By Catie Dandridge | Tableaux, Winter 2016
While some people recognize their passion in life at a young age, it’s probably safe to say not too many associate that moment with a pair of hand-me-down jeans. For Fontbonne University fashion merchandising aluma Cassidy Dansberry ’11, however, that is exactly what happened.
“When I was in third grade, my mom gave me a pair of jeans my brother had outgrown,” she explained. “They had light blue and white stripes, and I was so excited because I had always liked how they looked. It didn’t matter to me that they were supposed to be for boys. That’s when I realized that it was okay to wear what I wanted, even if it looked different from what everyone else was wearing.”
Dansberry’s passion for the fashion industry grew over time and eventually led her to Fontbonne’s fashion merchandising program. As soon as she enrolled, she didn’t hesitate to immerse herself into all it had to offer.
“I took some classes that I really, really loved,” she said. “Apparel anatomy was one of my favorites. In that class, we got to learn about all of the technical aspects of different designs. That’s where I learned which types of silhouettes are which, how one lapel is different from another, why using a certain stitch is necessary for a specific fabric and all kinds of things most people never think about. I’m a very technical person, so those things are incredibly interesting to me.”
While studying at Fontbonne, Dansberry was led to the internship of a lifetime. She was hired as an intern at Worth Global Style Network in London — the world’s largest trend forecasting company — where fashion experts research and analyze styles to predict trends in the upcoming seasons.
“I worked in the menswear department, and I got to sit in meetings where people picked the trends for a season a year in advance,” said Dansberry, who credits Fontbonne with preparing her for that experience.
“I saw entire fashion collections in giant closets. It was like something straight out of ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ I actually saw some clothes in person for a major worldwide retailer at my internship, and then saw them being sold online a year later. That was so exciting, and it blew me away.”
Before she graduated in 2011, Dansberry decided that she would start her own business — a handbag line called She Dandy Boutique.
“I didn’t always want to be a designer,” she said. “Originally, I thought I would run my own boutique, but I wanted to see new designs. I wanted to reach outside the box and create works of art and conversation pieces.”
Currently, she is running She Dandy herself.
“I design, hand craft, blog and manage my website and social media,” she said. “It’s a lot of time spent in my basement with my sewing machine and a lot of work to go to trade shows and purse parties, but I know my work is paying off.”
Indeed it is. Earlier this year, Dansberry won the Most Innovative Company award at the Pursue Your Purpose 2015 Celebration of Entrepreneurs Awards Gala in St. Louis. And last year, she was invited to be a vendor at the American Music Awards Celebrity Connected Gift Suite.
“That was a really exciting experience,” she said. “I introduced my bags to a brand-new and high-profile audience, and within 45 minutes my booth was swarmed with guests wanting their very own handbag.”
Dansberry is focused on gaining momentum and growing her business. Her company website, shedandyboutique.com, was re-launched in late May, her handbags have been picked up by a local boutique and her newest collection will debut in September.
For Cassidy Dansberry, what began as some hand-me-down denim turned into a passion — and an exciting and flourishing career.