Interview

Interview with Dawn Michelle

One of the contradictions of my life is the fact that while I delight in staring at beautiful things all day and attempt to add items to my closet in what my husband describes as a “non-stop barrage,” I also really admire minimalism. Who hasn’t read all those articles about how chic Parisian ladies only wear like, 10 different items of clothing which they rotate on end – but each piece cost a zillion dollars and lasts forever? It’s such an alluring idea – to simplify your life and your budget – yet so difficult in execution, at least for me.

That’s why I adore today’s interview – with the beautiful Dawn Michelle. Dawn Michelle writes the blog Minimalist Beauty but as you will soon discover, is a minimalist in multiple areas of her life. She’s also kind, thoughtful, and full of wonderful guidance on achieving a streamlined lifestyle. Enjoy meeting Dawn Michelle!

Beautiful Dawn Michelle

Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?

Hi! I’m Dawn Michelle and very excited to be apart of the Feather Factor community.  I’m a professional dancer, jewelry designer, and the creator of Minimalist Beauty.  I currently reside in Los Angeles, California, but I grew up back east in Virginia.

Can you share a little bit of your story, and what inspired you to go “minimalist”?

I’ve always had minimalist tendencies growing up, but over two and a half years ago I was drawn to a minimalist lifestyle to finally declutter my home after getting married and better my financial situation.  When my now husband and I moved in together, we brought all of our things with us.  We did not need 75% of it, yet getting accustomed to living together was more important to me at the time.  After we were married my husband was completely open to releasing more and more things. He also gave me free reign to rearrange the furniture weekly.  He was patient with a few bad set ups before we settled with the layout we love now.

Also during that time I had $20,000 in debt and I was determined to not only pay it back, but to change my relationship with consumerism.  I spent much of my free time at the mall to “window shop.”  I wanted to be inspired by the latest trends and see the latest beauty products.  I was an emotional and recreational shopper.

I knew that in order for me to have the financial freedom and peace of mind that I desired, I would have to not only change my lifestyle, but form new thoughts and beliefs around it.  Believing that I am worthy of abundance helped financially, and knowing that I am enough just as I am helped me emotionally with living with less.  My minimalist lifestyle has been the result of my new beliefs.

via Best Finance Network

You mention that you wanted to pay off your debt. Can you share how you did that and what your approach was? What were some of your biggest savings?

I actually paid off $20,000 in debt which included two credit cards and my car note in about a year and a half.  When I looked at how I was spending my money prior, so much of it was going towards skin care, hair care, makeup, and clothing.  Although I am in an industry where your look is a big part of your job, I was determined to find easier methods to create that same beauty without spending so much money on it.  Creating almost all of my beauty products, simplifying my wardrobe, and shopping with a clear eco-friendly intention has really changed my life.

Does minimalism in your life extend past beauty and fashion? Where does it go?

My definition of a minimalist lifestyle is decluttering, living with less, using non-toxic beauty and cleaning products, and creating an overall eco-friendly lifestyle that supports the planet.  Although Minimalist Beauty provides a lot of information on DIY beauty products, organic cosmetics, and eco fashion, living a minimalist lifestyle is also a big topic.  It has allowed me to appreciate what I have and focus more on pursuing my dreams.

Any areas where you indulge – where you are deliberately not minimalist?

I can honestly confess to owning a few more herbs, natural oils, butters, and clays than I can use up within a few months time.  Because I make so many of my own cosmetics, I order ingredients in bulk.  These ingredients can last me for six months or more depending on what I purchase and what I make.  It saves me so much money to make my own beauty products, yet consumes an entire kitchen cabinet.

I loved your thoughts on minimalist fashion. Can you share some of your most effective tips and elements of a minimalist wardrobe?

The most important element of any minimalist wardrobe is to know your own personal style.  When I first started studying capsule wardrobes, I started purchasing classic trousers, blazers, pumps, and other basics which really weren’t me.  Once I really started understanding my own style the classic trousers were replaced by high waisted jeans, I gave away my wool blazers for a vintage leather jacket, classic pumps became obsolete to heeled booties or t-strap heels, and the basics became organic cotton tees versus traditional button ups.  I had to learn to translate the basic capsule wardrobe to my unique lifestyle and preferences.

