In honor of Black History Month, we’ll be doing a series that highlights individuals who are doing amazing work in their respective careers while inspiring others. Their stories will showcase what being “real beautiful” is all about. I recently interviewed Dah’Mod Collins, owner and designer for women’s fashion line RM67, on why his line is one for all women.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, fashion designer Dah’Mod Collins never imagined a life that involved chasing a seat at the table with the likes of Anna Wintour, but that’s exactly what he’s doing.
Always a lover of arts, Dame, as he is affectionately called, grew up admiring the fashion choices of his beloved mother, who was known to dress in all black. He went to college as a photography major but became interested in fashion after working with friends who had their own fashion line.
His designs and dramatic fashion productions have led his line to the runways of NY and LA Fashion Week and has been featured in some of the top urban magazines, including The Source.
I spoke with Dame on his journey from photography to national runway show inclusion, why his designs are primarily for women and what his hopes are for RM67. It’s clear that his top desire is to make women feel “real beautiful.”
Where did you come up with the name RM67?
The brand started out as “Regina Miranda 67” and was a joint venture between my cousin and I in honor of my mom and aunts, who were three women who loved fashion. We began to generate a following before I branched out on my own after my cousin left. My cousin was a very talented designer and decided to move out of state and step away from fashion. So, when she left, I did not want to have to make a huge switch as we already had a buzz around our clothing. Additionally, we had a huge inventory of clothing that was branded “RM.” I decided to keep it since part of it is in memory of my mom, who loved clothing and always looked her best. My mom was born in 1967 and she passed a few years ago.
Talk about your design aesthetic and how it relates to your ideal customer?
I don’t really have a specific aesthetic but I am obsessed with the color black. I think in black. I view everything in black. I design in black. Black equals luxury to me. I can make anything but I always have to see it in black first. I wear black everyday and it’s part of my personal closet so it has to be implemented in everything in my life. Some people look at black as a depressing color but for me, it’s rich. It also represents new beginnings. I constantly push for my customers to wear black, as it’s an all purpose color. You can wear black to the mall, work, church, to the club - you can wear black anywhere. To me, black is a lifestyle. And it also reminds [me] of the beauty of my mother, who wore black everyday. She carried herself with a certain fierceness, a level of elegance that I feel only black can bring out in a woman.
I myself am not into fashion. I wear sweats almost everyday, I am very basic. I only wear dress shoes for weddings and funerals. With that being said, I don’t know how to dress men. If I were into urban or sportswear, I probably would design men’s clothing. I design for the body and only women have varying figures because of the genetic and biological makeup of their bodies. I appreciate the woman’s body and how clothes look on a woman’s body. I want every curve in place. I celebrate the woman’s body. All of my pieces are custom and designed for each customer’s physique.
**Did you start out a designer? **
No, I started my fashion career working with my friends fashion label Jeantrix as a fashion producer. I would add my creative input into their shows: coming up with themes, the concept and overall creative direction by telling stories through the event and garments. I was in charge vendors, hair and makeup and logistics. I even brought in sponsors.
How did that manifest into fashion design?
I left them in 2009 and began RM67, but originally [as] a model troupe where I produced shows. Simultaneously, I was getting into design but I didn’t know how to sew. I am fully self taught. It was all trial and error. I purchased a sewing machine and figured it out from there. It wasn’t until 2013 that I got a design mentor and I elevated my craft but from 2009 until then, I was by myself. I discontinued the modeling troupe because 1. I wasn’t making any money and 2. I wanted to be taken seriously as a designer because at that time, I was known for RM67 winning competitions through the modeling troupe. I did the Carl J celebrity hair show working under Stephanie Kane, a legendary designer in the tri-state area who became my mentor. The show was in Atlantic City in 2009, where I assisted her. I did the show again in 2010 in Philadelphia at the Liacouras Center but without Stephanie. Through working with Stephanie, I made more connections and learned a lot more and things began to take off. With Stephanie, I would produce her shows, coordinate models for different segments and shadow her day to day while she designed. She gave me my first event in 2013 with the Zeta Phi Beta’s annual fashion show and that was the first show she let me run. I proved myself and at present day, we work side by side versus me working under her.
What were some career highlights during this time?
I did Miami Fashion Week, New York Fashion Week, LA Fashion Week. I was flown out and able to showcase my designs across the country. But even at that time, I wasn’t confident in my designs because producers of the shows preferred that I incorporate all of the theatrics that I did in the model troup so I felt I was wanted solely for the creative aspect of producing versus design. No one would buy the clothing because it wasn’t wearable, it was art and it just looked good on the runway so it was a constant battle. Wearable art doesn’t sell but that’s what they wanted me to provide them on a national scale. I was struggling.
What were some of those struggles?
I was working a 9-5 as a Community Home Supervisor for well over a decade at a Mental Health Facility. That’s how I funded my dream. The final straw was me having various arguments with almost everyone in the industry and burning too many bridges. I was a hot head. I was jealous of many of the peers I started with because they were all moving past me career wise. I did my last fashion show in 2013 and had good reviews as a result. The audience was really receptive to the line and it was actually practical clothing. The event however was not sold out and there was no return on my investment and I decided that I needed a break to regroup.
What did you do on your break?
Sewing, figuring out my niche and what worked for me. I was selling clothing and actually making money but I was not putting on shows or showcases. The crazy thing is, I was only selling one item really - a color blocked pencil skirt. I really took that time to hone in on my craft, expand my aesthetic and learn different fabrics. I started a family. Once my son’s mother and I broke up, I decided that it was time for me to return and rededicate myself to the line.
How did you plan your comeback?
I made amends with a lot of people in the industry because during my break, I realized my wrongs. I put out a public apology on social media and tagged them all because I wanted to right my wrongs. The show that I produced my return year was not only sold out, but all of my fashion peers whose relationships soured attended to show support and that let me know that I was accepted, forgiven and at least had their professional support. After that, I hired a publicist out of Connecticut who I put in charge of press breaks and she was able to get me press for my return show. I did local news including NBC and FOX affiliate stations as well as national press in The Source Magazine and Kontrol Magazine.
What are your hopes for the brand and line moving forward?
With my current line, Concrete Rose, as with all of my lines, I use the same pieces throughout the year and lend them for other designers to showcases in their shows and then eventually sell them. I have a shop that I’ve had for two years. It’s not a showroom but more so a studio where I meet with clients, design and take orders. I’d love to expand my shop into a full showroom with a workspace, lobby and actual store where I can sell merchandise. I want to branch out to cities that are known for fashion and immerse myself in the world. I definitely feel as if I’ve hit my ceiling in Philadelphia and am ready to branch out. so I have to become more secure with public speaking and getting more into the business side of things in working with manufacturers, investors, buyers and developing an actual team. I need a website, [and] a team of marketing and public relations professionals who will help push the line and brand forward. I want to expand the company overall but it starts with me first. Ideally, I’d love to relocate to Miami full-time and really be part of their growing fashion business there.
“Concrete Rose” full collection
You can keep up with RM67 on Instagram.