How Dôen Became the Hottest Brand of the Summer, Evolving From Cottage-core to Fashion

When Brie Larson and Alexandra Daddario accidentally had a twinning moment in the same Dôen polka-dot dress at a press conference in Italy last month, it went viral.

“We were thrilled because everyone always shows up in our office in the same thing. It’s a collective consciousness,” said the fashion brand’s cofounder Margaret Kleveland.

Dakota Johnson stepped out in the Dôen Nevara yellow floral sundress and sneakers while filming “Materialists” on the streets of New York; Kaia Gerber wore the Greta white peasant top with her jeans out and about in Los Angeles, and at the Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui in Thailand, Michelle Monaghan has been wearing “a very special piece” that will be seen in the third season of “White Lotus.”

Welcome to the summer of Dôen — well, actually, the second summer of Dôen, following the run the L.A. brand had last year with Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Kylie Jenner and others wearing and driving sales of its dreamy dresses and tops, most of which are priced under $500.

A look inside the Doen Offices in Los Angeles, California.

A look inside the Dôen office in Los Angeles.

Joel Barhamand/WWD

Only now Dôen founders Katherine and Margaret Kleveland also have a wide-ranging Gap collaboration in stores that’s boosting brand awareness, and their own retail store openings luring new customers, including one on Bleecker Street in New York that has been so successful they had to hire a door person to handle the line outside.

CAGLIARI, ITALY - JUNE 20: Alexandra Daddario, John David Washington and Brie Larson attend the press conference of the Filming Italy 2024 on June 20, 2024 in Cagliari, Italy. (Photo by Daniele Venturelli/Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images)

Alexandra Daddario and Brie Larson wearing Dôen with John David Washington at Filming Italy 2024 on June 20 in Cagliari, Italy. (Photo by Daniele Venturelli/Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images)

Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images

All of it is ushering in a new phase of growth for the L.A.-based brand with a feminine gaze — a rare player in the contemporary market that can reach both aspirational and luxury customers with its emotional product — as it plots wholesale and international expansion and considers outside investment.

“The Gap release day was the biggest traffic day in our history. The amount of personal feedback we got was beyond our wildest dreams,” Katherine said during a recent interview at the company’s 10,000-square-foot headquarters in Van Nuys, in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley.

Launched in 2016 with $480,000 raised from friends and family, Dôen is closing in on $100 million in annual sales with its romantic and feminine, golden-cast aesthetic that is as potent and recognizable as some brands’ that are billions of dollars bigger.

The Klevelands have built Dôen to be woman-centric and diverse, celebrating all sizes, pregnancy, breastfeeding and children in its imagery, creating a community before it was a fashion industry buzz word, and extending their values of empowerment to their supply chain.


Dôen imagery photographed by Hilary Walsh.

“It’s about a feeling when you wear our clothes, it’s this beautiful ease. I throw on a top, and I don’t have to feel like I tried so hard. And I think anybody at any age can have that feeling,” said Dôen president Holly Soroca.

Selling a strategic mix of wholesale, retail and direct, Dôen is notching an average of 40 percent year-over-year growth and has five stores, including a new one in Sag Harbor, N.Y., and dreams of opening 15 more in the next few years, with Manhattan’s Upper East Side likely next.

Gap x Dôen Campaign with Lily and Ruby Aldridge

Gap x Dôen campaign with Lily and Ruby Aldridge.

Courtesy of Gap

“Dôen has officially achieved cult status and yet the brand is still absolutely accessible,” said Monaghan, one of many celebrity/influencers who has supported Dôen by creating user-generated content and modeling the clothes on their social media. “Margaret and Katherine have stayed true to their creative vision but more importantly, their core values. They’ve been thoughtful and intentional about growing a thriving brand and yet it still feels like a small, family business.”

From Cottage-core to More of a Fashion Offering

Sixty of the company’s 115 employees work in the airy, sunlit Van Nuys offices, chosen because they are a relatively easy commute for the Klevelands, who both live in Pasadena.

After four years, they are already outgrowing the space, as evidenced by the stuffed-to-the-gills product and archive rooms full of seasons-old styles and vintage inspiration pieces.


