This week I am very excited to introduce you all to the beautiful and talented Dinah. Dinah is incredibly stylish, has a beautiful Hermes collection, and an impressive career as a VP in a technology company. However she also has a unique and amazing hobby, which just happens to be race car driving. Seriously, how cool is that? I’m in particular awe because despite my best efforts to improve, I’m the kind of driver who ends up going the wrong direction on one way roads and and gets lost returning to their own house. In fact, when my husband first experienced my driving, he compared it as being very close to Cher’s DMV test in Clueless.
So,…you can see why I’d be so impressed when Dinah mentioned she was a race car driver, right? I really enjoyed learning more about Dinah and her life, and I know you all will too. Here’s Dinah!
Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
My name is Dinah (pronounced DEEnah, not Dyna!) and I live in Rochester, New York along Lake Ontario. I’m the VP of a division (which accounts for most of our sales) of a high-tech telecommunications manufacturing firm that sells both to the commercial and government/military markets.
Okay so during the day you’re VP of a technology company…but you are also a race car driver! How did these roles fit together? Any surprising similarities?
The aspect of managing a large business function (corporate strategy and a specific market for sales), as you can imagine, involves a certain amount of risk when deciding how to proceed. These risks must be evaluated and mitigated wherever possible before making the choice. Racing is no different, but the timing is, and you have to weigh your choices and execute them in fractions of a second. You only have enough time to do it once, so the pressure is on to do it right! There is also the issue of confidence: if you don’t have it, you won’t make it in either world!
What got you started in race car driving? What cars do you race?
I’ve always been interested in cars, have worked on them as a teen with my father, and when I had the opportunity to attend a High-Performance Driving Event (HPDE) 13 years ago I jumped in, and 10 years ago I became an instructor. Eight years ago I met my husband at a nationally recognized track, and he’s been racing for decades so it was a natural progression. We’ve raced together since then in both sprints and endurance races (some lasting as long as 24 hours) and have been quite competitive. A number of years ago he turned pro, and I will be making my pro debut in the same series this year. Currently we’re racing Porsches, but before that I had a Ferrari 355 Challenge that I raced in Vintage events, and we also did a lot of club racing in Mazdas.
What is something surprising that most people don’t know about race car driving?
People who have not raced or followed it closely have no real concept of just how physically demanding it is. Some cars have no power-steering, but even if they do the upper body strength and endurance required is surprising! You are on a road-course with a lot of turns and changes in speed requiring your entire body to engage and hold muscles. You can be in the car for up to two hours. Depending on the car you can experience G-forces of up to 2.5G, under turns or braking. It’s hot (120 degrees), and it is mentally all-encompassing. At the end of a race you are exhausted, sore, tired, sweaty, and dirty. You can lose a number of pounds per race, and use muscles you will feel for days. This is not a very fashionable or glamorous response, is it?
I know you’re a fan of Hermes. How does your love of fashion contrast with your other hobbies? Do they complement each other or are they complete opposites?
For the most part, being a fan of high-end brands, and in particular Hermes, would be a complete contrast with things like racing, only because the latter tends to be somewhat “unglamorous” during the actual participation. There is nothing better than having a great day at the track, then getting all cleaned up and putting on the heels, dress, jewels, and doing hair and makeup for the evening. I like that contrast, because it makes me appreciate each more! However, there are some surprising corollaries: for one, my appreciation for quality spans both arenas. If you don’t put quality work, or parts, into a car you will end up constantly chasing problems. With Hermes, I know my investment will carry me through a very long period!
What does your Hermes collection look like? What are your favorite items and most used items? What would you suggest a “Hermes newbie” start with?
My collection is pretty diverse, but I try to focus on only getting things I really like or “need”, not just buying items for the sake of collecting them. I have bags, small leather goods, scarves, and some ready to wear, including shoes. My favorite items are probably those I think are the best investments.
On my honeymoon in Paris I ordered a black Box Birkin 35cm with gold hardware and a custom tan lining. That bag, because it can be treated and refurbished, should live as long as I do with proper care. When you think of the price, it can be shocking, but when you amortize that over the number of years in service and realize it does not need replacing, you quickly see it as a smart decision. That would be my favorite item. I use my bags for everything, and I am constantly astounded at how well they hold up. And yes, I’ve even carried the occasional (clean) car part inside! Right now a black Fjord Birkin is getting the most use, but I’ll be using my gold Birkin more with the warmer weather.
As for starting as a newbie, just about anything goes. My first item was a Kelly, just because I had always wanted one and it was sitting on the display shelf in the boutique! One can easily start small with a wallet or beautiful piece of leather or enamel jewelry. The beauty of Hermes is the thoughtfulness of design that goes into everything they make, whether it be from an artistic or functional perspective. Their items are meant to be used, and they perform beautifully.
