Founder, creative and editorial director Catharine Dahm quietly launched her namesake, luxury concept fashion label, Dahm House, in Paris this year.
Dahm hails from Indiana and moved to Paris after cutting her teeth in the industry as the former cofounder of sustainable, contemporary label Rabot. Dahm House is her debut independent and self-funded brand (she’s currently began fundraising for Collection 02’s fall and spring 2025 lines).
The Dahm House debut Collection 01, “Welcome to Earth,” was designed to “celebrate the art of craft and creative storytelling” with ready-to-wear designed and sourced in Paris. The 26-piece fall collection brings forth the idea of “beauty, fragility and graceful circularity of life,” through handcrafted details, thematic symbols, natural hues and materials.
“For me, design is so personal and I wanted each collection to be centered around a theme,” Dahm said. Each of her inaugural, heirloom-minded collections (set to release for fall and spring) will encompass the idea of storytelling, further expanded upon with coinciding Dahm House magazines. The debut Collection 01 magazine, distributed internationally by KD Presse, features a mixture of writing, poetry and editorial photo stories. “I don’t want it to feel like a catalogue; it’s really its own universe. Especially for a luxury brand, it makes it easier for people to purchase and be part of the world.”
Dahm’s luxury ready-to-wear balances a timeless ethos with a play on the masculine versus feminine in structure and fabrication, but the unexpected delight of her styles shine through their sensual-meets-whimsical details.
Dahm said she loved the idea of, “I dreamt I was a flower — as if someone was dreaming and morphing into these flower shapes,” which resulted in blooming, three-dimensional florals, as seen as shapely trousers hems; on the breasts of tailored tops and “Hunzicker” dress (in wool or raw-edged, silk organza), and in the form of hand-painted petal sleeves and collars of her brown cotton sateen menswear “Harding” shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons and silk satin duchess piping.
“I do have this Paris-Indiana as part of the brand because I feel like it sounds charming. I’m using that as the tag for everything and I’m planning to shoot my second collection there [in Indiana] — I feel like you have to incorporate your roots a little bit,” said Dahm, adding garments are named after women in her life, such as the petal-hemmed “Linda” pants, named after her grandmother who had the rule changed at her daughter’s school to enable girls to wear pants instead of skirts. “That’s what I mean when I say design to me is so personal — I want to pay homage to people that inspire these garments.”
A strong throughline of the collection is her use of hand-embroidered natural glass, beads and stones as built-in jewelry — a nod to the collection’s esoteric ideas of life and evolution.
“There’s an amazing shop in the 3rd [arrondissement], it’s like Harry Potter’s shop with floor-to-ceiling boxes of all vintage glass beads. I have a lot of glass Murano beads from Italy in the collection — the detachable sleeves have vintage Murano glass. They’re really timeless, elevated and sensual details…if you have too much that it can easily be overwhelming, but it invites you to look at things and bring you closer,” she said. Throughout the collection, customers are invited closer to observe her hand-beaded spirals made of lapis, malachite, pearl, jasper and lemon quartz, to name a few. The motifs can be seen on the busts of her structured corset tops and dresses, which nicely offer a balance between the playful and sensual.
“This dress is so sexy on — it has a corset body and really takes this theme of evolution with Malachite on the feminine side of the body for earthy energy and grounding; Lapis on the masculine side for air and sky energy. Nobody’s going to look at that dress and think, ‘Oh, masculine energy,’ but it’s personal. I don’t ever want anything to feel too custom — it needs to feel refined, and has a touch of whimsy,” she said of the tailored black wool “Yireh” corset dress with front slits and contrast stitching.
Other details throughout the collection stem from the idea of convertibility, as seen through hook-and-eye closures on tops; outerwear, jeans and trousers with button-up-or-down, -on-or-off accents, and long, wrappable ties on blouses and dresses.
Approaching Collection 01 as an organic launch and “marketing collection,” Dahm sells direct-to-consumer via her website under the preorder model (with a made-to-order time frame of four weeks) with prices ranging from $265 to $4,478. The founder and creative sees the Dahm House customer akin to the Bode crowd — “clever, intelligent women who are working in industries such as architecture, publishing, design — those who have an appreciation for style and want to invest in clothing that still feels relevant, feels modern, but that they can have and ideally keep for a long time.”
Since debuting Collection 01 via e-commerce, she noted customers have responded well to her “conversation between structure and fluidity with these little nodes of beauty on top.”
“They also like the teetering between the poetry of feminine and masculine, yin-yang,” she said. For instance, the Dahm Blazer (a one-piece wool and silk black blazer with dickie-like cotton and silk vest and mother-of-pearl closure) atop the Costello skirt; other favorites were noted as the Claire, Aline and Catharine tops; Leonard pants, and coats.
“First impressions are so important. I’ve been spending a lot of time and resources on making sure everything feels personal because I want the first touch point for a buyer, for press, for customers to really understand what I’m trying to do and not feel like ‘after three seasons, she’s got it figured out.’ Because honestly, a lot of the time you only get one shot; even too, I know it often takes a few seasons for people to gain traction, and I want there to still be a first collection that’s strong like proof of record.”
Dahm plans to evolve this model over the next few years into an atelier model, where garments will be personally fitted for clients. In addition, she will unveil her spring 2024 collection — an expansion of her “smart tailoring with unexpected poetic touches” — to wholesale for the first time during Paris Fashion Week.
“Spring 2024 will be Collection 01, ‘Welcome to Earth,’ Part 2. The idea is that each collection lives for a full calendar year and is divided into fall and spring, with a magazine launching yearly to coincide with each collection to expand the storytelling. This will allow the silhouettes and storytelling to build/flourish for a full year instead of too quickly folding into a new collection each four to six months,” Dahm said.