Internationally recognized as one of the leading creatives and most in-demand illustrators in the design and lifestyle industry, Dallas has partnered with brands such as Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Anthropologie, Kate Spade, Dolce and Gabbana, Harper’s Bazaar, Donna Karan, and many more. Did we mention she’s a New York Times best-selling author?
She’s a style expert, artist and author whose career has spanned from Disney to Dior, fashion illustration to interior concepts. And she’s inspired hundreds of thousands of people on her popular Instagram page.
To prepare for What Women Want, we interviewed Dallas Shaw about the important women and experiences in her life. Answers have been edited for clarity and length.
Who are some of the most beloved women in your life?
I’m really lucky, especially here in Delaware. I’m not from Delaware, so when I got here, I had never even visited the state before. Usually as an adult, people already have their friends. I’ve been really lucky to find an amazing chosen family here, which has completely shaped who I am now, and as I grow here. People ask, ‘Why Delaware?’ It’s genuinely because of the people in my life! I definitely have a small group of girls that I consider family.
Workwise, there are two women who have shaped my career. In New York City, Aliza Licht was the first one who gave me a chance in the fashion industry, with drawing. Ashli Stockton in New York decided to leave a huge corporate company and start a business on her own [Sunday Forever] when I was doing that as well, so provides that friendship, but she also knows the highs and lows of the business, so that has been special. And my manager, Angela Wagner — she just believes in me so much, and that’s really important to have.
Dallas Shaw’s family also influenced her life:
I have my mom and my grandmother in Scranton, Pa. My grandmother had such a love of fashion as I was growing up. My grandfather was a tailor, and she was a seamstress. I could see her love of clothes and getting dressed, so that was something that shaped me a lot, in hindsight. And my mom and dad had such a love of Disney, growing up, and those two things shaped my career very much.
You have a creative life and career. Was there a moment in your youth that cemented your love of this path?
They say that creative children know that they want to do something creative with their lives younger than other people. You’ll often hear kids who want to be a musician, actor or artist earlier than, say, a coder. My parents were extremely hard working, so I knew that work was going to be a part of my life, and I wanted to do something I loved, and I wanted to do it as soon as possible. I wrote the head animator of Disney a letter in the sixth grade and tried to convince him to hire me. He wrote me back and he became a mentor of mine.
What is your approach to your work, or your personal mission?
It changes all the time, because no matter what — you can’t love something for a million years unless you grow and evolve with it. I’ve grown my job so many times and will continue to change it. For me, I have to always genuinely love what I’m doing. Coming from that Disney background, if that project doesn’t tug on my heartstrings, maybe that’s not for me. I think the constant evolving to stay inspired is something I’m always trying to do.
For women entrepreneurs, it’s also tough because we’re working so hard, and we’re taught to hustle, and all of that is great, until one day it’s not. So, taking the time for just some actual self-care and work balance and telling people the highs and lows of that career. So when I’m speaking, that’s usually the personal message I’m talking about: how can we do all these amazing things and still have a life. I save all my hard truths for in-person meetings and speaking engagements [instead of social media], so people can get to know me more.”
Have you gotten to be a mentor for other people?
I taught for four years when I was building the business, when I left Disney. I taught art for 6th, 7th and 8th grade students and [now, years later], I’m hearing from them. With those kids, I know I got to be a mentor. It’s so funny the things you hear. ‘I remember when I got in trouble, and someone told you I drew something on the bathroom.’ Or, ‘Remember when you called my grandmother and said my drawing was good? I didn’t think it was, but that was so nice.’ They remember all that stuff, and I appreciate it. I really loved the kids.
Is there anything you wish you were doing, or any bucket list items?
I just released a collection of abstract paintings after my last residency, and it sold out in three hours. It was important for me to start introducing all the other artwork I was doing because the industry kept putting me in a box, like, Hey, I’ve also been designing restaurants for 10 years! When those abstracts sold, it felt great, like people are going to let me out of this box. For the moment, that’s my focus: reintroduce what else I’m doing besides fashion illustrations. I’ve always been a multi-creative, they just haven’t gotten to see it so much.
With art residencies, the stuff that came out on paper was just amazing. Because that was never a job for me to just … immerse myself in a new space and make friends and see new places. So, I just did that in Paris. That will re-set you as an artist. I’m lucky with what I’ve gotten to do.
I had so many intense goals throughout my career. Now I want to get back to being an artist. I still have those goals, but a goal within those goals is to enjoy it. I’m not saying I’m good at it [she laughs]. We’re just so immersed in the go-go-go, I have a goal to enjoy it while I’m going.
What charity or volunteerism is close to your heart?
I really want to get back to teaching and working with kids. Last year in Delaware I tried to figure out a way to teach two different classes [but work got in the way], so on those residencies, I try teaching classes where I am – so for instance, an art therapy class for kids in Bermuda.”
Learn more about our keynote speaker at www.dallasshaw.com.