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Crafting Dreams and Dresses: The Unique Story of Cat Dahm and Her Fashion Label


Cat Dahm, a native of Indiana, was moving to Europe in February 2020 as a new pathogen began to spread around the globe. Dahm, an Indiana native, had worked in New York City for years in branding, but she was getting tired of the city’s lifestyle. She had started a fashion label, Rabot, as a side project with a friend. It was time to embark on a new journey.

Dahm, then 27, quit her job to fly with her friend to Paris. She explains to Zoom that she and her friend were planning to stay in Paris for a month before moving to Berlin. Berlin is a more affordable base for a designer.

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Catherine Dahm

But fate had different plans. Dahm struck up a jazz conversation with a cute server on her first night in France. They began spending time with each other and he invited her to go see jazz guitarist Pat Metheny. Dahm says, “But there was this ramping up of Covid conversation in the background.” Dahm says, “But in the background was all this ramping-up of Covid conversation.” He said it was only for two weeks.

They lived in the apartment for over two years. Dahm reflects, “It was fascinating living with him at the beginning.” He’s also a poet and a sociologist. It sounds very French, but he was just the first person that I’ve met who is very in his life, at the moment.” She was sick of the fast-paced, productivity-obsessed American system, and Paris, even in its eerie lockdown form, felt like a place where she could finally pursue art. “During the Covid period, I was constantly creating, dyeing fabrics in the bath, and weaving on a home-made loom. “Just experimenting.”

Catherine Dahm

Dahm House is full of earthy, sexy pieces, like a long, beribboned gown in turmeric satin or a split front top with gemstones stitched spirally on the bust. Ruffles can be arranged like flowers on the front of a top or spout from the collar like monstera leaves. Sharp pants give the outfit a bit of edge. They remind you that these clothes are for girls who ride the Metro and not those floating in the clouds.

Dahm House’s second collection is as inspired by Paris as it is by Indiana where Dahm grew up. She explains that it’s a balance between industrial creativity and femininity, not Western. I’m bleaching a lot of the garments in order to remove colors. I’m also introducing some cool workwear, like wax and cotton canvas. These things give the garments a modern twist, making them feel, I don’t know, more authentic. I wanted to emphasize the Indiana element since that’s my home state and something you don’t see on the market. “I think that balancing this with the elegant femininity of the film is a nice move.”

Philip Gay

Dahm believes that the phrase “Paris Indiana” is an important part of her brand’s DNA, just as other brands use the phrases “Paris London New York” to stamp their shops, websites, or bags. She says, “There is so much excellent craftsmanship in Indiana. That’s my preferred style of design and architecture.” The countryside will never be grandiose with mountain views, but the subtle beauty of it is what builds over time.

In Frankfurt, Germany, 15 refugees from around the globe work in an atelier to produce the clothes. They are able to achieve both financial stability as well as citizenship through their work. This detail is important to Dahm because it’s not a nice-to-have, but a key part of her vision. “A lot [of my inspiration] comes from the Arts and Crafts Movement which [came] about] after-industrial revolution and a response for preserving craftsmanship and improving working conditions for people. It’s important that there is transparency in this area.

Catherine Dahm

Dahm releases a big, thematic collection every year. She spends hours perfecting the conceptual framework for each theme. This work is also reflected in an oversize magazine (also called Dahm House), that she releases with the clothes. The first collection, Welcome to Earth, was inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s quote. The second, The Bardo, is named after the stage of transition between life and death that some Buddhist branches call the “liminal state”.

Former journalism major Dahm sprinkles literary references throughout her conversations. Collection two was inspired by the Booker Prize-winning author George Saunders, and The Tibetan Book of the Dead (I am in the middle of it; it is dense). Dahm House’s second issue will feature a reprinting of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poem “I Am Waiting”, and Joan Mitchell’s painting Minnesota. Dahm House magazine was granted permission by Adrianne Lenker, a songwriter from the Big Thief band, an Indiana native.

Catherine Dahm

Dahm’s swirl of ideas — dreams, liminal space, Paris, Indiana — seems to be as enthralling as the clothes. The inspiration for her first collection is rooted in her subconscious: “Four to five garments [from the first collection] I had just dreamt about them. I would draw it on my phone with my finger and then go back to sleep.

Yireh Lee

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