Designing for Tomorrow: Sustainable Fashion with DOU.K Studio

Written byAlexandria Baker
Date

Nimble fingers trace along the hemline of a client’s fitted shirt. The pearly buttons have been individually placed with a keen eye and a steady hand. Exuding power and confidence, the tailor has left no detail of the design unattended. Her client has a meeting later, and she must look her best.

Born in southwest France, DOU.K Studio founder Marie Douat has always had an eye for beauty. She has worked the French Institute in New York and demonstrated her artistic sensibilities as an art appraiser in France. It wasn’t until she began working with bespoke tailor Bruno Rubinski that she found her true calling in fashion design.

The intimate connection between client and designer appealed to Douat, and through her own studio she has worked extensively to bring that experience to women everywhere.

A portrait of Marie Douat

As Douat puts it, her purpose for founding DOU.K Studio in 2017 was “…creating pieces that will bring you a strong sense of self and carve a cherished place in your memory.”

Having moved to New York in 2016, Douat is no stranger to travel and the impact the fashion industry has left on the planet. Her bold design ideas come from sources as varied as the color of the sky to the traditional garments worn by cultures around the world—and she is in no hurry to forget the places and people that inspire her.

A key tenent of DOU.K Studio is the ethical sourcing and longevity of its pieces. The studio’s made-to-order designs are only produced by manufacturers that use sustainable fabrics and treat their workers ethically. Eschewing the fast-fashion trend that dominates the industry, Douat hopes her bespoke designs will last a lifetime with her clients.

We were able to catch up with Marie Douat for a conversation on style, sustainability and how she hopes DOU.K Studio will inspire women with its unique designs.


A trio of women wearing shirts designed by DOU.K Studio
What problems in the fashion industry is DOU.K Studio working to solve?

With DOU.K, we focus on two main issues: empowering women and offering a sustainable product.

I founded DOU.K with the strong desire to bring an exclusive, unique experience of custom-made shirts to women. In most societal norms, made-to-measure shirts are a product only made for men. I wanted to change this. As a woman, I was never able to find the perfect white shirt—whether I wanted a boyfriend shirt or a blouse. When I was in Paris working for the maestro of the shirt, I started to make shirts for myself because I also wanted to wear these beautiful fabrics from Italy. When I launched DOU.K, my goal was to offer the perfect shirt for every woman to make her feel beautiful, confident and powerful enough to accomplish her mission every day. I enjoy creating for men, but with women the connection is stronger. We talk about their lifestyle and their body. We decide the perfect position for a button to create a beautiful neckline.

A woman in a pool buttons up her DOU.K Studio shirt

On the other hand, I wanted DOU.K to be a sustainable brand. I only want to create very high-quality and timeless pieces that will last for a long time and can be worn all over again. A shirt is a versatile piece that you can style in many ways. That’s the reason I have a special love for these pieces.

Where have you traveled and drawn inspiration for your work? How did the natural world factor in?

Traveling is a big part of my life and the source of my creative inspiration. Every time I travel to a new country, I always meet with local artisans. Craftsmanship is a reflection of culture and society.

In Myanmar, I had the chance to meet with artisans who were working with the beautiful and delicate lotus flower. One artisan created a thread from the stem. The artisan then used that thread to weave a piece of fabric to make scarves—it was absolutely beautiful. In Tanzania, I was inspired by the colors of the Maasai’s shuka (the traditional fabric that the Maasai people wear) and all the shades of red, purple and blue… it’s actually what inspired me to create our Patchwork shirt.

In India, I met with block print artisans that inspired me to design the Hannah Dress. The dress is made 100 percent in India, from the raw material to the last stitching. It’s 100 percent organic cotton grown in India and dyed and block printed by hand in Bagru. We are giving back 20 percent of our profits from this to an all-girls orphanage in Gujarat.

I am also passionate about the ocean. I grew up in southwest France, on the Atlantic coast. I started diving at the age of eight, and never stopped since. The ocean is what inspired me the most—the infinite range of colors, the light that changes every second, the power of the water, and the absolute freedom that I feel while scuba diving or free-diving. This summer we will launch an exclusive shirt inspired by the ocean and the magnificent humpback whales. We will be giving back to a non-profit organization that protects humpback whales in the Caribbean.

Why is transparency of the production process important to your studio?

All our shirts are made in a family-owned factory in Poland, and our fabrics are from Italy and Switzerland. We only work with mills that are able to tell us about where their cotton originated and their ability to follow the production process. It’s important for us to know that all the workers on our production chain are well-paid, have normal work hours and are not in contact with corrosive chemicals. We do not work in large collections, instead we produce and order in a way that minimizes our impact on the environment, and we answer all the questions our clients have.

How is your collaboration with Maison de Mode raising awareness of the importance of sustainability in high-end fashion?

Maison-de-Mode and Amanda Hearst, the founder, have been talking about the importance of a cleaner fashion industry for more than a decade now. We wanted to create a unique and strong piece that will carry a message: respect a savoir-faire and minimize the impact on the environment. That’s the reason we decided to use oeko-tex certified fabrics and only produce made-to-order pieces. It also doesn’t hurt that the cotton-linen fabric is absolutely stunning!

High-end fashion always “promotes” beautiful designs with a unique savoir-faire. Because of the work of amazing actors who are revealing the behind-the-scenes of the industry, we found out that a lot of luxury brands are not as into the artisan and the savoir-faire as they say they are. This is the main reason we decided to collaborate with Maison-de-Mode and associate our expertise.

Why did you decide to feature pajamas in your “Down-to-Earth Dreams” collection/collaboration?

When we started this collaboration, we first asked, “Who is the DOU.K/Maison-de-Mode woman?” She is a city woman, running from meeting to meeting and going to after-work events. She is busy, but she needs and wants to stay feminine and chic. It’s for this reason that we wanted a versatile piece and we decided to rework the DOU.K pajamas. It’s a two-piece set that you can style in many ways, wear for any occasion, and it’s strong enough to carry a message. That’s how we came out with our design.

A close up of a woman's shirt design by DOU.K Studio
What do you see as the future of the sustainable fashion industry? Would there be more collaborations between studios? Greater transparency?

Sustainability should not be a trend or a sign of differentiation, rather it should be the norm when thinking about fashion and producing clothing. I am hoping that in the next decade we won’t need to use this word anymore. The key is transparency, and we don’t compromise when it comes to that. I am so thankful to be able to partner with all the artisans and tailors whose hands actually touch the shirts that my clients wear. I am very proud to talk about them.

I don’t see the factory or the mills that I work with as just suppliers, but true collaborators. We are partners in the sustainability mission and support each other.


To find out more about DOU.K Studio, please visit doukstudio.com.

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