DONNI: Activism From the Ground Up

Creating beautiful, comfortable pieces in a diverse, functional atmosphere has always been a part of DONNI’s process roots. Creator Alyssa Wasko has worked 10 years to build her brand along with a team of only women-owned factories in Los Angeles. She is no stranger to a diverse team and an open mind when it comes to both design and the world around her, and plans to do so in the face of anti-Blackness in the world today.

Wasko began creating a line of scarves as an element of physical and coping comfort following her father, Donald’s, passing, and naming the resulting company after him: DONNI was born. Scarves were the only product produced for the first seven years. As time went on, and as scarves were being worn as tops, word-of-mouth organically took DONNI from being solely scarves to a line of clothing and accessories that carries the cool-meets-comfort vibe that DONNI is known for today. T-shirts adorned with pearl buttons, brightly cool-colored terry cloth short and quarter-zip sets, sunglass chains, and hair clips: there is absolutely no denying how utterly cool and sophisticated DONNI (and Wasko) is. Just check out the website: you will not be disappointed.

It could be easy for another born and bred Los Angeles brand to get lost in the sea of, well, the
other Los Angeles born and bred brands; all of them claiming they are the best simply because
they are from Los Angeles (just like people from Los Angeles, better by an association of location).
But with its stunning pieces, DONNI, through Wasko’s creativity and eye for design, brings a
diverse, women-only team with it; driving its message of style and activism through hard work
and product. Wasko wants to continue promoting diversity and opportunity in her company,
through both awareness in a world, the world of fashion, that is often not forgiving or open to
change, starting within her brand, and moving out into the industry and world as a whole.

“I would like to see more good, I think that there is a lot of icky stuff in fashion, to be honest, and,
call it like it is, when working with women, unfortunately, there can be some cattiness and
toxicity and competitiveness that comes along with it,” Wasko said. “I want to see positivity, and
good, whether that is doing good, and not looking out for the bottom line and more looking out
for your people.”

Wasko’s own accountability for her brand and associates mirrors her opinion and goals in the
wake of the protests and growing awareness of the racism that goes on in fashion, and in

“I want to see people continue with this movement, myself included, and hold myself
accountable...I just really care and want to be a part of a change in whatever way DONNI can
contribute to that,” Wasko said. “Even though we are a small brand, it is important to use
whatever platform we have to do whatever we can. That would be an evolution and a process.”

Although DONNI could be described as a niche, certain audience-targeted style, and brand,
Wasko wants to use her line and its leverage to continue the narrative of equality, and to
provide for others, instead of being in the fashion game solely for fame and fortune.
“It is important to me that this is now embedded in our brand going forward, and it’s not just a
short-lived thing,” Wasko said. “My motivation in growth is less fueled by making a ton of money
and more so giving opportunities to different people”

Wasko is devoted to continuing this incredibly prominent narrative. Her goals going forward,
even more so than before, are to grow and provide prominent opportunities for others, in every
aspect of her company. From those who deliver her clothing, to those who create the unique
and stunning dyes used to create DONNI’s signature tones, to those working in her stories, and
those modeling her clothing. She is all about that, and she certainly is all about maintaining
DONNI’s promises to activism, as well as encouraging others to stick to the promises they have
made in the last few weeks, and utilizing mindfulness going forward.

“Follow-through is everything,” Wasko said. “I would like to see other female-owned brands
being more mindful and staying committed and holding themselves accountable to the promises
they’ve made the last few weeks.”

She is right. Wasko’s awareness of how poorly performative activism reflects on a brand’s
the message, and knows how important it is to continue to take action against racism in fashion,
and not trail off as time passes.

Wasko’s idea of accountability and activism transcends politics; for her, the movement is an
issue of human rights and is not up for discussion. Wasko believes that if you do not align with
her beliefs of inclusion and opportunity within her brand, then DONNI is not for you. It is a big
step to take action on social media for a brand, but at the end of the day, it is about doing what
is right, not doing what will get the most likes. This concept brings up a great general concept of
making sure you do not just enjoy the brand, but you learn about what they support, and how
they are making a difference in activism today.

“[I]t doesn’t have to be political,” Wasko said, “but [activism] should not be just to make money.”
For Wasko and DONNI, doing good in business means taking care, amplifying the voices, and
looking out for people. Take note, world of fashion.

By: Emily Goldberg
Instagram: @bb.em