Esther Hempel, founder and designer of DUVAL, talks about her creative process, the importance of supporting local creators, and the story of how DUVAL came to be in this short interview!
What made you want to start your own line?
"I’ve had a craving to create and an interest in the fashion industry for my entire life—I learned to sew when I was 5 years old! I’m not entirely sure where this desire came from but that’s all I have ever wanted to do. Growing up, my best friend and I would play dress up and even have mini photoshoots. After I graduated high school, I still wanted to pursue starting my own line but, for reasons, it was put on hold for a number of years. But one day I realized I couldn’t keep delaying it any longer and just had to chase my dream."
Congratulations on DUVAL being voted Best Fashion Designer by Vue Weekly, how does that make you feel?
"I totally didn't expect this! It was such a great surprise. I'm continually grateful and feel so lucky that I was able to start my business in such an amazing city. Edmonton is so passionate about supporting local businesses and designers."
What has been the most rewarding part about starting your own line? and what have been some of the biggest struggles you've faced?
"The most rewarding part about starting my own line is finally being able to share my designs with the world and seeing so many people wearing my designs! Working for myself has been very rewarding too but also comes with its own set of struggles. One of the biggest struggles is diving head first into something new and having to figure it out as you go. When I decided to launch DUVAL, I had to teach myself everything about working with leather. I had the concept of patterns from my sewing experience, but I had never worked with leather before; which I quickly learned was a whole other world of craftsmanship."
Who and what inspires you in life and in your creative endeavors?
"I’m very much inspired by timeless pieces. It amazes me how certain vintage pieces have withstood the test of time and, after decades, their design is still so relevant to today's fashion! I’m also very inspired by bad ass women who are using their talents to make the world a better place in so many different industries. These women take chances, they’re unapologetically themselves, they’re kind and humble, and they rock their style no matter what the world may think! That’s what inspires me, my designs, and the way I run my business."
What is your creative process like and do you ever get stuck?
"YES! I absolutely get stuck creatively, and that is when I know I need to immerse myself in something completely different. I stop focusing on what I’m trying to create and enjoy life—I discover new places, I meet new people, and I try new things. Without fail, something completely unexpected will give me an idea for what I want to do next. Once I have a design in my head, I then draft the pattern and tweak the design until it’s perfect!"
What advice would you give to an emerging designer or someone who wants to start designing but might be apprehensive?
DUVAL donates 10% of their profits to charity, can you tell us a little about the charities you work with and how you go about choosing them?
"It’s my belief that we should all be doing our part to make the world a better place in whatever capacity we can! We currently donate to the Textbook Project through A Better World Canada. I chose this charity because of the integrity of their donation process. All of your donation goes to the actual cause! They’re also an Alberta based charity from Red Deer which is pretty great. The Textbook Project gives children in Kenya access to educational reading material. Currently, the ratio is approximately 5 students per 1 textbook which makes learning a harder and slower process. Giving these kids access to more and better reading material means they will get a better education, and I truly believe education is how we can further change the world."
How and when did you get involved with PARK?
"I went to the first PARKForum in Edmonton a number of years ago knowing I wanted to start my own line, but I was struggling to decide on a specific direction. In 2016 I attended another PARKForum. At this point, I was in the middle of planning and designing my first collection which would launch a few months later. PARK has been an amazing support for DUVAL, before and after we launched, and I’m so glad that I am able to be part of such an amazing community dedicated to supporting emerging designers!"
In your opinion, what is the most important part of supporting local artists and locally-made products?