Ones to Watch – Monstruosite

July 2, 2014


We had the chance to catch up with designer Dolly Donshey of Monstruosite.  Dolly will be presenting her Spring/Summer 2015 collection on the Nolcha Fashion Week: New York runway for the first time this September.

Monstruosité (formerly House of Donshey), is a high fashion millinery brand, established in 2010 by designer and creative director 23-year-old Dolly Donshey after studying the art of hat making under renowned milliner Jan Wutkowski, alumni of the Melbourne School of Millinery in Australia.  Since inception, the brand has been featured in publications and media around the world and worn by celebrities such as Sasha Pieterse and Carmen Electra.

Monstruosité focuses heavily on bringing concepts to life by integrating music, art and theatrical elements to showcase the ideas behind the designs. Monstruosité views fashion and millinery as a way to tell a story and push creative boundaries, while also focusing the utmost attention to detail.

Dolly DonsheyWhy did you decide to become a fashion designer? I’ve always been impulsive. I jump headfirst into everything I do with little thought and way too much enthusiasm. One day when I was 19, I woke up and thought to myself, “I want to start a fashion business.” I didn’t know where to start, but I knew that I wanted to create something beautiful with my hands. I wanted to experience the process and understand the ins and outs of the business.

Originally, I wanted to design shoes. Anyone who knows me, knows my deep love of footwear. To design shoes, however, I would have had to apprentice under cobbler. With most shoes being made in factories, this was next to impossible. Through my research, I stumbled upon the world of “millinery” and become mesmerized by the amazing culture of hats. I was hooked immediately, so I contacted a well known milliner, Jan Wutkowski, and spent the summer learning the art of hat making. When I returned, through trial and error, I was able to start my millinery brand.

What’s it like being in the fashion industry? I have played around with many creative avenues. The fashion industry is the most exhausting, but by far my favorite. People don’t realize the hard work required to run a brand. From the outside, it looks glamorous and exciting. That is true to some degree, but it’s more work than anyone could imagine. My business is literally running 24/7. I am a morning person and my partner, Sarah, is a night person, so we sort of take day and night shifts to get everything done.

To commit to the physical and mental demands, you have to LOVE this business. My brain is going every second of the day, but I love it. I love solving problems, working with my team, connecting with talented like-minded individuals from all over the world, and all the other ups and downs that come with it. All the sleepless nights, sometimes frustration and stress, is all worth it when I see a collection I have worked on tirelessly come to life. One day, every 6 months, I get to see the audience’s faces, and I remember why I do what I do. The fashion industry is a freedom words can’t fully describe.

How would you describe your brand? I like to describe my brand as a dark fairytale. Every collection I create is a deeply thought out story. From the materials to the music, there is a meaning and reason for being. It is how I stay so excited by my work, and how I am constantly evolving. It’s the reason photographers and stylists pull pieces for shoots and why women come to me for custom pieces. When they wear a Monstruosité hat or headpiece, they know they are part of a bigger story.

What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far? To be completely honest, this Nolcha experience is the biggest highlight so far. Part of how I continually grow, is never being fully satisfied. I always want to be doing bigger and better things. I have a huge list of goals and every time I check something off that list I say, “Oh, that’s awesome, but what’s next? How can I improve on this?” Nolcha is the first milestone where I have actually taken a step back and said, “Wow, I did that, and I’m proud of myself.” I am trying to soak up every moment and really appreciate this opportunity.

What is the inspiration behind one particular piece in your collection? It is really hard to pick just one piece and describe the inspiration, because each collection is a story that works together as a whole. If I have to choose one, I would choose the painted feather fascinator from one of my first collections. It is very simple compared to a lot of my work, but it was inspired by Alexander McQueen’s gold feather dress from the collection he was working on when he passed away. When I saw the news that McQueen died, I cried. I cried because I felt so personally connected to him, and because the industry lost someone truly magical. A visionary like that only comes along once in a lifetime.

Describe your ideal consumer. My ideal client is a rockstar. Not literally (Although, I love when rockstars order from me!), but normal women who are rockstars in their own right. These women are confident and not afraid to be the topic of conversation. Even if you are ordering a simple ready to wear fascinator, you will be the center of attention.

What is your favourite piece and why? This is always a tough question for me because my favorite piece is in a constant state of evolution, especially with my dramatic show pieces. Large pieces are always a challenge. It require figuring out how to block the shape I want, how to sew on a large solid object, and then, figuring out how to get it balanced, so it can sit on the head properly and do it’s job. When I finally get it right, I get very excited. It becomes my favorite, because I’ve accomplished something new.

If you could have any celebrity spokesmodel, who would it be and why? I would be a fool if I didn’t say Lady Gaga. What milliner wouldn’t die to work with Lady Gaga? She is one of the most fearless women in fashion when it comes to showcasing milliners. I am also in love with Natalia Kills’s “Glam-Goth” style. I think we would get along really well creatively.

What store would you love to have your hats in? The show pieces we use on the runway and in shoots are best made to order on a private client bases for photographers, stylists and high profile clientele. However, our ready to wear collection would easily fit in Henri Bendel, Barney’s, and, of course, Bergdorf Goodman’s, which is the holy grail of all retailers for emerging brands.

What does 2014 hold for the brand? I can’t answer that with 100% certainty. I have a vision for where I see the Monstruosité brand going and a plan for how I’m going to get there, but life changes daily. Even though I have a clear direction, I try not to get so stuck on one path, to where I’m not open to the unexpected. There are a lot of great opportunities and experiences that are coming my way in 2014. You’ll just have to wait and see.

The Nolcha Fashion Week Ones to Watch feature is a weekly interview highlighting an independent fashion designer that is making moves in the fashion industry. Whether from a runway show in New York City or discovered by our globetrotting team we are proud to be a platform of discovery supporting innovative independent fashion.

If you are an independent fashion designer interested to be featured in the Ones to Watch interview series please email with more information about your brand.

Nolcha Fashion Week: New York, founded by Kerry Bannigan and Arthur Mandel, is a leading award winning event held during New York Fashion Week hosting independent fashion designer runway shows.