Danica Zheng is doing what many of us dream of but few realize: she left her “dream job” at Calvin Klein and branched out to blaze her own trail in the fashion world. We caught up with her after her second time showing her brand Pamplemousse at New York Fashion Week to learn more about her journey from fashion designer to founder.
What sparked your interest in fashion?
I started doing art when I was in middle school. Initially I was going to go into architecture, and then for my senior thesis in high school I did a project on fashion. After a trip to New York where I learned about Parsons, that was it.
How did you make the move from working for others to launching your own brand?
I worked for Calvin Klein for about a year. It was my dream job while I was in school, but it also ended up being my first first job. I learned a lot working there but there were some things I wanted to do for myself. In terms of product, there were also some things I couldn’t find in the industry, both as a designer and a shopper. So I decided to launch my own line.
How did you bring Pamplemousse to life in the first few months?
Pamplemousse started as a home project. I was sketching and draping and designing a few pieces out of my bedroom. Then a few looks came together and I decided to do a little lookbook photoshoot. I did a capsule collection as my very first launch project.
After working at Calvin Klein, I had a bit of time to figure out how to run a business. We didn’t learn that in school. The first year was figuring out the whole business aspect and to learn how the fashion industry worked. About a year after my first capsule, the first full collection was done. SS17 launched in September 2016.
You grew up in Singapore—do you think that shaped your direction or aesthetic at all?
I think so. I am more in tune to designing for spring and summer because Singapore is so tropical. I didn’t go through many winters before moving to New York. That’s when I started learning about how to dress for the winter season.
What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome in your first year?
Figuring out where the brand stands and who I am as a designer, what makes my brand different than others. Figuring out my market. I initially started off wanting to do a higher- end designer price point and I shifted to a more contemporary market.
How do you balance having a life and having a business?
I think I have a really good work/life balance. Even compared to when I was working for someone else. I can make my own schedule and it doesn’t really feel like work. I’m doing everything for myself and I know what needs to be prioritized, and what is excessive. I work pretty regular hours because I can really focus on what needs to be done in seven hours. I usually start working at 8:30 and try to end at 6:30 and relax in the evenings. Most of my weekends I try to stay away from work—I think I’m more efficient this way. I try to wait to respond to emails Monday morning instead of on weekends.
What I do now is not just design—it’s also looking at what’s happening and keeping an eye on what is going on within the industry. I leave the research to outside of work hours. Looking at websites and social media doesn’t really feel like work.
How was NYFW?
It was great. This season I didn’t do a presentation, but I shared a space with a few other designers. We’re all in a similar stage so we did a market and press event together, and we had the time to show them the new collection. Our customers are similar, though our aesthetics are quite different. It was very nice—not as crazy. We got the most out of it.
What has been a career highlight for you?
When we launched SS17 and Eva Chen (Director of Fashion Partnerships at Instagram) wore one of our pieces. It started a lot of things for us. With the first full collection we got a lot of press coverage and attention. It was a great way to start.
What are your plans for the future?
For now, it’s to grow Pamplemousse into a more mature brand and to get more women to learn about the brand and to wear the brand.
Any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Talk to a lot of people around you. Talk to people who can help and never be afraid to ask for help, it never hurts to try.
Danica stepped outside the status quo to launch her brand. Now she’s taking that same mentality to bring Pamplemousse to new audiences in innovative ways with pop-ups and collaborative showcases alongside other like-minded brands. The sky’s the limit for where she’ll go next, so keep your eye out for her.
Do you eat a lot of grapefruits?
I drink grapefruit juice or pamplemousse cocktails a lot more than I eat grapefruits
Standout show from NYFW?
Calvin Klein and Zimmerman
Must try dishes in Singapore?
Hainanese chicken rice, duck rice, laksa, bak chor mee (the list goes on)
If you could only wear one thing forever what would it be?
Photography Credit: Pamplemousse NY
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