires both my work ethic and my desire to make the world a better place and be a positive force in my community. No holds barred, you work through the day and into the night. I’m trying to impart that onto my children. 

Kyle: I work best in a creative social environment. I love getting out and doing things, and having funny, irreverent conversations that make me laugh. I get charged by friends who are also my workmates at the office, too. To laugh with those around me who I care about — that gives me the juice I need.

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What’s a project you’ve worked on lately (professional or personal), that made you come alive? 

Sara: It has to be the Cosy fabric, a fleeced denim we developed that’s the softest, stretchiest, coziest fabric. The person from the mill we developed it with is an old friend of mine. When we were in the early stage of development, he brought their new line to Kate’s garage and walked us through their product. For a mill their size to drop everything for a brand that didn’t even have product in the marketplace yet and say, “We’re here for you, we love your concept, we believe in you,” was really powerful. Our collaboration led to one of our bestselling fabrics. It brought innovation to a workwear market where it’s been lacking. It’s a testament to the fact that you may never know what types of partnerships can come out of someone you might meet today.

What words of advice do you have for people, especially women, who want to become more handy? Any tips for getting started? 

Kyle: Like everything, it’s mental. If you think you can do it, you can do it. If you put your mind to it and don’t give up, the satisfaction that you get from that will help create more confidence. You just feel so badass. Even if it doesn’t work out the way you thought, it’s not failure. It’s learning. If you’re not learning and growing, you’re not becoming. And thank goodness there’s YouTube.

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What’s your favorite way to prepare for a busy day? What about to unwind at the end of the day? 

Kyle: A good night’s sleep when it can happen. And curling up at the end of the day with a good book and a bubble bath, and maybe a glass of wine.

Sara: Hitting the gym first thing motivates me for the rest of the day and week. I’m in a better place overall in terms of productivity, focus, and energy level. At the end of the day, getting to read to my son and having a glass of wine. 

Currently, what are you…

  • Feeling inspired by: 
    • Kyle: The launch of our spring 2020 line
    • Sara – New development and collaborations we’re doing around in new-to-us fields, like female motorcylists
  • Reading:
    • Kyle: 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds by Elif Shafak
    • Sara: Almost Everything by Anne Lamott
  • Watching:
    • Kyle: The second season of Fleabag
    • Sara: Game of Thrones
  • Listening to:
    • Kyle: Angel Olsen’s new album, All Mirrors. And Lizzo. She’s a huge inspiration. 
  • Next on your to-do list:
    • Kyle: Visualizing strategy and marketing calendars and all that fun stuff for our next line 
    • Sara: Wear testing some new product for next year’s line. We work nine months in advance of actual seasonality
  • On your phone wallpaper: 
    • Kyle: A forest, taken so long ago I don’t know which forest I was in 
    • Sara : Blue Pond in Hokkaido, Japan, which I visited a few years ago 

Want more from Dovetail Workwear? We’ve partnered in honor of Women’s History Month to celebrate strong women at work. Head over to our Instagram for a chance to win a $150 Dovetail gift card and $150 in TaskRabbit credit.

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