Dôen Audette dress

The sister founders share a large office with desks on either end, a wide expanse of wall plastered with photos of styles and fabric swatches from upcoming seasons, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a courtyard with bistro tables where employees can have lunch or work outside.

“On a normal day this one is a hot mess and this one is serial killer clean,” Katherine, 40, said of how their desks represent their different work styles, she being the chief creative officer and Margaret, 43, the chief executive officer.

“At the beginning we made every creative decision together. Every style we decided to produce was a hand holding. Now it’s obviously not tha, but often I just want to get her hot take on which ones she’s loving or emotional about,” Katherine said. “And I’ll hear Margaret on a financial call and ask a question and we’ll talk it through. It’s constant water cooler talk, all day.”

On a recent summer Friday during WWD’s cover shoot, Margaret’s dog Hugette was running around her feet, while a mobile order was being placed for Erewhon smoothies. Katherine chose to wear an older style, a body-hugging crochet maxidress and green satin slides, while Margaret was in a cashmere cardigan, lace pencil skirt and pumps.

A look inside the Doen Offices in Los Angeles, California.

A look inside the Dôen office in Los Angeles.

Joel Barhamand/WWD

When Dôen came onto the scene it was part of the cottage-core moment, with prairie-style cotton dresses and blouses in feminine fits that carried women through pregnancy and beyond, and worked with the at-home COVID-19 lifestyle. But the collection, now designed by a team of six, has evolved into more of a fashion offering that also includes sexy, body-hugging silhouettes, minidresses, lingerie-like slips and skirts, swim, higher-priced occasion wear in silk and tulle and knitwear with special details like hand crochet, or the shell beaded embroidery on the cream cashmere Andrina cardigan that is part of the elevated Heirloom collection.

Customers are also coming to Dôen for basics (the Lois tank top Taylor Swift wore to her first Kansas City Chiefs game had to be recut three times because demand was so high), shorts, denim and tailoring. A summer suit that dropped earlier this season sold out in a day.


Dôen Harrison jacket and pants

And accessories now include gingham raffia bags, beaded evening purses, ballet flats, sandals and satin mules.

The brand balances newness with a range of priced-right core styles called “Favorite Characters,” which often have wait-list sign-ups. They include the Ischia cotton poplin puffed-sleeve scoop neck dress, the Henri Edwardian-inspired cotton top and the pin-tucked scallop-hem cotton poplin Sebastiane skirt that’s been spotted everywhere this summer, from the Wall Street Journal Style section to the employee commissary at the William Morris Endeavor agency in Beverly Hills as the new bohemian trend takes hold. “It’s done six times what we forecasted it would do,” Margaret said.


Dôen Sebastiane skirt

For pre-fall, Dôen has a great-looking barn jacket and is pushing more knitwear with beautiful Italian and English wools.

“Our designs reference vintage pieces and certain eras but there’s never something so trend-driven that pins it to a moment in time, which is really important because we want people to invest and love and keep,” Margaret said.

The Klevelands grew up in Santa Barbara, often stopping by the now-closed vintage store named Yellowstone on their way home from school to try on clothes. “From the time I could pick up a pen, I was always drawing princess dresses,” Katherine said.

“We often twin, but I love menswear inspiration, 1960s and ’70s, stripes and plaid,” Margaret said of how their styles diverge.

Creating a Women-led Company

They both entered the fashion industry in L.A. and worked at Joie, where Katherine was executive vice president of design from 2005 to 2013 and Margaret was head of business operations from 2008 to 2012. While they gained invaluable experience at the contemporary label, now owned by Sunrise Brands, in some ways they founded their company in reaction to it.

“We had come from the wholesale side, and retailers were so challenged at that moment and it was really degrading American brands,” Margaret said of the landscape. “We were seeing the required markdowns and allowances, a lot of dilution and lot of brands being buyer-led instead of design-led. So when we set out, we wanted to be a product-first, design-led company that was customer obsessed versus just being part of a machine.”

