Interview with MAKEMERRY by Rachael Lovette.....
Discover how Dr. Katie Deming became an “accidental designer” when she creating a line of intimates for her cancer patients suffering from sensitive skin due to treatment.
Get to know Dr. Katie Deming
What is your favorite part about being a designer?
I love solving problems. I come from a long line of inventors and it is in my blood. Designing clothes has been a way for me to innovate and solve real problems for women with cancer.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read or seen this week?
I just finished reading “Bad Blood” about Theranos founder, Elizabeth Holmes. As an entrepreneur, I found it fascinating and horrifying. There is such an opportunity to good with business, but the opposite is also true and far reaching impacts of a reckless leader was demonstrated so well in that book.
What would you like remembered about you?
That I am not afraid to step out of my comfort zone if I think I can contribute to making the world a better place.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
You can choose whether you influence other people. You can only choose how you influence them. You need to make a conscious choice to be a positive influence on the people around you.
What is on your bucket list (personal and/or business wise)?
Give a TED Talk
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
Who you are is more important that what you are. Don’t worry so much about titles and status. You can lose yourself in those things. If you focus on who you are and live by your values, the rest will fall in place.
What inspired you to create MAKEMERRY?
My inspiration really came from a love for my patients. I am a radiation oncologist and for years I watched as my patients struggled to find comfortable bras to wear against their sensitive skin caused by radiation for breast cancer. I was taught during my training that women should go braless during radiation, but this is actually terrible advice. Women need some support for comfort and most women don’t feel comfortable going to work and doing all their normal activities without a bra. The skin reaction from radiation can last for 6-8 weeks. This is a long time to go without a bra. After years of watching my patients suffer, I realized that somebody needed to do something about the problem. Even though I didn’t know anything about apparel design, I knew what my patients needed and I had a vision of what I wanted for them - beautiful, luxurious bras that would make them feel confident during cancer treatment. I started my first prototypes with Portland Garment Factory and the rest is history.
Does your hometown or current city contribute to your design aesthetic? How?
I am inspired by nature and the concept of clean, healthy living. That influence definitely comes from living in PDX for the past decade.
Where can we find you when you’re not designing for MAKEMERRY?
Treating patients or outdoors with my husband and children.
Get to know MAKEMERRY
How would you describe MAKEMERRY?
MAKEMERRY is an apparel brand dedicated to empowering women to feel beautiful and confident regardless of what they are facing in life.
What considerations go into building an eco-friendly brand?
As a brand so connected with women’s health, we strive to minimize the impact of our products on our customers, the environment and every person in our supply chain. We spent a long time choosing a fabric for our bras. We ultimately choose modal because it is a natural fiber that undergoes less chemical processing than other fabrics we considered. We are constantly searching for the softest, eco-friendly fabrics. We are also working on our supply chain to minimize shipping of components for production. We have previously needed to ship fabric from Europe to South America for production. We are excited to be moving our production to a factory with local mill that can make our fabric. All these little steps help us reduce the carbon footprint of our products.
Is there a storytelling element to your design process/creation?
All of our designs have a story - usually one that comes out of a frustration our customers are experiencing. We also use storytelling to highlight the amazing women we serve. We use real models who have been affected by breast cancer on our website and in all campaigns. We believe that telling these women’s stories is one of the most powerful ways to inspire other women who may be dealing with breast cancer.
What was your biggest fear when going out and starting your own line?
Everything! Seriously, I felt completely out of my element on every level. But, production and distribution were my ultimate stumbling blocks. I licensed my products initially to minimize the risks in this regard. Although, that ended up being a poor fit and I have taken the brand back to do it all myself. I still feel afraid but embrace the fact that fear is a normal part of entrepreneurship. I make sure to surround myself with a great team that has complementary skills to my own. I don’t need to know everything. I just need to build a great team. As the CEO, I believe recruiting the very best team is one of my most important jobs.
Do you have a favorite piece that you designed?
The plunge bra. It’s deep V is totally unexpected for the category of breast cancer. Most of the bras in this category are very medical-appearing and anything but sexy. The plunge bra is sexy and comfortable. I love that women with breast cancer don’t have to choose between style and comfort with this bra.
How do you want women to feel when wearing your clothes?
Confident, beautiful, comfortable in their skin, sexy.
What are your aspirations with MAKEMERRY?
Through my experience with MAKEMERRY, I have realized that there are many more women with sensitivities to clothing than just women with breast cancer. In order to serve this larger need, I am launching a new brand of intimates and loungewear called Minka. This brand will serve any woman who has pain or sensitivity that make it difficult to wear traditional underwear and clothing. It won’t be focused on a specific condition but rather create clothing that focuses on every detail for ultimate luxury and style against sensitive bodies.
To learn more about MAKEMERRY check out their website: https://shopmakemerry.com/
- Rachael Lovette, Portland Fashion Week