Lima Al-Azzeh

Interview with Dope.Girl.Fresh. Creators Angie Gill and Laina Rauma

In Vancouver Style on October 8, 2010 at 1:03 pm


Angie Gill & Laina Rauma of Dope.Girl.Fresh Photo by: Lindsay Miles-Pickup


I just finished reading Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye. A chilling story about girlhood and how this secret society that is girls’ friendships can have lasting, even traumatic, effects on women in their adulthood. If someone is shy, or insecure, or uncertain as a woman, there’s likely a strong link to a childhood event related to their relationship to other girls. Between the untold criticisms and competitions, it ain’t easy being a girl. Thankfully, the designers behind the fluorescent line Dope.Girl.Fresh., Angie Gill and Laina Rauma, speak out against this kind of behaviour, not only in their personal work ethic and their everyday lives, but through their bright, stand-out clothing as well. 

I was first turned on to Dope.Girl.Fresh. by Rob Geary, creator of the Welcome to East Van brand and multifaceted artist and creative. He said that he’d be working with these designers on a new line of feminine tees for his own brand, having approached the pair after they put on a head turning, rubbernecking fashion show at Fortune Sound Club presenting their line of whimsical, repurposed girly t-shirts. Shortly after my interview with Geary, I looked up Dope.Girl.Fresh. to get a taste for their style and was instantly attracted to their “POP”. From redesigning and reconstructing vintage pieces, to creating one-of-a-kind daring outfits, these girls know how to stand out and their designs will make even the shyest wallflower want to get up on a table and dance.

I sat down with the two girls, who took to being interviewed in tandem very well, to find out about the origins and future of the line.

I, Vancouverite: How long has Dope.Girl.Fresh. attire been in business and what sparked the idea?

Angie Gill: We started on DGF in January 2009, actually right on New Years Day. We were sitting on the couch, tipsy from mimosas

Laina Rauma: We were pretty drunk…

Angie: Well, we just decided it was now or never to try and start this up. It’s actually something we’ve done forever! We’ve always altered clothes and shopped for vintage.

Laina: At first we were just going to alter vintage stuff or resell it but in Vancouver vintage is a pretty common thing, a lot of people shop for vintage things so we needed to provide something different. Growing up, I always shopped with my grandma at vintage stores and my aunts are young and they’re really funky. I got a lot of my style from them and I was with them when they shopped and scoured for vintage.

Angie: I’ve always looked at vintage jewellery and hunted it down. I can spend two hours looking through a store and finding pieces, I actually find it really relaxing. As we grew up together, though,  people would always ask “where’d you get that?” and almost always my answer was that Laina had made it for me. People were really receptive to our ideas, but Laina didn’t realize how talented she was at sewing so at first we weren’t really sure what direction to go in with our line. When we thought more about it we realized we both really wanted to focus on creating an independent label, a great collection, and having a selection of vintage accessories.

Laina: The website was launched last summer and there was some trial and error when we got started, people wanted things custom designed and wanted specific jewellery and stuff, we had to learn as we went.

I,Vancouverite: How would you describe the girl wearing your clothes?

Laina: The type of girl is just like us! Someone who wants to stand out, who’s sexy but not skanky thank you, and someone who doesn’t want to look like everyone else. We started to shop vintage because we wanted our own clothes and our own styles. We want to dress powerful females who aren’t afraid of standing out.

Angie: Laina’s style is always about standing out, look at the t-shirt she’s wearing today! But it’s really fashion-forward and I would say avante garde. She doesn’t think like everyone else, and she doesn’t dress like anyone else either. Some people might look at her and say “whoa” but she always pulls it off.

Laina (on Angie’s style): She’s more girly and lady-like, a little more classic. She’ll pull off the odd thing here and there but I’m the one who’ll end up looking like a dirt bag sometimes – just to try it out. I’ll try anything once.

I,Vancouverite: What kind of message do you want your brand to stand for? Is there one?

Laina: The label name is actually a line from a Notorious B.I.G. song. We were listening to it together when we were trying to come up with a name and at first we laughed but the more we thought about it, the more we realized it stood for everything we are about and what we think life, and being girls, and friendship is about. It’s extremely important to us to be supportive of other girls and we really try to instil that not only in our line but in our work ethic. We even talk to younger models about it. Just smile, and say hello, and acknowledge the people around you. It’s sickening to see people just pass each other by without even acknowledging each other’s existence. We approach a lot of pretty girls that we see to model for us, and we’re so overwhelmed to find that they’re so talented! They don’t just model, they’re DJs and artists, and photographers. We need to support each other and lift each other up.

Angie: It’s unfortunate that girls are raised to claw each other’s eyes out instead of being nice.

