Real Beauty: Before starting your blog, what were you doing professionally?
Dallas Shaw: I'd gone to art school in Pennsylvania, at Marywood University, after drawing my whole life and majored in illustration. I'd been in touch with an animator at Disney and he let me in on that secretwhen you study illustration, you have to take everything. Photography, graphics, drawing you cover it all. Right after college, I ended up working for Disney for a few years and was on their animation track until I realized I wanted to work in fashion. I made a career switch and started my own business, and the blog came about as a place to share ideas and inspiration.
RB: So your Disney training would've resulted in drawing characters for their movies and everything?
DS: Exactly. I worked in the animation building, and I loved it. I still have a great connection with Disney and the team has been so helpful. For me, it was just realizing that I wanted to be in fashion.
RB: Do you consider yourself a full-time blogger?
DS: Nowhere near it! The blog's really a very small part of what I do, and is just an addition to share the inspiration I come across as I work on my full-time projects. The companies I work for have me booked throughout the year, so it really doesn't leave a lot of time for the blog. But since I come across so many beautiful things working, it's easy to add them to the blog. It's been really well received and seems to be working, so I keep doing it.
RB: About how many hours a week do you spend on it?
DS: I know it sounds strange but I can barely guess! I've listened to a lot of other bloggers speak at conferences about how they approach it and it seems like my process is different than most. When I begin work on illustrations for a company, they'll ask me what I think about, say, a certain vanitywhat things could be put on it. It ends up requiring a fair amount of research about what looks pretty. My other site, 1519, is a shopable roundup which also constantly requires me to discover unique products. When I'm working on either of those, anytime I find something amazing I'll just pop it up on the blog. In the end, it doesn't feel like I'm devoting a ton of time to it, but I'm actually constantly putting stuff up there since I'm devoting my entire professional life to finding those types of things. It ends up reading like a diary of my projects. If you scroll through, you can tell what I was working on at what times. It's unintentionally very themed.
RB: Your blog was initially named Dilly Dallas and you've recently switched over to just your name, Dallas Shaw. What was your initial inspiration for calling it Dilly Dallas?
DS: It just kind of made sense to me, since it's what I'm doing when I'm just messing around. I never put a lot of thought into it. I just put up things I love. I changed it because I wanted to make sure people connected the blog with the illustrations. It's been helping make things a little easier, thank goodness!
RB: Has it been weird having your name go from being, you know, your name to being a brand?
DS: I thought it was strange at first, but then I read a book about all these people who had their names as their brands. Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan. My signature is also a huge part of my illustrations and a large part of what people are paying for. It's not just artwork, it's a brand. So, it's not weird anymore but I've had a lot of years to get used to it.
RB: What's been your favorite experience of the whole thing?
DS: Well I didn't even expect anyone to read it! The blog was done on a whim and it's not heavily thought through. What I love is that I'm putting up things that I truly loveand people like it! The majority of the designers I've worked with were readers and got in touch with me through the blog, which is amazing. It's been so much fun to see that people in the industry who I respect like my site. It's so flattering! It's really become a huge part of my business, even though it's a little branch. Someone could know my artwork but know nothing about me, but now you can look at all this other stuff and know my personal style, too.
RB: Has there been a dream client you've worked with or would like to work with?
DS: I'm actually illustrating a book right now and that came about because the author reads the blog. That's been really great. The designer relationships have also been amazing, connecting with brands like Oscar de la Renta, Kate Spade, and Ralph Lauren. I get to go to fashion week and I usually don't work. I just enjoy the show and take pictures backstage, which I love.
RB: Being Oscar's guest at fashion week sounds like a dream.
DS: I'm definitely not shy about telling people that I can't believe it's happening since the majority of people attending are working. Fashion week is amazing since I get to see things I love, go backstage, and check out the clothes.
RB: How does personal style fit into the blog?
DS: Knowing your personal style is so important in the industry because it's full of people who want to wear the strangest things and make a name for themselves, but you don't have to do that! I want to make sure I stay true to myself, which I think you see in the artwork and all over the website. My advice is to really dig into your personal style and be consistent with it.
RB: What's it like being pitched products for your blog?
DS: My blog is heavy on my personal style, and I won't put things up there that I don't personally love. I get a hundred emails a day asking if I can review something, but if I don't love it, it won't work because it's important that it stays genuine. In terms of what goes up, you can tell it's work-related if you pay attention. Right now, it's a lot of cozy, knit things because two weeks ago those are the items I was looking at for my shop site, 1519. It's really just, 'I saw this, I loved this, I want to share this.'
RB: What have been some of the biggest challenges?
DS: It's just been so interesting that there's a business side to the business. I want it to be personal, I want readers to feel like they can ask questions, and I want it to be 100% my personal style. But still, it's difficult to talk to everyone, and I have to remember that not everything can always get done. The blog grew really fast, and that's not a terrible problem at all, but the majority of my full-time work is still for these big brands. I love that people approach me about smaller projects, but the truth is that I don't always have time to do them. The toughest thing has definitely been learning to balance small, personal projects with the big things that come from huge companies.
RB: Do you enjoy the part of it that's business-minded?
DS: It's something that's always interested me, which isn't the same for most artists. I had to understand that it's a business, and I have to protect myself, but it's all working really well. My biggest piece of advice is to read every book possible about small businesses. You just can't rely on other people doing it for you without understanding it. I've never wanted anything to go over my head, and I want to know exactly what I'm signing off on.
See her guest blog post for Real Beauty here.