To declutter my closet, I’ve found it extremely helpful to take everything out to see exactly what I own.  I narrow down duplicates, weathered pieces, and those items that I haven’t worn in six months.  The six month rule works well with most anything.  You probably won’t wear it or use it anyway, so allow someone else to.

Certain items don’t apply to this six month rule such as my winter jacket which I did not wear once this winter since Los Angeles had a warmer winter than usual.  I offer a few examples of sample wardrobe lists on Minimalist Beauty with detailed descriptions of how I pare down my wardrobe.  I usually declutter my wardrobe twice a year.  Determining what your capsule wardrobe looks like helps you know what you may need to shop for and also keeps you from purchasing more duplicates of what you already have.

image via Ultra 10 Challenge

Having a “uniform” for each season make it easier to get dressed in the morning.  In the fall and winter I tend to live in leggings, boots, tunic sweaters, and my leather jacket.  It always looks pulled together and works well with my lifestyle of dance classes, auditions, etc.  In the spring and summer I love wearing dresses with a light jacket if it’s chilly.  I’ll wear the same dress with sandals, tennis shoes, or booties.  I’ll change my shoes and accessories to have a completely new look.

I try to purchase pieces that will give me a lot of flexibility for unique styling and for different occasions.  Although trendy disposable clothing can be fun to buy in the moment, it is better to invest in quality pieces that will last and that you will love for years to come.  Accessories are one of the best ways to touch on the trends without having to remodel your entire wardrobe.

Are there famous women that you think are great examples of minimalist fashion/wardrobe?

I would not consider most celebrities minimalists in terms of fashion and style.  If they were to wear the same clothing items too many times the tabloids would have one more negative thing to write about.  I do feel that a few celebrities are timeless beauties though.  Three that I admire are Amel Larrieux, Sade, and Audrey Tautou.

What are some of the items of your wardrobe that you wear the most, and that you love the most?

I love vintage pieces.  Most of my wardrobe is thrifted because it is easier on my wallet and the environment.  When I was in San Francisco this past October I found this amazing black vintage leather jacket from the 80’s. I pretty much wore that jacket every day.  I also love my 18th Amendment and Chip & Pepper high waisted jeans, both thrifted as well, and my Asics Onitsuka Tiger Tokyo high tops which were bought new.

Can you share some tips for achieving minimalist beauty? What should a beginner start with, so it isn’t too intimidating?

Beauty doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or mean owning enough clothing for a few women combined.  You can achieve the comfort, glamour, and healthy beauty with a bit more planning and a lot less spending.  It is a freedom that most don’t believe exists.

Out of all of the many organic cosmetics that I’ve tried when I was working in cosmetic retail and on my own, raw honey has been the best facial cleanser I’ve ever used.  Instead of using a product that only contains a small portion of a special ingredient, for example rosehip seed oil, I prefer to buy that same oil in bulk and use it in its natural concentrated form.  I then do not have to worry about toxic chemical ingredients or preservatives.  Becoming aware of the ingredients in cosmetics, both positive and negative, help you become a powerful conscious consumer.  With that knowledge it is easier to not buy into beauty marketing and get exactly what you really need.

I don’t wear even half as much makeup as I used to working in cosmetic retail.  Now I just save those ultra glam makeup moments for the stage.  My everyday makeup look is a natural tinted moisturizer, bronzer, mascara, and lip gloss.  To spice things up I’ll add black liquid liner on the top lash line, and on those sassy occasions give me red lipstick and I’m good.

For hair care I keep it really simple.  I have curly hair so I use conditioner to cleanse my hair and for a leave-in along with a natural styling gel and natural oils.  I am growing my hair long.  I’ve been researching hair care from women with all hair types to learn as much as I can.  Not using heat or chemical perms/color has truly made a difference.

