These Women Are Redefining Utility Workwear, And It’s The Gear We Need In 2020

In a time when we’re paying extra attention to the little guys, and those brands that go above and beyond, it’s hard not to notice a company like Dovetail Workwear. A brand that’s redefining utility workwear – and who it’s meant for. (Spoiler alert: women – it’s meant for women!)

Especially after learning about an upcoming winter collaboration with Cordura and Artistic Millners, a LEEDS Certified Fully Sustainable Green Plant denim manufacturing company based in Pakistan.

Artistic Millners not only has initiatives to hire women who have been victims of acid attacks, but they’ve launched The Adult Literacy Program to educate both men and women from small villages in Pakistan who wouldn’t otherwise have access to education.

These are types of partners that Dovetail Workwear chooses to work with.

And in a time when Carhartt is all the rage, the ladies behind Dovetail Workwear aren’t designing utility workwear because it’s cool. They’re designing it because they need it. And so do plenty of other women.

Partnering with Oregon Tradeswomen, NEW (Nontraditional Employment for Women), SkillsUSA, Girls Build, and many more organizations that give women and girls the support, training, and mentoring they need to enter traditional male-dominated professions (plumbers, furniture makers, river guides, fisherman, stained glass conservators, truck drivers, farmers), Dovetail Workwear wants to support – and outfit – them all.

“We envision the future as all women fulfilling their personal potential, thriving in their work, and strengthening their communities,” and that means doing more than just making great utility workwear (although they’re doing a great job of that).

I was curious how they got started, which organizations they’re most excited to be partnering with, and what advice they have for women entering male-dominated professions. Here’s what they had to say.

Breanna Wilson (BW): What made you want to bring Dovetail Workwear to life? 

Dovetail Workwear Founders Kyle Marie Begley, Kate Day, and Sara DeLuca: “It was need, not want.

Two of us (Kyle Marie Begley and Kate Day) had a landscaping business here in Portland, OR, and we couldn’t find the pants we needed for our work. Carhartt and the other big guys in utility apparel made great men’s pants. But the women’s pants were basically an insult. Thinner fabric, faux chaps, pockets that didn’t fit our hands. We soon figured out if we wanted pants that we could take seriously, we had to make them. Luckily for us, one of our clients, Sara DeLuca, so happened to be a veteran in the apparel industry…”

BW: What is DoveLab™, and why is it so important for you to have that experimental space?

Dovetail Workwear: “DoveLab™ is our incubator for new ideas. Here’s where you’ll see limited run, quick-strike products (such as our motorcycle pant collab with See See Motor Coffee Co.), or special, inventive pieces that may or may not make it to our core collection and into retail.

DoveLab™ is also where we push not only ourselves but also our peers in the industry to do more for women by showing off what we’re cooking up. We launched the first-ever American maternity work pant in DoveLab™ this spring.

COVID-19 put a crimp in the size of our first run, but we launched it anyway. The big U.S. workwear companies have been around for more than 100 years; Dovetail Workwear for three! Pushing maternity out through DoveLab™ is also us saying to our competitors: What took you all so long?!”

BW: You have a new collaboration with CORDURA® and Artistic Milliners coming out this fall… how did that come about? 

Dovetail Workwear: “This fall we’re launching the toughest, greenest, blackest women’s work pants on the planet. This is a capsule collection with CORDURA® and Artistic Milliners, involving the greenest technologies, the most beautiful non-fading black color, and the strongest fiber.

We’ve wanted to work with Artistic Milliners since we started. They’ve been pioneers in sustainability long before it was fashionable, and their focus on women’s empowerment is unique. They have free, in-house daycare centers. They have programs for women’s management training and promotion, adult literacy, and their initiatives include the most marginalized groups in Pakistani society, including acid burn victims. They are globally recognized for this work, receiving a prestigious award from the UN last year.”

BW: You have a roster of incredible women wear testing your pants – tell me about that and how their hands-on feedback has helped change your designs for the better?

Dovetail Workwear: “We wear test with a broad range of hardcore and amazing working pros. Thousands of women have received our prototype pants and generously given us constructive feedback. Laura, a carpenter, tested our Britt Utility thermal pant in Antarctica and drew us a beautiful drawing of what did and didn’t work for her (e.g., we needed a deeper pocket for her tape measure). Eleni, a union carpenter, is the reason our Maven X pant will have a hammer loop relocated to the right. Historically, hammer loops have been on the left in women’s workwear, but Eleni set us straight on what works better for most tradeswomen. Overalls with a bib eyelet to run twine for gardeners, articulated knees for comfort, high-backed waists to avoid plumber’s crack…all these design ideas have real women’s dirty fingerprints all over them.”

BW: You’re very active with professional organizations across the country. What kind of work are you doing, and who are you doing it with?

Dovetail Workwear: “Dovetail wouldn’t exist without the partnerships we have with women, through their professional organizations. Anyone can and should wear Dovetail, but we’ve always built our most radical products for women who need them.

Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. is our original partner, giving us access to weartesters whose feedback has helped shape what we make, including Eleni mentioned above (who is also the iconic face of Dovetail across our campaigns).

We’ve sponsored scholarships, donated clothing for their graduates, and pre-COVID, we’d sponsor their annual Blue Collar Gala fashion show – the best fashion show you’ll ever see!

We consider them our sisters. We’re also lucky to partner with the National Association of Women In Construction, Women In Trucking (who are helping us develop apparel for their industry and taking us on the road), Geological Society of America, Conservation Legacy, Girls Build, and many more. As a scrappy startup, we don’t have lots of money to give, but we use the power of collaborative support to lift women up. We promote, amplify, and build community. As women do.”

BW: What is one thing you want to tell women who are afraid to enter these male-dominated professions?  

Dovetail Workwear: “Our young friend, Girls Build Instructor Raven Pearce, said it best, ‘if you’re looking for a seat at the table and it’s not there, build it.'”

As you can tell, the ethos and the mentality behind Dovetail isn’t just about utility pants. It’s about giving opportunities to women who deserve it, and in 2020, we are here for it.

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