Laina: We’ll give a guy 10 chances but if one girl so much as looks at us the “wrong way” it’s over! She probably just likes what you’re wearing! There’s no reason to hate.

Angie: We’re lucky to be so close, we have such great relationships with all our girls so it’s easy to be more open to that with other girls and support each other in the community we don’t all have everything, take away the ego, be who you are and help each other out. That’s what it means to us to be Dope.Girl.Fresh.

I,Vancouverite: I’m noticing how you talk about each other without any prompts, a sign of good friendship…

Laina: Yeah, we tend to talk about each other because it’s uncomfortable to talk about yourself. She describes me better than I do because I don’t notice what I gravitate towards. You can tell each other’s patterns though.

Angie: And we’ve been friends for over ten years, we met in fifth grade, so it comes naturally to finish each other’s sentences or just take turns. Our mom’s are best friends, and our little sisters are best friends too! It runs in the families.

I,Vancouverite: How do you divide up the work between you?

Angie: I organize the events like our shopping parties, and do all the marketing and blogging. I also tend to field requests and get back to people who are trying to contact us. It’s still pretty 50/50 though in terms of decision-making especially when it will affect our reputation and brand or our line. We have to have a conversation about everything and decisions are always mutual. Laina designs and actually makes the clothes and constructs them.

I,Vancouverite: How do you deal with creative differences?

Laina: We’re the same but very different at the same time. The bottom line is we want to do what’s best for the company, and we know each other too well to have big fights – even if we have to talk through email first and then discuss something later, it’s always discussed and worked out in some way.

Angie: Sometimes we’ll even come together with our options and ideas, discuss them and then whoever we feel makes the better case, we’ll go with that decision. There isn’t really any ego involved, we don’t hold on just to be right.

Laina: And sometimes we know that, because we’re women, maybe we shouldn’t talk right away. We’ll wait until we both calm down (she giggles).

Angie: And there isn’t anything a good Sangria lunch can’t fix.

Laina: Everything involves a cocktail…

I,Vancouverite: How, in this extremely expensive city, is your clothing so affordable?

Laina: We scour absolutely everywhere for vintage pieces that we can remake or use parts of. We won’t ever charge something that we wouldn’t pay for ourselves.

Angie: There’s a few factors that go into how we price things: how much time was spent making it, the cost of the material and type of material, the complexity of the design.

Laina: Or if someone custom orders something and they need it by a certain date and we have to put other projects and designs aside to finish it and deliver, that goes into pricing as well. I’m not “anybody” yet, we can’t price based on my status, I don’t have one!

Angie: We’re not trying to gauge people.I’m a smart shopper and I’d rather donate the rest of my money towards something good. We relate to real girls who have real budgets, we both work two jobs! We get that money is tight but you still want to look good.

Laina: Especially considering the fact that fashion is disposable, but when it comes to shoes …

I,Vancouverite: Can you tell us about some upcoming projects/fashion shows that you might be working on?

Laina: We’re definitely going to work on updating the website, but September is a write off for both of us in our regular jobs.

Angie: We’ve been a part of a few fashion shows already. We did a CBC fashion show and donated proceeds to The Cinderella Project, we had 10 pieces in the show and they raffled them off and did giveaways; but we’d like to host our own show eventually and showcase our main collection and private line and our collection of vintage accessories.

Laina: I don’t want to spread myself too thin in making too many pieces. I need to focus on the Spring 2011 line. We’re also collaborating with Rob (Geary) on a line of girly t-shirts for Welcome to East Van. We’re both really excited about this, he feels like a long lost brother! He’s really on the ball when it comes to work, which goes well with us because we’re super anal. He’s hilarious, he’s not a huge ego at all, he admits openly that he doesn’t know girls’ clothes. We met at Fortune Sound at a t-shirt fashion show; he didn’t know what a racer back was.

Angie (imitating Rob): Razor back or racer back?

Laina: We’re going to slap some pink on his designs and make it more girly!

I, Vancouverite: What’s in store for the future of Dope.Girl.Fresh?

Laina: Our dream is to open a store!

Angie: That would be amazing! Just a store with our private label and reworked vintage pieces and Laina can sew in there. We don’t need to be millionaires, we just want to pay the bills. We don’t think about being in every store, we want to be a bit more selective. We want girls to feel like they’re getting something special when they buy our stuff.

Laina: And we want to be happy, of course.

  1. […] year, I interviewed the gorgeous creative brains behind Dope.Girl.Fresh Attire after Rob Geary the designer behind the Welcome to East Van tshirt line, mentioned that a […]

  2. […] year, I interviewed the gorgeous creative brains behind Dope.Girl.Fresh Attire after Rob Geary the designer behind the Welcome to Eastvan tshirt line, mentioned that a […]

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