At the same time, they were both having their first children and couldn’t find feminine clothes at the right price point. “[We wanted] things that would make a woman feel beautiful where she could get down on the floor with a kid and then get up and go to dinner,” Margaret said.

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Dôen Ischia dress

They were strategic from the start, emphasizing tops and dresses in their first assortments, with just enough knits, denim and footwear to establish a lifestyle collection.

“When we launched, we looked at each other and said, ‘We’re gonna do two seasons and if it doesn’t work, we’re gonna go get jobs.’ And I think our biggest challenge after that was getting inventory in stock fast enough,” Margaret said.

For marketing, they leaned into their community, assembling a collective of eight influential women they’d worked with before who they thought were the best in their field, including stylist Samantha Traina, photographer Hilary Walsh and hair colorist Tracey Cunningham, all of whom have advised, promoted and have equity in the brand.

A look inside the Doen Offices in Los Angeles, California.

A look inside the Dôen offices in Los Angeles.

Joel Barhamand/WWD

“I watched both of them work at other companies for years and it wasn’t until they had their own families that they wanted their own thing with their own hours, where they could go to a kids’ game or pick them up when they were sick. It felt really supportive of other women in similar situations,” Cunningham said of the collective approach.

“It was a lot about how do we remove ego from a situation and work in community and collaboration?” Katherine said. “Because you get a much better result.”

Through a Female Gaze

Walsh’s imagery for the website and social media helped develop the signature aesthetic and widen the community, which eventually also included larger sizes.

“In the first few years, we did these shoots and they would feature all different ages and kids and animals, and Hilary would shoot film and the images were so creamy and feminine and beautiful and never posed,” Margaret said. “I think women feel really comfortable being themselves with her and that came through in the photos. And the way our user-generated content was born is that people would stage photos of themselves in our clothes and emulate the photography style. I do think it really resonates, because it’s through the lens of what women feel is beautiful.”

The fashion imagery was also notable for including pregnancy and breastfeeding.

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Dôen imagery photographed by Hilary Walsh.

“In the early days of social media from a fashion standpoint where people were posting basically online look books, it was still only models, everyone was pin thin and really looked one way,” Margaret said. “From our early days, Instagram was an opportunity to celebrate who our customer was and I think we felt really close to our customer then, having it be our extended friend group, and we’ve never faltered from feeling connected. A good example of that is at this point, our kids are getting older but we’re really still prioritizing styles that support women during the breastfeeding journey because it can be a challenge to dress when you’re feeling like your body is changing.” (A section of the website highlights pregnancy- and nursing-friendly styles.)

Dôen spends just 5 percent of revenues on marketing but has seen an enormous return. The team relies heavily on gifting and has cultivated a large community of “friends of the brand,” including actors, models, entrepreneurs and influencers such as Monaghan, Nicky Hilton-Rothschild, Beanie Feldstein, Sarah Paulson, Amanda Chantal Bacon, Taylor Hill, Abisola Omole and Veronica Campos, to wear the clothes on collection launch days and create organic, unpaid social media content that the brand reshares. They have also started doing some paid partnerships, with influencer Courtney Grow for example, which extend to Substacks and other social channels.

“We’ve never incentivized any email sign-ups, but we double our mailing list every year just by really believing in brand and content,” Margaret said.

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Michelle Monaghan modeling the Diya top in a piece of user-generated content shared on her Instagram and the Dôen account.

In 2019, Dôen got momentum beyond L.A. fashion insiders when it opened its first retail store at Brentwood Country Mart, and its first wholesale account with Net-a-porter, which has continued to buy it and now counts it among its top 10 best-performing contemporary brands.

“What sets it apart and keeps our customers coming back for more are the details: great prints, super flattering cuts and signature styles that they love. Dôen knows their audience and knows that their customer wants their clothes to be versatile, working just as well for occasions and wedding as it does with denim and trainers for the weekend,” said Kate Benson, Net-a-porter’s buying director, adding that the brand also drives repeat customers.


Dôen Lucerne dress

The Klevelands have grown the business by listening to those customers. For example, each style on the website is ranked from one to six on a sheerness index, in response to Instagram comments asking how sheer certain pieces were.

