Danielle Mardesich is the founder of HUMAN the Collective, a gender-neutral apparel line that celebrates self-expression and embracing your individuality through style. From a young age, Danielle was passionate about style and fashion but often struggled to find clothing that spoke to her aesthetic. Sometimes she would end up tailoring men’s clothing for herself so she could wear the items that she liked. Danielle wasn’t comfortable with the way that mainstream fashion was separated into a gender binary of male vs. female and she wondered why there weren’t more unisex clothing options.
Last year, Danielle took a leap of faith and quit her corporate job to pursue her dream of starting her own fashion line, launching her bold and versatile capsule collection via Kickstarter in August 2017. Danielle designed her unisex clothing line HUMAN for the men and women who, like her, have the courage to challenge social norms and embrace their authentic self.
Name: Danielle Mardesich
Company: HUMAN the Collective
Job Title: Founder and Creative Director
Currently based in: New York City
Originally from: the Bay Area, California
Superpower: Love and loyalty
Name a woman in history that you admire & why:
I admire women who were breaking boundaries ahead of their time.
This 1996 interview quote from Cher comes to mind: “My mom said to me, ‘You know, sweetheart, you should settle down and marry a rich man.’ And I said, ‘Mom, I am a rich man.'”
Quote/piece of advice that you live by:
One of my best friends frequently says to me, “Don’t let fear dictate your choices.”
What inspired you to start your current venture?
When I was seven years old, I felt certain that one day, I would move to New York City and start an apparel brand, even though I had never been to NYC at the time. Style and fashion have been my preferred forms of creative expression ever since I can remember. I hated that there was always this social construct against unisex clothing. Every store divided men’s and women’s fashion, and that was never my vibe. Growing up, I shopped in the men’s section of clothing stores and stole from my brothers’ closets, tailoring their clothes to my form.
I believe we are at the forefront of a big push to stop automatically categorizing people by gender. I wanted to create gender-fluid, unisex clothing that spoke to women like me because I didn’t see much of it on the market. This is how the idea for my clothing line, HUMAN the Collective, was born.
What is your company doing to make history today?
We are celebrating the fierceness and independence of the modern human. We have created a clothing line that men and women can rely on for essential, non-binary fashion that welcomes men while still accommodating the female form. We have found that the type of people who are drawn to unisex clothing are often the type to love pushing boundaries and living life on their own terms. HUMAN is all about wearing the things that represent how you feel on the inside. We want our brand to be unapologetically raw, provocative and authentic.
What is one thing your company has accomplished that you are most proud of?
Two things come to mind: First of all, I am proud of the way that HUMAN inspires people to think outside of the boxes that society puts us into! Secondly, entrepreneurship is hard. People will tell you that it’s hard, but when you have an idea you’re so madly passionate about creating that it keeps you up at night, the fact that seeing it through will be difficult will not deter you.
When you are the boss, the creative director, the producer, the accountant and the intern, it is easy to feel lost or overwhelmed. Sometimes you begin to doubt yourself and wonder whether or not your idea was that great in the first place.
The experiences I’ve gone through as a founder have given me deep admiration for anyone who dares to venture out on their own. It hasn’t been easy, but bringing HUMAN to life and the fact that I have created a brand that resonates with the people I respect and admire is the most rewarding feeling of all.
What, in your opinion, is one of the biggest challenges facing your industry today?
I believe that one of the biggest challenges in my industry today is an old-school mentality. There is more than one way to do things, and it frustrates me when I encounter the type of person who isn’t willing to see new possibilities or consider alternative routes to success.
What is one of the greatest challenges you have personally faced at this job?
Our minds are a powerful thing. Self-doubt can be difficult to tackle, and it can inhibit or ultimately prevent you from pursuing your dreams. As an entrepreneur, there are going to be days when you’re on the highest of highs, and other times when you feel defeated or completely lost. I try to turn those anxiety-ridden days into fuel to propel myself towards my goal. I also make a point to surround myself with people who believe in me and will remind me why I am doing what I’m doing when I need their support.
What were you doing before your current role?
My background is in advertising. Shortly after moving to NYC in 2013, I enrolled in Parsons School of Design for a degree in fashion design. I worked in advertising during the day and studied fabrics and theory at night. Like a true millennial, I have always loved to have my hands in various projects at once. I started freelancing on the weekends as an assistant stylist and tailor. I am proud to say that I got to work as an assistant stylist on Refinery29’s editorial series with Priyanka Chopra. The theme for that series was a combination of fashion, women’s empowerment and boxing, which happens to be my favorite pastime. When I got the chance to work on that shoot, it was the moment I knew that I was ready to start HUMAN.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to other female founders & change-makers?
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Have mentors and check in with them monthly.
- Surround yourself with people who believe in you.
- Perhaps most importantly, believe in yourself and use your fear as power to keep moving forward.
Are there any great resources you have discovered that you would like to share?
After working in the corporate world for several years, a big hurdle I had to overcome was learning how to be my own boss and figuring out how to build a brand from the ground up. I came across Startup Fashion at an apparel trade show and I could not speak more highly of their organization. The community is filled with uplifting entrepreneurs who are happy to bounce ideas around. We all share our struggles and triumphs.
Fun fact about yourself:
My nickname is Hoops because I wear big hoop earrings every day.