Racial & Social Justice Partner Spotlight Series
Each month, our Equity Coordinator, Lara, sits down with an organization or individual in our community to spotlight the work they do to create real and lasting change for a more equitable Spokane.
11 min read
content warning: language, fatphobia
Listen to the full unedited transcript here.
Lara: I would love to start out hearing how you two met and how you came to this idea of starting your own clothing line.
Delena: Kim and I met at a consulting firm and we both worked in public health communications for a little over five years. We worked very well together.
We went to lunch one day and had a conversation about the possibilities of what we could do together. And from that conversation, it sparked all these creative ideas.
The pandemic came and just overwhelmed us. We turned those conversations into reality when we decided to leave our work in public health and public health communications.
It was really Kim’s idea to create a fashion brand. It came about trying to answer the question, “How do we make clothes that will fit and be what people would love to wear, and that we could absolutely feel represented in what we create?”
Kim: We’re not going to see the kind of change that we want to see if we’re just kind of doing the same thing, but under our own business. We need to kind of burn it all down and start something completely new.
We’re looking at trainings, teaching people how to measure themselves, how to style themselves, how to alter their own garments to be more gender affirming. So how can we help people to have fun with clothing and express themselves?
Lara: I would love to hear more about the types of curriculum that you’re offering, how you’re making these spaces where people can explore that creativity. How are you essentially being in community with these people?
Kim: It started out being, okay, let’s gather some measurements, and we’ll have people try on some clothes. What it really evolved into is people telling their stories and what they needed. A couple of things that came out of that was tailoring and styling. People need clothes that fit. If they buy it off the rack, they need to be able to alter it. Especially people who are thinking about or are in the process of transitioning.
We’re really early in the curriculum stage. We’re in conversations with nonprofits to be able to offer it through them. What we’re looking at is how to measure yourself, how to make really simple alterations, how to find your personal brand, and looking at virtual options so we can record them and then anybody can watch them. Maybe they want to try wearing a binder or some other item of clothing. That’s a place where they can come and do that and talk to us and get guidance on where to find things and what to wear that fits their body.
Lara: What is your mission or north star that guides you to keep doing what you’re doing?
Delena: I personally as, you know, a Black woman in Spokane, I feel like there are some tools that I possess in feeling confident when I leave the house everyday. It’s not easy to build yourself up when there’s so much hatred in the world pointing at you. What keeps me going is the feedback we receive from everyone that comes in and interacts with us.
We schedule 30 minute sessions with people and they’ll be in there just pouring their hearts out to us for an hour and a half, because they’ve been looking for someone to talk to and someone to be in community with that won’t judge them.
I come from a very strict Christian background. Because I am also a person who experienced a lot of trauma, there’s a community of people that did not embrace me. I know what that feels like. If I can do anything with my purpose in this lifetime, it is to create a space where, as long as people are in my presence, they don’t feel rejected, neglected, unloved, misunderstood, because I really do care about the wellbeing of everyone. I just want people to be happy and be themselves. I don’t understand bigotry and hatred at all. But I know that it is my divine purpose to counter it at every chance that I get. I realize I’m strong and bold and confident for a reason – it’s to help others be the same.
“I really hope that the work we do together encourages and inspires others to come together and do the same, because we can get it done. Trauma is trauma, pain is pain, bigotry is bigotry. It’s going to take all of us to counter the hatred in the world, because it’s not going anywhere, and neither are we. We have to get stronger by coming together.”
– Delena Mobley
Kim: It’s not just LGBT (people), this is everybody who comes in to see us. We’ve had people come in who have medical conditions who can’t find clothes that fit.
There’s all different reasons why people come in to see us. They come in and they’re really, really guarded. By the time they leave, you can tell this weight has lifted and they’re so happy. We help them feel that way when they’re leaving and that’s just the greatest high in the world. I just want to keep doing that and keep spreading that to go bigger!
Lara: Taking all of that on because you want to help can be taxing, so how do you keep the momentum going but also take a pause for yourselves?
Kim: It’s really tough. My child is nonbinary. They’re in fifth grade. You see the news, you see all the legislation that’s happening and all of the attacks. That also motivates me to keep going because I’m trying to create a safer world for them and for everybody. If it’s safe for gender non conforming people, it will be safe for everybody.
Running our own business, we have that freedom and as we hire people, we want that culture of when you need a break, you need to say something and take a step back. We’ll carry that baton, step back in when you’re ready.
Delena: I’m very spiritually grounded so I really do believe in prayer. I’ll have my little crystals around and everything. I just like to be mindful about being grounded. Because I do take in a lot of tears and a lot of other people’s traumas, and I realize that that’s why I’m here – to take in those things and give people advice that they would probably not receive anywhere else.
