Co-founders Delena Mobley (dom) and Kim Blessing (bomb) sit down and reflect on the launch of their fashion brand, what they've accomplished so far, and the future.
bomb (Kim): Two years ago, we met for sushi and decided to start a business together. We didn't know it was going to be a fashion brand at the time. What do you remember the most from that conversation?
dom (Delena): I’d like to take it back a bit further, to another great meal and conversation that started it all. We were eating Italian food, because the cuisine matters, when we talked excitedly about doing something amazing together. Between bites we brainstormed business ideas, what community building means to us, and ways to collaborate. Our visions became intertwined, and everything changed for us starting that afternoon. Community was always at the forefront of our conversations.
bomb: We make our best decisions over food! I will always remember how we were certain about what we wanted to create even if we didn’t know what we were going to sell. We talked about the article about the growth of alcohol-free queer spaces and how Spokane needed more spaces that are enthusiastically safe and joyful for LGBTQIA2S+, BIPOC, and any combination of our communities. We knew from the start the experience we wanted to build. What are you the proudest of what we have accomplished so far?
dom: We have an awesome network of people who believe in us. In under a year, we have measured over 40 real bodies, all shapes, sizes, genders, to inform our clothing designs and the construction of our size chart. We did not allow COVID to impede our ability to connect to people and build community. I am proud of the feedback we receive from everyday people who feel empowered to step out of their comfort zones and into the limelight as dom+bomb models. When I look at our ads, I can hardly believe that we made these clothes, we styled these amazing people, and everyone looks and feels fantastic. We did that!
bomb: We’ve talked a ton about what it’s like to shop as a plus-size person. You can’t find anything cute, and if there is a plus-size section in a store, it’s a mess – clothes falling off the racks, tumbleweeds, smells like stale bread (just kidding, sort of). Every step we’ve taken has been to be different than that. We recently had one of our models ask us where we were when she was 12, and I knew that we are accomplishing what we set out to do.
dom: Depending on where you live and shop, if you are above a size 18, finding the right look can be a difficult and discouraging challenge. Being plus sized shouldn’t mean that you are restricted to buying either low-quality, ill-fitting clothes, or relegated to very basic and muted looks. Most of the people I know, no matter their size, express themselves through their personal style. They appreciate brands that offer pops of color; soft, stretchy textiles; brilliant accessories; and limitless versatility. Whether you want a sharp professional look, or rock a boho or polished style, you should have options. Plus-size folks want to be as experimental with our looks as anyone else. We learned that saying is easier than doing and understand why some brands avoid producing for larger bodies. Designing beautiful and well-fitting clothes that are accessible to everyone requires mindful resourcing and network-building on local, national, and global levels—but it can be done.
bomb: We also knew from the beginning that our business wouldn’t be about imposing a certain look, size, gender, or any other box on our customers. So, the first thing we did was put out a call for fit models (people who would give us their measurements and try on our samples to give us feedback on fit). And the response was overwhelming. What stands out to you about the fit model process?
dom: What stands out about the fit model process is the responsiveness and immediate support from the local community. I remember being so nervous to meet our first model after being on lockdown for so long – now we’re up to over forty. We masked up, sanitized our measuring tape, and pushed forward. There were plenty of surprises and lessons learned, but what stood out the most is that we are all more alike than different. Almost every fit model shared similar frustrations about their shopping experiences and relationships with body image. Across the board, pants legs and shirt sleeves are always too short, fabrics are so cheap they peel and fade, garments are missing practical elements like pockets, or they fail to survive a few washes. We quickly discovered how our fit models all served a dual role by helping us develop our own sizing chart and invaluable market research by sharing their personal experiences. They also test and provide important feedback on dom+bomb products.
bomb: Everyone was so willing to share their stories. It was really special and humbling. We also added tailoring services based on those conversations because we heard from many who want to dress their gender but struggle to find clothes that fit.
bomb: We’re starting with a website and social media, and our goal is to open a store in Spokane before the end of the year. What are you most looking forward to with the store?
dom: Space and being that place! We are fortunate to have lovely office space that we’ve converted to tailoring and work areas. Our community is asking for more connection. We hope to be a destination for anyone who lives or travels to the area looking for a judgement-free, safe place to express themselves, be whomever, and dress however. We want our store to be a soft place to land for folks who may not find much softness in the world. Personal connection and uplifting people make dom+bomb special. Also, I look forward to expanding our personal styling services where I can help clients discover new looks, or enhance and update what they already have.
bomb: We’ve both experienced the situation where we see super cute clothes in the window, and we go in and know there’s nothing there that will fit us. We either need to head to the accessories section or leave. And, we've heard from so many who had negative experiences with salespeople because of their gender expression. I’m so excited to be that place that is welcoming to every size and gender.
bomb: One of my favorite things about this journey so far is that we’ve really had to define our personal style and what our fashion design aesthetic is. We’re designing clothes that make you feel like the star of your own sitcom – fun, bright colors, but also that fit well, and are comfortable and versatile. What is your favorite part of designing clothes?
dom: My favorite part of designing clothes is sourcing textiles. Through a plethora of swatches from all over the world, I re-discovered a love for fine, unconventional patterned, and unique fabrics. The challenge for me was finding textiles that are all of these things and also sustainable. I often think about Dapper Dan’s first trip to Africa and how it influenced the way he expressed color theories and overall style construction. Until we can get to the motherland, we’ll continue to build a network of small fashion brands, attend industry trade shows, and talk to people who can lead us to finding sources that aligned with our values and goals.
bomb: We’re also the first Black-woman and queer-woman owned sustainable fashion brand in Spokane, and one of the few sustainable, inclusive-size and gender-inclusive brands anywhere. What are you looking forward to most regarding sustainability and inclusivity?
dom: We’ve learned that the term “sustainability” is defined differently by anyone we speak with. For us, one aspect of sustainability is getting the most wears out of a garment. Is the shirt or bottoms trans-seasonal? How can you update an existing dress or jacket? Sometimes swapping out the buttons on a blazer is all that’s needed. We are a resource that helps people decide what sustainability means for them. I am looking forward to showing anyone how they can create a sustainable wardrobe within any budget.
bomb: I'm glad we decided to focus our sustainability practice on people - the workers who make the textiles, trims, and garments. We have to take care of people first. We don’t have much time left to make changes, and small fashion businesses are leading the way. I’m excited about being a part of actual change that will make a difference.