Fashion Week

NYFW Diaries: Dauphinette Founder Olivia Cheng Tells All

"A little death, a little life—right?"

Dauphinette set the scene this New York Fashion Week with their whimsical “Gods, Girls & Monsters” S/S 2024 preview at Georgia Room and after party at The Standard, East Village. Friends of the brand made rounds in NO BAR, with violet-hued cocktails & floral cakes on the menu and beats by DJ Arm Leg Leg Arm Head on repeat. 

Amid the festivities, we found time to catch up with their founder Olivia Cheng, about the inspo behind this year’s show.

We love the name of this year’s collection: “Gods, Girls & Monsters." What inspired the title?

This collection is my girlhood catching up to me. When I started Dauphinette, I was nineteen years old; I carried a very strong self-inflicted responsibility to be the living embodiment of “the happiest brand on earth” (whatever that means). I didn’t think my brand or I could be sexy, disturbed, raw, or any of the things that felt too feral and uncareful for the whimsical, tongue-in-cheek branding I started with. In the show notes for “Gods, Girls & Monsters” I write about “little deaths,” which are essentially the unraveling of former beliefs that we experience across our lives. Maybe my younger self would be a little disturbed by me, or maybe she’d be proud. Frankly, I can’t bring myself to care. A little death, a little life—right?

The intricate details of both the looks and show notes (“The Dauphinette Mourning Post”) were everything. Tell us about the vision for the production. 

We’re a tiny team, so our production needs to be equally regimented as it is creative. A single beaded mini dress can take over 200 hours of hand-sewing to finish. A pair of shoes, 20 hours. About six weeks before the show we start planning the number of hours of manpower we have left. We cast and style the shows ourselves. I’m doing everything from sewing to vetting sponsors to picking which color lipstick every single model wears. I’m a big believer that creativity is best served with discipline—the vision has to include both.

This is your fifth time showing at NYFW—what advice would you give to an emerging designer debuting on the circuit?

Be organized, create a budget and stick to the budget. Creativity inherently involves constraints—acknowledge it from the start.

Dauphinette consistently stands out for its unique approach to upcycling eclectic materials, from sea urchin spines to preserved florals. What is the most unexpected site where you’ve sourced an item and what are your favorite downtown Manhattan spots for stumbling upon vintage and antique gems?

I’ve found things in all sorts of funny places. There’s a shop I love in Milan where I sourced some of the found materials for this collection—it’s in the basement of a gated mixed-use building, which is a little unusual. 

In New York, not many people know that we sell some really special vintage in our West Village store! Additionally, I love Madame Matovu—the owner and I have been friends for as long as I’ve lived in New York. On the East side, 9th Street Vintage is expensive but really well curated.

How are you most excited to unwind post-NYFW craze?

In the weeks leading up to a show, my apartment always turns into a second office. I’m excited to organize, buy fresh fruit and get my domestic life sorted. Sexy, no? 


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