Jessy Dover, co-founder and creative director at Dagne Dover, experienced a pivot during high school that would alter the course of her life. She had no idea at the time that her decision to leave sports behind would be the key to her successful career as a top lifestyle designer.
Dover isn’t afraid to admit that she’s a millennial entrepreneur. Having achieved success at a young age has validated her decision to transition from being an athlete to dedicating her free time to designing. “Transitioning is weird, right?” Dover hypothetically asks. “You’re figuring out who you are again. Especially from childhood into adulthood because as a child your identity is pretty much determined for you. Then you’re thrown into the world and have to learn how to swim again.”
That’s exactly what Dover did. As she approached high school she reflected on what she really wanted to do, and sports was no longer a motivator. She had always had a passion for design. Instead of soccer camp, she attended summer fashion camps to figure out if that field was something she would want to pursue.
“The first transition I remember was the hardest of my life,” Dover expresses. “I went from being an athlete to a designer. I was born and bred to compete. I was on a ski mountain racing every day since I was six years old. Everyone thought I was going to be a professional athlete. I had to tell my parents, coaches, teachers, and friends that I wanted to be a fashion designer instead.” She went from excelling in an area she was naturally good at to a passion that she was foreign to.
Now with Dagne Dover celebrating its fifth anniversary, Dover is committed to creating not only a full lifestyle brand but a diverse and inclusive office culture. “We’re a millennial brand,” she smiles. “In the beginning, we faced a lot of people questioning us because we were young. It [the culture] was unintentionally created. We are able to attract and retain talent because of our approach and respect to work-life balance. We work hard for our Dagne [Dover] ‘family’ and that’s awesome but sometimes life happens and that’s ok.” Dover recognizes that the positive culture she and her team have created is due to the fact that they respect people’s time and always assume the best.
Dover wasn’t always an entrepreneur. After graduating Parsons School of Design, she took an assistant design position at a large brand. “I knew it wasn’t the right fit for me,” she proclaims. “I did it for financial reasons. That’s when I realized that you don’t take any job if it sacrifices your happiness. I am grateful I was there for a year because I learned operationally how a large company was set up and how design works into that. I also learned how incredibly important supply chain and production are to a brand.”
While still working as an assistant, she began taking on freelance work. “I had built a network and felt comfortable freelancing,” explains Dover. “Melissa [Mash, co-founder] cold emailed me stating she had a project and took me through what she wanted. That’s how I met her. You just never know how or where you’re going to meet someone that will change your life.”