“If something doesn’t work, we really do listen,” said Soroca, calling out the Sebastiane skirt as an example. When the brand started offering it years ago, it wasn’t a hit. “We paused it because the customer then wasn’t screaming for it, and now she says she wants it and we have come back with it. In other places, the designer might say, we’re tired of that style, or we did it years ago. But we took a pause and we gave it back to the customer when she was ready for it.”

Selling Values

While product is first, the brand’s ethical production is another selling point.

“That came from, ‘OK, we’ve seen it done differently in other places, how do we want to do this? We’re giving birth to a bunch of babies, what’s the right thing to do?’” Katherine said.

In 2021, the founders hired Kristine Kim as its first director of impact. Dôen sources globally and manufactures in mostly vertical factories in the U.S., Peru, India, Portugal, Brazil, Romania and Turkey. The company also uses women-owned and women-run factories whenever possible.

“There is no consistent definition of sustainability in fashion. So we’ve never used that terminology associated with the brand. That said, we use a lot of recycled material. We use a lot of regenerative — and we use primarily, I want to say over 90 percent — natural fabrics,” Margaret said.


Dôen Danton blazer, shorts and gingham tote.

“We were lucky enough to have pioneers like Reformation and Stella McCartney in the fabrication aspect, but in terms of what ethical production is, there’s no playbook and you really have to understand the audit piece and compliance piece and invest in vendor relationships and responsible buying practices,” Margaret said. “A part of us habitually under buying is that. We’re really trying not to over inventory.”

Last year, the brand published a 2030 roadmap for reducing its carbon footprint in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; became one of the smaller brands to join the Global Reporting Institute working to standardize sustainability practices and reporting, and launched a resale platform. It has also partnered with and supported various other charitable organizations, including hosting an annual fundraiser for Planned Parenthood.

“We’ve created a community and an experience where the customer feels really good not just because she looks beautiful in the clothes, but because of everything that we’re doing,” Soroca said. “We don’t do it to tell the story but it is part of our story. And I do think the customer really appreciates that.”

Plotting Growth

The brand continues to branch out through collaborations with Gap, K.Jacques on sandals, RMS Beauty on makeup and others. “Top styles sold out within an hour of going live, a testament to how their originality and style resonates,” Mark Breitbard, president and CEO of the Gap brand, said of the collection that launched in May.

Meanwhile, the team has been disciplined about not doing too much on its own too fast.

“Katherine and I talk about it all the time, when can we launch nursery and baby and paper goods. And there will be time for that, but at this point there’s just so much opportunity with what we’re already invested in. There’s a ton of demand and we’re still not meeting that demand. It really is this balance of wanting to make sure we’re selling at full price for the health of the business mixed with making the most of the opportunity,” Margaret said.


Dôen Tatiana dress

Dôen is expanding wholesale to 50 key specialty stores in 2024 and doubling that next year, and is considering adding a couple of other department stores in addition to Saks. The brand is also looking for a partner to sell in China.

Both the Gap collaboration and new retail stores have helped with customer acquisition and brand awareness, as has investing more in digital advertising.

“Maybe we planned for 5 percent growth for same stores, and we’re seeing upward of 30 to 40 percent growth, so it’s about how we continue to maximize any missed opportunities that we’ve had from a product standpoint, and drive the current trend that we’re seeing,” Soroca said of her plan.

To fuel growth faster, the Klevelands are considering outside investment.

“We know how much momentum we have and how much untapped potential we have. So for the right partner and the right scenario, it could be huge for the brand,” said Margaret, using as a positive example Zimmermann’s path to taking on investors while staying involved, and then selling a majority stake to Advent International last year.

“If suddenly there was a huge value add, or the right person or the right partner…,” Katherine said.

“Someone who would look at our retail expansion plan and understand that we are coming from a place of expertise instead of saying over the next three years, you need to open 65 stores because I don’t think that would be right for the brand,” Margaret continued. “That said, we would love to open three to four a year, and at this point, we’ve been able to finance two stores a year.”

“We want to do everything,” Katherine said. “We can’t wait.”

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