Can you share some life advice that you follow?

I count my blessings every day especially when I notice myself falling far from positivity.  Doing what I love, having running water, farmer’s markets, safe living conditions, and a loving family with amazing friends is such a blessing!

Finally – please share something surprising about yourself!

I love fairies!

 

After this interview I had a major girl crush on Dawn Michelle – how can you not?  She’s everything minimalist that I’d love to be and that friend you’d ask for advice when you know deep down that you’re really supposed to do the right thing (I have other friends for when I want to hear the wrong/evil answer). Thank you Dawn Michelle for taking the time to share some of your learnings and wisdom with us all today – and for more, check out her blog Minimalist Beauty.

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  • Olivia
    June 20, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Thank you so much for this interview Katherine!! It is so refreshing to read about someone who shares how she is living well with less (vs looking at beautiful collections of countless Hermes products and Louboutins).

    • Katherine
      June 20, 2012 at 8:30 am

      No problem! I adore Dawn too, though I perhaps I am shallow, I also love to look at endless beautiful products 🙂

  • chocolatecookiesandcandies
    June 20, 2012 at 7:37 am

    A girl after my own heart!! I not only completely identify with her but I went through the exact same process. When we moved here, I had to make a quick decision either to store or get rid of everything in the house. I decided on the latter and ended up with 7 medium sized boxes which we shipped over. It was such a headache getting rid of stuff that I simply can’t imagine having that much junk ever again.

    I downsized 12 bags down to 4. I bought a small wardrobe and chest of drawers. Once they’re full. They’re full. I edit once every 2 months. I’ve been using rosehip oil for 2 years now since my mother introduced it to me. I buy in bulk too. My skin has never looked better. I got rid of serum, eye cream etc etc and stuck to natural skincare. I have 2 lipsticks (I only ever use one and the other was a gift), 2 blushers….etc. I’ve come to realization that buying is easy. Getting rid of stuff is a pretty horrific exercise. What truly kills me is the amount of money I’d flushed down the drain on stuff I don’t need.

  • Atiqa
    June 20, 2012 at 7:54 am

    I love this post. That’s why I love Parisian brands. I love spending a bit more on my staples but being able to wear them forever.

  • Anna
    June 20, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Thank you for sharing this interview with Dawn. She is such a beauty and I am just right now heading over to her side because she seems so nice and like a great inspiration.
    I always love your interview features, Katherine!

  • Nelah
    June 20, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Awesome lady, she is very inspiring. I am not sure if i can ever achieve a minimalsist wardrobe challenge but i can easily reach that goal with home decor. I have never beena person who constantly purchase small knick knack stuff for my home because i feel they are not necessary and end up cluttering the house. Her approach to life is simple yet very satisfying.

  • Elle from Elle's picturebook
    June 20, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Very interesting interview thanks! I really should de-clutter my toiletry cupboards (yes! cupboards!) I have so much stocked up. Clothes wise I try to purge and do eliminate some items every now and again, but serious purging I find difficult….

    http://www.mstylepicturebook.blogspot.com
    (Hermes/Van Cleef/Parisian Style blog)

  • katherine
    June 20, 2012 at 10:30 am

    One of the best interviews yet! I love minimalist style, and while I try so hard to stick to it, it can be difficult to get rid of certain things. BTW Dawn is truly beautiful, I cant wait to go through her entire blog!!

  • DSK Steph
    June 20, 2012 at 10:57 am

    I envy minimalists.

  • Mrs C
    June 20, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Like her definition of minimalist. To think of it, that’s what minimalist should be about – simple non selfish life.

    Come check out my latest post NUDE! here :
    http://mrsjackofalltradesdaily.blogspot.com/2012/06/nude.html

  • Groupthink7
    June 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Dawn, you are so beautiful. Thank you for your story. Like yourself, I was struggling with clutter and spending unnecessary money on things I really don’t need. Working in retail, sometimes my eyes are as bigger than my pockets. At the end of the day, you only need several pieces and use them to their full extent. Blessings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • helen
    June 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Ugh I have the same quandary. I edit down my closet and feel SO disgusted by all the stuff I’ve procured and vow to myself to never buy anything again…and then something catches my eye and the cycle starts all over. Great interview!

