Diana Duane is aptly labeled an artist. In her free time, Duane is the creator and ringmaster of a European-style, one-ring circus that performs locally and she also plays in a band. By day, Duane channels her creative energies into fashion design for her business, Golden Apple Clothing, founded in 2007. 

Q: What’s the significance of the name Golden Apple Clothing?

A: I was brainstorming about a name for the business and I had a piece of shiny, gold fabric (in my possession). The golden apple is a symbol of power and inspiration. It’s the ultimate prize. So, it seemed very fitting. 

Q: How did you started in this line of work?

A: Several of the women in my family were seamstresses. So I just naturally picked it up. I’ve been sewing since age 5 and have been doing this professionally since right out of high school. For a time, I modeled the clothing of a fashion designer friend who lives in Seattle. I knew (that’s what I wanted to do. So, I moved back to Maine and put the word out there. 

Q: Did you take sewing classes to perfect the craft?

A: No. But I did sew a lot for myself and a lot of my friends in school and made costumes for the high school drama club and later on for theater companies. Creating costumes is still one of my favorite things to do. It allows me to show off my extravagant side. Creating the costumes really helped launch my career in dress design. I actually make the costumes for my circus. But, that’s another story … 

Q: Did you make your own clothing in high school or start any fashion trends?

A: I did. My family was poor. So, I wore a lot of Salvation Army (secondhand) clothes. I reinvented everything I wore, cutting off things and adding something new. Sometimes that didn’t go over so well in junior high. So, for the first few years of high school I went through a chameleon period — what I’d call my “brown sweater and blue jeans phase.” I came back into my own style during my senior year. 

Q: Describe the look for me.

A: I think my designs have a unique aesthetic. I use a lot of natural and organic elements and take inspiration from nature. I like to keep things playful and fun but with a touch of darkness. Clothing doesn’t have to be bright and colorful to be playful. You can create something in blacks and grays and still have that magical effect but with a more somber or mysterious edge. I think of it as a film noir zone. If it starts to get too serious, then what’s the point the in dressing up at all? I love to make creative dresses for people who prefer to express themselves through what they wear. 

Q: What inspires your creation process?

A: The sail on a boat, a flower or a piece of jewelry. I try to take inspiration from everything and not to take any beautiful image for granted. 

Q: Where can folks view your designs?

A: I have a portfolio of my work and a website featuring a small slice of what I’ve done. The majority of my custom work is for private clients. I meet with them three to four times over the course of a few months throughout the process. Often, I make sketches and sometimes clients come to me with their own sketches. But I really love the jobs where I can be part of the design process.

Q: Do you debut your lines at fashion shows?

A: I try to do a few fashion shows each year to debut a few of my pieces like handbags and dresses. Some of them are extravagant and some casual to show the range of work that I’m capable of doing, including my embroidery work. I have a really distinct embroidery style that looks like an illustration or a sketch that is made using tiny stitches of thread. I usually create things like birds and trees and boats. 

Q: How many designs do you come up with in a given period?

A: The pieces are driven by my creative process. It’s very spontaneous. Especially if I’m inspired by some big piece of fabric I’ve got laying around. 

Q: Where do your fabrics come from?

A: Sometimes the client orders it but I prefer to buy my own. The fabric has a lot to do with the creation process. I have to see the material, touch it and see the way it drapes. I like to mix material elements. For my latest dresses, I’m pairing a lot of dark colors with light, fun fabrics — like lace with linen. I just made a short, gray party dress of soft, brushed twill with a black crow on the front. 

Q: Are these one-of-a-kind items?

A: One of a kind. Though, I am working on a line of fall clothing that I will sell to a few Portland stores. It will be a very limited size run and selection of pieces. I don’t want to get into mass production. 

Q: Do your designs have a signature look to them or are they eclectic?

A: Eclectic, within certain boundaries. They say that every work of an artist is a self portrait. So, I guess all of my pieces have a common thread that looks like me in some way. It’s not a specific stitch, fabric or look. You can just tell that they are mine. 

Q: Are they made right here in Maine.

A: Yes. In my private studio. Customers get in touch with me by email or phone. 

Q: Do you charge an hourly rate or a flat fee for the garments?

A: It depends on the piece and the type of work involved. I charge a flat rate for things like skirt repairs or to rework a dress. With wedding dresses, I start at $700 and go as high as the customer wants. I’m now working on a Victorian-style wedding dress for a writer who wanted her gown to have a feeling of water. The fabric is of a beautiful Aleutian blue silk. It’s gorgeous. 

Q: How has the business evolved since you began?

A: I feel like my business is aging with me. In my 20s, I did more carefree, contemporary projects like costumes and dresses, which I still do, but now that I’m in my 30s, I’m getting more into making wedding gowns and home decor — like curtains, throw pillows and lamp shades – things that are indicative of settling down.