What’s an item that you splurged on that you thought you’d use forever – but it just didn’t end up working for you?
That would be the most gorgeous black lizard Kelly in 25cm with palladium hardware. I needed a dressy black bag, and while I wear gold most of the time, I also have some silver-toned jewelry and wanted a bag to go with it. I found myself using it perhaps three times in three years…mostly because I preferred to wear gold jewelry and preferred the bag hardware to match. I just didn’t feel right owning such an item if I wasn’t going to use it, so I sold it. From that point on, I really ask myself a lot of questions when purchasing anything expensive, just to make sure I will get my money’s worth.
What’s a typical day and night look for you?
During the day at work I try to be as “corporate appropriate” as possible while being as stylish as possible. If you see me in a suit, I will accessorize with a very strong or bold piece of jewelry or a scarf. I wear skirts and dresses occasionally but prefer pants. Skirts in the winter are always paired with boots, in the summer with heels. Sometime a nice trouser with a sweater or blouse will fill in a few days of the week. It’s tricky to balance what I want to wear with what I should wear in a business environment, so I stick to one bold thing for effect. I wear heels almost every day, and then it’s usually Christian Louboutins just because they last forever and once they mold to my feet I can actually walk in them!
Weekends are usually very casual, but when out and about I’ll be in flats and jeans and a cute top, either with a Bottega Veneta bag if I’m going for a very under-the radar but stylish look, or even a Birkin if I’m finding myself carrying a lot of papers and things. Seriously casual errands call for my workhorse Goyard bags. Going out on weekends is when I pull out all the stops. Leather leggings are a favorite, with a pointy-toed heel and long top. Sometimes a Rick Owens wide-legged trouser gets worn with an Hermes scarf as a top and a CDC cuff. I just recently purchased a marigold Roland Mouret dress that is such a warm, happy, bright color I smile whenever I wear it! My city is somewhat fashionably conservative so it is fairly easy for me to put something together that looks unique.
What are some of your favorite stores that you shop at – both luxury and high street?
I consider myself a very motivated and frequent shopper, but because of where I live, it is usually via Internet or when I travel, which I do with some frequency. So my favorite boutiques and stores will be Hermes, Bottega Veneta, Saks, Neiman Marcus, Barneys, etc. Online I tend to order a LOT from Net-a-Porter and the Saks and Neiman’s websites. Other than that, I often find deals at Banana Republic and J.Crew, and I’ve picked up a few cute pieces at Target. For the most part I tend to stick with high and low end, but rarely in-between, as I don’t find it offers the best value. I’d rather do without and wait to be able to afford something.
What’s a piece of advice about shopping/style/budgeting that you’ve had to learn the hard way over the years, that you could share?
In the distant past I wouldn’t consider spending so much on a bag such as Hermes, but would pay $100 for a bag that would fall apart in a few months and I would have to find a new one. I’m pretty tough on my bags! Later there was the IT bag phase, during which I had to have every IT bag that was shown to be popular roughly every six months. And six months later I would be listing it on eBay because it didn’t appeal to me anymore, or had become too trendy. Sometimes I just felt like I was trying to hard to go with what was popular, instead of finding my own style. That was a terrible waste of money. It was only once I finally spent the money on the very few truly high-quality items that I realized that I had better get some use out of it, and was surprised to find that it suited me much more and actually saved me money in the long run.
You have such a fascinating array of experiences. What’s a piece of life advice that could share?
I guess at some point I realized that life is short, and that time goes by very quickly. If there is an opportunity to enjoy the moment, and share more love with friends and family, you need to grab it. Someone once said that one usually regrets things they have not done, vs. things they have done. I don’t want to be (knock on wood) 90 years old and think “I wish I had done that”. So now I do it if I get the chance. As soon as you accept someone else’s definition of what your role in life should be, you are doomed…so you must define yourself! One of my favorite quotes is from actress Uta Hagen: “We must overcome the notion that we must be regular. It robs you of your chance to be extraordinary.”
Finally..please share something surprising about yourself!
I have a wicked green thumb and love to garden! There is something so utterly satisfying about a day spent digging around and enjoying the beautiful results that keep evolving. Oh, and I always wear my black leather Hermes Hapi bracelet while racing!
Isn’t Dinah the coolest? I love her life advice – that we shouldn’t be labeling ourselves as just “regular,” but rather pursuing the extraordinary. It’s clear that she’s taken the advice to heart and achieved some absolutely wonderful results. Thank you Dinah for being an example of the extraordinary… and for taking the time to share some of your life and style with us!