If I spend the day socializing, measuring, talking, helping people process emotions, I’m going to spend the next day (or as soon as possible) to recuperate and rejuvenate. I just assess where I am and say, “You know what, I need to block out everything right now and take care of myself.” I’m just getting better at that. I think the pandemic helped me set boundaries around how much I can interact with people.
Lara: What has been your favorite part about creating dom+bomb so far?
Kim: We’ve had people say, “I always feel really good in your clothes. I didn’t know what to expect, but you just made me feel so good.” Those moments have been really special.
Delena: My favorite part is making people feel like superstars. We have some people that have come in for a fit modeling that have also taken pictures that were used in our promotional ads, and they did not see that for themselves. There are a couple that we work with that have done professional work in the past, but in terms of just being able to make someone see a different version of themselves and gain a whole new level of confidence because of it. That makes me feel like a million bucks.
Lara: How would you describe your work if you could only describe it in three words?
Kim: The first thing that pops into my head is the name of our streetwear line because it’s all about how I am expressing myself and you either need to respect it or move along. That’s it. That’s where it is. It’s not a debate, we’re not going to argue about it. This is who I am. Yes, I’m fabulous. I don’t care if you don’t like it.
Delena: If I could just sum it up using just three words, I would say innovative, bold, confident.
Lara: What are some other ways that people can support you or get involved?
Kim: We’re still taking fit models. We take everyone’s measurements, and then there’s companies out there doing national data, and we look at competitors too. We do an analysis of all of that so the more measurements we get, the more accurate our size chart will be.
And obviously, buying our stuff! Coming in for a first styling appointment is free, so you get 30 minutes with Delena. And then just liking and sharing and commenting on our social media.
Lara: How do you keep (sustainability) in mind when you’re creating?
Kim: Yes, that’s very important to us. We’ve done a lot of learning and observing what other people do. There’s a lot of that greenwashing out there where they’re saying one thing, but doing another.
I think Levi’s is the latest one to be in the news. Because they’ve had people die in their factories, and they’re refusing to sign onto an accord. It basically says we’re going to make efforts to create safe working environments for our employees, and they didn’t sign onto it. We’ve been in conferences where Levi’s CEO was the keynote, and they talk about all of their sustainability initiatives. And we know this is bullsh*t.
The challenge with the fashion industry is it’s extremely hard to be sustainable in all things. If you think about the lifecycle of a garment from seed to whatever fabric has been made to create the fabric, dyeing it, sewing it, all that, the complete lifecycle – every step of that is really hard on the environment.
There’s some really cool things happening as far as sustainable materials – bamboo, mushrooms – and growing them in certain ways to make them so it’s not terrible for the planet. Technology and all these waterless dyes so they’re not getting rinsed into the rivers and oceans.
Another big problem is the waste at the end of the garment. Especially the US and Europe, the global north has huge waste when it comes to throwing away our clothes, and that’s burdening the global south.
You also have to talk about workers and the conditions that people are working in. Shein is one of the big offenders right now. It’s slavery conditions, and they’re not the only ones. You have to pay attention to every single step in the life cycle, you have to know what the working conditions are.
What we decided to focus on were the people. We have a factory that we will be working with to put out our next clothing lines. They’re in California. They meet or exceed all of the safe working conditions – living wage, safe factory.
For our streetwear line, we have a printer that’s out of North Carolina. They print on demand. They have factories around the world, but they report on the working conditions of all of those factories. We’ve vetted them as well as we could. It’d be nice to be able to travel to where our stuff is being printed, but down the road, we will do that. Printing on demand is one way that
we really address that waste. So it’s not printed, it’s not embroidered until you order it. We don’t carry inventory for that reason.
By offering the tailoring services, we can help people keep their clothes longer. Even if you found something at a thrift store, you liked the print, but you’d rather it be a skirt and pants, those kinds of upcycling things we can do.
You’ll see some of these blogs, talking about tailoring. They’re like, “Don’t bother to tailor fast fashion. It’s cheap, it’s not worth it.” But we disagree with that. If we can keep you from throwing it away, then it’s not gonna end up in a landfill and you can wear it way longer.
We’re not perfect. Ideally, we go to these factories and visit them. And even though it’s on demand, we are still putting new stuff out there. So we’ll get better as we grow.
Delena: We do a lot of research. We’ll attend a fashion show or read a lot of magazines, seeing what a lot of the platforms highlight, the fast changes in fashion, and long lasting trends.
First, we try to identify what those things are – what the colors will be for the next year, because there’s always clues but you have to read and pay close attention. There are tastemakers that people rely on and then almost everything you see comes from the runway. If you’re paying attention, then you can pick up on what those things will be for the next season, or for the next few years.
It’s kind of like tying all of those resources together. And then seeing what it is that we want to produce that will look good on everyone? Not necessarily thinking about gender, but thinking about what people would love to wear and feel good in.
