If you haven’t heard about DOPEciety, it’s time you get hip. DOPEciety is a casual clothing and T-shirt company that makes high quality unique tees, shrugs, dresses, and more. The brains behind this fashionable operation is Denisio Truitt, the founder, CEO, and head designer of all things DOPEciety. If you follow her on Tumblr or Instagram (like myself), you know her for her style, her friendship with poet Alex Elle, or for her awesome shaved hairdo.
I reached out to Denisio before my trip to New Orleans in the hopes of meeting up with her just to pick her brain about the origins of DOPEciety and her personal style. What resulted was a long and inspiring conversation in a sandwich shop about life, struggles, triumphs, and learning to go after what you want.
I want to share our conversation with you in the hopes that she will encourage and motivate you as much as she did for me.
When did you start making clothes?
I’ve been sewing cloths since I was like 4. My mom taught me how to sew and my grandmother was a seamstress. My moms family is originally from Liberia my grandmother had this boutique in Liberia.
I lived there for a little under a year when I was younger. I loved it, from what I can remember even though I only like, 4, there are little memories .
So where did “DOPEciety” come from?
So DOPEciety funnily enough kind of funnels into my whole culture. I’m an artist by trade. I’m a painter. I was a studio art and english major in undergrad. I wanted to incorporate my art work into a clothing line. I wanted to make a t-shirt that I would rock. So I wanted t-shirts that were kind of relatable to everybody but also reflected my own culture. So a lot of my designs kind of revolve around this mask…a traditional mask used in Liberia and Sierra Leone. I guess it’s kind of representative of the duality of my culture being both African and American. and kind of taking this very traditional object and modernizing it.
It’s kind of a mash up of my culture. So DOPEciety is a mash up of “Dope” “society”.
You’re known in my circles as the dope bald chick who designs really cute T-shirts. What made you decide to shave your head?
I’ve had short hair probably for about 6 years. It’s been different lengths but it’s never been more than 6 inches long. I just don’t like hair. Before I cut my hair, my hair was like on my back I just would’t do anything with it. It was hard for me the first time I did it. I first did a really big chop when I was 19. I got sick and I was taking all of this medication and my hair fell out. So I had to shave it off and I was crying. But because my mom and her family are from west africa they tend to wear short hair. I kind of grew up thinking short hair was normal. But when I cut it off I liked the way it worked.
I think all women will look great with short hair. You just gotta rock it and own it.
Something that I admire a lot about you is that you seem very confident. Where does that confidence come from?
I mean I have my moments. I think when it comes to my talents and my skills I think I am a very confident with what I can do I think I’m a very talented person. But there are definitely areas in my life that I wish I was more confident in. I think I’m very socially awkward. There are people who can go to parties by themselves and talk to whoever they want. I can’t do that! Like any other girl sometimes I have issues with my looks. But for the most part when it comes to my artistic capabilities, I’m very confident.
What advice can you give about developing more confidence?
There was this one video that I watched. It was like a message to artist. He was saying that whatever type of artist you are, there will come a point in your creativity or career where what you want to produce is not matching with what you’re currently doing. And thats something that a lot of artists struggle with and so his advice was to push through that. With my artwork, there was a time when I’m creating this art and it was just not what I wanted it to be. And that’s where a lot of people quit and his advice was to just keep producing. Even if it’s shit, just don’t stop producing. I think for me, just not being afraid to make things that might suck or might not sell. When I first started DOPEciety, I had a total of 5 designs. 2 of the designs they were throwaways. But just being able to push through that and make things for the sake of making them, and eventually get into the groove of things.
I guess my advice to be more confident is just to keep producing. Even if you think its crap, just keep doing it. Don’t get discouraged and focus on the things that aren’t so great.
How can creatives turn our passions into profit?
Definitely know your worth. With me specifically, when I first started DOPEciety, I was selling shirts for something ridiculous like $15 and it costs like $10 to make a shirt! So there was no profit there. And kind of taking a stance and knowing how much time and effort it takes to make the products. I used to style friends and I wouldn’t charge them because they were my friends, but then I felt like if people were really my friends and they respect me they’ll understand that I can’t give my time for free because my time literally is money. I think that shift in thinking helped a lot. And also just knowing your resources and knowing when you need help. So kind of just letting my ego down and reaching out to people and asking for help.
A lot of my friends and I truly admire you and what you do. Who do you admire?
I admire my mom. She had it really rough being a single parent and raising me and haveng to deal with a moody teenager and kind of just instilling in me that I could put my mind to whatever and do it. I admire my grandmother for her grace. She is definitely somebody I look up to for her never-ending patience and compassion for people. She was a very giving person. In Liberia she was known for literally picking up children off the street and caring for them. She was a very nurturing person. I wouldn’t say that doesn’t come to me naturally because I am a caring person but I do have issues with temper and being overly sensitive to stuff but I admire her for that.
I feel like our culture in general has this obsession with celebrities and celebrity worship and people on Tumblr and Instagram and idolizing them. I feel more inspired by people in my family. I find a lot of things admirable in (everyday) people.
What has been the most rewarding part about running your own company?
It’s wonderful that I can get up and do work in my PJs if I want to. I worked at GW(George Washington University) straight out of college fundraising for 6 years. I was making really good money. I had a stable job really good benefits (and) vacation time, but I was miserable. I felt like I was on a hamster wheel: you get up, you take a shower, you get dressed, you go to work, you work, you go to t he gym for lunch, you sit at your computer for hours, you go home, you have a glass of wine, you watch some TV, you wake up and do the same thing the next day. Everyday. I think the most rewarding thing is being able to get up and make my own day and my own schedule. It feels good that I’m in control.
What is the most frustrating part?
I think for me the most frustrating thing is knowing that I can’t please everybody and knowing that I will make mistakes and it’s okay. I’m very hard on myself. And kind of just getting out my head and saying “You made a mistake, but its okay.”
Denisio’s advice for pursuing what you’re passionate about:
I don’t have regrets because my journey is my journey and I’m where I’m supposed to be now for a reason. But if I could go back, even though I had a full ride at my college, I probably would’ve gone to art school like I wanted to. I wish I was a little more brave and not so much afraid of what people would think.
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