By Hannah Samlall
When it comes to chasing your dreams, there’s no better time than the present. Kelsy Dominick of DiDomenico Design in Haymarket was working for the government after graduating from Virginia Tech in 2013 with a double major in international studies and merchandising and fashion design when she started making dresses as a hobby. Fast forward to today, and just celebrating its seventh anniversary, DiDomenico Design is the leader in custom tailoring in the Washington, DC metro area. Kelsy’s story is one with a rich cultural background that should inspire us all to pursue our dreams.
Kelsy was only nine years old when she learned to sew. “My mother taught me to sew and my father taught me art,” she said. “I was drawn to anything artistic and anything to do with clothing. Eventually, that culminated in my wanting to major in fashion design. Shortly after graduating, she took a job at the government but felt dissatisfied.
“I remember sitting behind a desk and feeling undervalued,” Kelsy said. “It was a blessing in disguise because it pushed me to make a decision about what I really wanted to do. I never wanted to feel that way again. I wanted to feel in control of my destiny and what I was doing.
During her first year in business, Kelsy juggled her government job with making dresses for friends nearby. One day, a friend sent her a link for a fashion show in New York. “I applied and got an answer at the last minute,” she said. “I was like, okay, I walked into this big show. Now I have to make the clothes. I only had three months to design a whole collection and present it at New York Fashion Week.
After that, things happened pretty quickly. “We were invited to attend a fashion show in France,” Kelsy said. “It was going to cost $40,000, so we started a fundraiser called 40k in France. We have now done shows in a number of different countries and were the first Americans to do a fashion show in Cuba after the embargo was lifted.
Before learning to sew, she was no stranger to hardworking craftswomen. Kelsy, who grew up in Haymarket, is of African American and Italian descent and comes from a long line of female entrepreneurs. On her Italian side, her great-aunt made dresses on a 1914 sewing machine that now sits in Kelsy’s workshop. On her African-American side, her grandmother ran an upholstery business to support her 11 children. Besides running the business, she also made clothes for all her children.
The name of his company, DiDomenico Design, includes the original surname of his family before its Americanization. “It means the Day of God,” she said. “It was something I wanted to incorporate. I felt it was a representation of the gift God gave me. His company logo, unsurprisingly, also has family ties. “It was the my grandmother’s signature. Everyone called her Queen Eleanor,” Kelsy said. “In the last years of her life she lived with us. I had her in my photo shoots and I integrated into a lot of what we did.
In addition to her passion for her legacy, Kelsy is very committed to philanthropy. “I grew up going on mission trips. I was aiming to do one every two years,” Kelsy said. “In 2015, I started a journey to ‘Sew the World’ with my trusty sewing machine sidekick. During this project, I visited 20 countries and did stylish photo shoots everywhere, from the middle of the deserts Egyptians 60 feet below the surface of the ocean.
In the years that followed, the project evolved into so much more. “My reasoning behind this is deeply rooted in my belief that women can overcome insurmountable things,” Kelsy said. “I’ve always seen strong women in my life lead families, give birth to babies, and go on to strong careers – go on to build businesses.” Today, Kelsy travels the world teaching women how to sew so they can start their own business and earn a living. “Women take on so many different roles that are so burdensome that they should be given every opportunity to improve those situations,” she said. “I want to be able to help women reach their highest level of empowerment with skills they can really use, whether here in the United States or abroad.” To date, Kelsy has taught over 250 women to sew around the world.
Kelsy’s advice for realizing your dreams? “It’s either ‘one day or day one,'” she said. “When it comes to chasing your dream, start yesterday.” She also hopes to pass this mentality on to her daughter, Cora.
For more information about DiDomenico Design, visit didomenicodesign.com and follow the company on Instagram @didomenico_design.