We take our design ideas and Kim will make a pattern. Kim does all of our pattern making. She and I will both sew up samples, we’ll have our fit models come in and try on those samples. We’ll alter the pattern based on their feedback, how they feel, and how we view the garment on that person. Then we’ll make edits to that pattern and continue that process until we finalize the design.
Lara: How would you describe each of your styles?
Delena: I would say I like a very neat look with a pop of edge. A little bit of edge in there. But I do like a very neat look.
Kim: We joke that our styles are really our names. Delena is the ‘dom’ and I’m ‘bomb.’ Did you ever watch ‘Bewitched?’ So Endora from ‘Bewitched’ and the inside of Holly Golightly’s apartment. So, the tub couch.
Lara: What would be some of the biggest issues you would tackle?
Kim: We just had to deal with a fatphobic troll on our Instagram. I did this post about how, the bigger the size, the more fabric used is a myth when it comes to increasing cost. We started arguing about the cost of fabric. Basically they were saying, “You’re lying, because you’re saying that larger sizes don’t require more fabric.” That’s not what I’m saying. We’re saying that the fabric is minimal and it doesn’t contribute to the cost as much as y’all think it does, which is what we have found through our process of learning about the manufacturing process.
Delena: As we get more followers, more people will feel entitled to let us know how they really feel. But I will say one thing that hasn’t yet come up is racism. That’s something that I keep my eye on.
We have come up with really creative ways of not becoming bullies as we encounter bullies. That’s really difficult to do, especially when my first reaction is to tell them how I really feel. You can fight fire with fire, but you’re just gonna burn everything down, right? So, how to be mindful of knowing that that person is probably hurting and clearly doesn’t love themselves. We have to allow space for that. Clearly, they’re not healed and don’t understand what it takes for others to help others feel good about themselves.
These little trolls that are popping up are good practice for us. We’re both communications people and I think that if anyone can get it right, and learn how to deal with all the negativity, it will be us. We’ll figure it out. We got this.
Kim: We talked a lot about the intersectionality of what we’re doing. We have a Black owned business, we have a queer owned business, we’re tackling fatphobia, we’re tackling transphobia. We don’t want to make assumptions that everyone feels the same way. There are people that want to support a Black owned business but do not want to support a queer owned business and visa versa. So how do we bring everybody together and educate? What we’re trying to do as far as gender, the services that we provide, the sustainability…As you add those up, the pool of businesses doing those same things just gets smaller and smaller so we’re kind of on our own. Not saying we’re the first to do this, but we just have to remember to follow that guiding star, and that we are going to have a lot of pushback for what we do. The love that we’re already receiving, that’s gonna sustain us through it.
Delena: I just hope that what comes across is how much we care about the people we work with, and even the healing of those who might be afraid of what we’re doing right now. Understanding that we see enough commonalities to come together and show other people how much they have in common and how much we could accomplish together.
I want to thank Delena and Kim for taking the time to talk with me and share about the work dom+bomb is doing. YWCA Spokane is excited to stay connected and support them as they grow! Consider being a fit model to help make sure their size chart is as inclusive as possible. Learn more here.
YWCA Spokane’s Racial & Social Justice Committee
Our vision is to strive to be a consistently accurate resource for information on racial, ethnic, and cultural awareness to promote diversity, equity, and inclusivity in employment, in business practices, and in the care and services provided throughout the communities we serve. For 2022, the RSJ Committee is focusing on:
- Community Partnerships
- Enhance outreach efforts to community partners and liaisons to share ideas, support each other with action, and solidify connections. View the list of our RSJ Partners.
- Develop and host or co-host events to connect various groups of community members to share and understand each other’s stories. Events include movie nights, Stand Against Racism, YWCA Equity Challenge, and Transformations Camp for youth.
- Education & Training
- Provide training to YWCA staff, board of directors, mission partners and the community to allow awareness of subconscious thoughts or attitudes that affect our perceptions about people, the decisions we make, and the impact on our community.
Join the conversation with our Facebook Group and learn more about our RSJ Committee here.
CHECK OUT OUR PREVIOUS SPOTLIGHTS
- NOVEMBER | Nanette Cloud, cartoonist & zinester
- OCTOBER | Mariah Brigman, Yoyot Sp’q’n’i
- SEPTEMBER | Alex Gibilisco, Spokane City Council
- AUGUST | Jaime Stacy & SWAG
- JULY | Ginger Ewing & Terrain
- JUNE | Esteban Herevia & Spokane Pride
- MAY | Idella King & Red Skirt Society
- APRIL | Chauncey Jones & A Better Way JJJ
- MARCH | Kiana McKenna & The Pacific Islander Community Association
- FEBRUARY | The Carl Maxey Center
- JANUARY | The Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center
If you or someone you know should have their advocacy work highlighted through our RSJ Spotlight series, please email our equity coordinator, email@example.com.