There's no typical month for Chloe Dao--there's barely a typical day. But that's the life of a successful fashion designer. "Mondays, there is a staff meeting to go over schedules, goals and projects; figure out what's selling, what's not...doing special orders for QVC and production notes. That's about the only thing that usually stays the same," says Dao. It isn't the glamorous life television shows like Project Runway, the one that made Dao an international name, portray as the picture of a career in fashion. Winning the second season of Project Runway catapulted Dao into contracts with Dove, QVC and Nuo that keep her traveling to New York, Austin and Philadelphia once or twice a month. And she was in between visits to New York, hosting a QVC shopping show, holding an open casting call for local designers for her mentorship program, and prepping for her new fall line, all while making time for customers at her store, when Art Attack walked into Lot 8 to meet with her. It's a major testament to her work ethic.
Dao's connection to Houston runs deep. Her parents moved her and her seven sisters from Pakse, Laos, to Houston in 1979. After paying her dues in New York for eight years, working in production and design, she opened her Houston store, Lot 8, in 2000. Even at a young age, Dao was eco-conscious and ahead of the curve, developing resolutions on the environment for the model UN high school conference, and that same sentiment carries on in her today. Dao makes sure her business leaves as small a carbon footprint as possible: All the clothes at Lot 8 are made in Houston, and she supervises production herself.
As a fashion designer, Dao is known for her attention to a woman's figure, always asking herself, "What is the body part to enhance or hide?" She also has a knack for matching the right pattern and cut to a mood or emotion, and her designs are marked by bold color and texture. The newest spring collection, shown at Audi Fashion Week and currently on sale at Lot 8, is fun and girly with a touch of Paris. The majority of the garments are pink and blue with a dove motif fluttering in and out of the designs. Dao's currently working on her fall collection, which is moving in the direction of what she calls "Mod Japanese"--Japanese-inspired, but with the flair and eclecticism of '60s mod.
Dao has some words of wisdom for aspiring designers. First, she says, "Know your craft. Understand draping and construction, even if that means staying in on a Saturday night to figure out a pattern." Second, "Intern somewhere. My interns learn something every day, and it's invaluable work." And thirdly, "Pay your dues. Do whatever it takes. Be willing to take out the trash, and do it without an attitude."
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