  • Urban Jungle Fashion
    June 20, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    This interview was amazing and I cannot wait to visit her site. When she stated, ” Accessories are one of the best ways to touch on the trends without having to remodel your entire wardrobe.” I knew she was my better half. I live and die by that statement. It is so true and I preach that to everyone.

  • Dawn Michelle @ Minimalist Beauty
    June 20, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    After a long day today it was so amazing to read all of your beautiful comments! Thank you so much and this makes me very happy! I wish all of you a beautiful day and best wishes always! Again thank you Katherine for such a well thought out interview 🙂

  • foodfashionandflow
    June 21, 2012 at 2:41 am

    Great interview! So many helpful tips and she is absolutely gorgeous!

  • Chic 'n Cheap Living
    June 21, 2012 at 5:15 am

    This is a refreshing interview! I want to be minimalist but it can be so hard (ahh the consumerist in me). I am however thinking about buying a crazy awesome jacket and skirt and not buying anything for the rest of the year. At least I have been more successful at being a minimalist at the rest of the house!

    xoxo,
    Chic ‘n Cheap Living

  • Lucy
    June 21, 2012 at 6:08 am

    I admire Dawn’s conviction (not to mention natural beauty!) so much. I remember tweeting one of her posts after I came across it on Google and after reading her interview, I’ve bookmarked her blog to visit again and again for minimalist inspiration. This is my favorite interview, Katherine!

  • Inés
    June 21, 2012 at 7:13 am

    Thank you for this interview! It might be my favorite one yet – I love and yearn for a closet full of Hermès and Chanel, but this reminds me that you can own fewer things and still be chic, while being more sustainable and socially conscious. Like many, I am a recovering shopaholic trying to reassess and edit my possessions, while working an entry-level job after university, so it was inspiring to see how she did it (new blog to read, too!).

    I also love that she’s a dancer – I relate to that on a personal level as I was a competitive figure skater as a child, and now am a competitive Ballroom and Argentine Tango dancer (I only compete in amateur – it’s a passionate hobby of mine). She’s just reminding me that I don’t need 90 pairs of tango shoes to dance well (google Comme Il Faut shoes – they’re like the Manolos of the tango world – and a very dangerous addiction) – and only need the 3 pairs I wear on a regular basis.

    Asking myself if buying X will really add to my total happiness and/or enrich my life really helps me curb my urge to whip out my Visa and sign off on the bill nowadays – not minimalism per se, but it has similar results (fewer purchases, less clutter).

    • Katherine
      June 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      Wow Ines thank you for the long and thoughtful comment! How cool that you are a dancer as well. I have played with a few tango shoes and I can see how they are addictive – plus I’m always amazed by how comfortable they are to walk in! Glad you enjoyed the interview..

      • Inés
        June 22, 2012 at 7:21 am

        I know, right? Definitely the most comfy high heels in the world :). I love your interviews series, it makes your blog more thoughtful and distinctive from the millions of other fashion blogs (and PS – I am super jealous of your shoe wardrobe).

  • Annabelle
    June 22, 2012 at 6:08 am

    Great interview! I’ve been trying to pare back my own lifestyle over the last year, so it’s nice to read about someone who’s been so successful with it. I may have to try that trick with the raw honey.

  • Sanita
    June 22, 2012 at 6:47 am

    I so Agree, I sooooooooo regret spending so much money in high street shops, I barley have anything now to look at, as I gave everything away to my friends or charity shops…. (So regret that Too)
    Now I de clutter my wardrobe at least every 2 months and sell it on eBay. My new tactic is if I sell 10 things I don’t wear for £10 I get £100 to buy something new and one that I truly Love 🙂

    I also gave up on beauty products; I only buy anything new if I run out of it. Great deals are always tempting but so tricky you end up spending so much money.