I’ve waited a long, long, LONG time to write this post and I couldn’t be prouder: this month’s woman of substance is the designer, sustainable fashion expert, and entrepreneur Christina Castle of the fashion line Dagny London.
She also happens to be my best friend and sister.
Where to begin?
I’ll start with her chops: after graduating with top honors from Miami of Ohio, Christina pursued an advanced degree from the esteemed Parson’s School of Design in New York City. She has since designed for Mara Hoffman, Tucker by Gaby Basora, and Haute Hippie in New York, and later for Vilshenko and Paloma Blue in London. As the Design Manager of Mara Hoffman, she spearheaded sustainable design and fabric initiatives, learning the value of responsible fashion and the damage of traditional industry practices. She is now founder and creative director of Dagny London. She designes Dagny for women who, like her, want to dress responsibly, but without compromising their unique style, love of color, and high standards for tailored fit and luxury fabric. Dagny, which means “new day” in Scandinavian, offers women a collection of beautifully designed, consciously sourced, and ethically-made garments. (The pictures throughout this post are from her latest collection, including the ones below, which are of my favorite pieces: the Dalia dress (that print!!!), the Gaby blouse, and the Sophie blouse.
Off the record, Christina is also an accomplished cook, globe-trotter, and the best-read person I know. Most people who know her would quickly cite her arch and self-deprecating comedic talents when enumerating her many virtues: there is no one in the world who makes me laugh harder, often much to the annoyance of friends and family, as we are wont to saunter off into our own world of inside jokes that in turn disrupt movies, serious conversations, and the like. She is capable of bringing out the cheekiness in even the most staid of audiences, and can transform a high-stress moment into one of shared laughter. She brings out the silliest part of my personality. [Ed. note: When I was initially drafting this post, I wrote a sequence of vignettes that showcased her naughty and hilarious sense of humor, but quickly realized that they would make little sense to the outsider. But I will share this, as a representative sample: When I was 18, and she was 14, we were playing with a makeup set my mother had gifted me. She told me to “just close my eyes and trust her.” I did. When I opened them, she’d painted on a Charlie Chaplin mustache and fluorescent blue eye shadow.]
But mainly, she is all heart.
She is the heartbeat of our family: the first person each of my siblings would call in an emergency, the trusted confidante, the tie that binds. When my Dad stood to toast her at her Very Chic and Very New York wedding, he concluded his remarks by saying: “But, there’s this: you can always count on Christina.” And it was true: she’s the steady force of love and support that’s seen me through countless emergencies, both of the inane and consequential varieties. She’s the middle of the night call. She’s the bailout. She’s the drop-everything-and-fly-at-great-expense-via-the-redeye-to-get-to-you-when-you-need-her. She’s the sure thing.
Her deep sense of accountability extends to other areas of her life, as well: though her modesty precludes any self-promotion on this front, she is an excellent scholar, a disciplined employee (I’ll venture to bet that she’s never missed a deadline or shirked an assignment in her life), and, now, a highly principled entrepreneur whose new venture is predicated upon her vision for a more responsible, sustainable industry. She has set firm company-wide sustainability benchmarks, such as geographically streamlining her supply chain, joining key sustainable organizations, acquiring sustainable certifications, and instigating zero-waste policies.
She is true blue, honest, ethical. This means that she is both the most trustworthy and loyal of friends and colleagues, and that she does not suffer fools kindly; you do not want to be on her shit list. Nearly a decade of life as a New Yorker has only intensified this in-born mentality: she is next to impossible to dupe or swindle, and she’s wary of the outsider. But once you’re in, you’re in for good. And you should see her on the streets of Manhattan: a thing of beauty, she walks quick-step with a sense of purpose, taking in everything around her without betraying the slightest wisp of emotion. “Yep, there’s a man peeing on the subway tracks, nothing to see there, ho hum,” and “very nice, very nice, a covert drug operation happening to my right,” as she click-clacks her way to work, navigating the crowds with astonishing lightness of foot, her all-seeing eyes shielded by enormous shades and her face impressively impassive. She might actually have no idea where she’s going, but you’d never guess it: she’s poised, composed, on a mission.
Her sense of conviction is only further amplified by her passion. When my brother-in-law read the wedding vows he had written to her, he said that of the dozens of possible adjectives he’d jotted down when thinking of her, the one that came to the top of the list was passionate. He loved her passion for everything in her life — for the perfect Sunday night roast chicken, for the movies and songs she loves, for the latest must-have item on her lust list, for her dreams, which she has so valiantly pursued. There’s nothing tepid about Christina.
One might think this deeply-engrained sense of rectitude and purpose would make strange bedfellows with her wicked sense of humor, but it all works perfectly together, and the result is a beautiful spirit that I am fortunate to call my absolute best friend in the world. No one knows me better. No one. I feel so deeply connected to her that I occasionally forget if something happened to me or to her — “wait, did that creepy guy at Pony Bar hit on you or me?” “Remember when I fell down the stairs after that date function? Oh wait, that was you.” I can’t recall where her stories end and mine begin.
I could write a good hour or two more about this magical soul, but I’ll cut myself off here and instead point you in the direction of her gorgeous new collection for her new label, Dagny London. You can keep up with her by becoming a #dagnydarling and following Dagny on Instagram, and get to know her better by reading her responses to my Proust Questionnaire below.
Your favorite qualities in a woman.
Honesty and sense of humor.
Your favorite heroine.
Easy. Lady Hermione Granger. Next question.
Your main fault.
Stubbornness and holding onto grudges because of my stubbornness.
Your greatest strengths.
Determination and loyalty.
Your idea of happiness.
A long family dinner at home, with all my siblings and their partners. A dinner (prepared by Mr. Magpie) with lots of wine, where the conversation and laughter stretches late into the night. And twinkle lights all around us.
Your idea of misery.
A day without my husband.
Currently at the top of your shopping lust list.
Desert island beauty product.
Sunscreen. (I love Juicy Beauty SPF30 face lotion.) And I’d find a way to make mascara and brow pencils, from like coconuts and tree bark. Then sell it to all the other women of substance stranded on this island with me.
Last thing you bought.
A box of clementines and a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet.
I feel most empowered wearing…
A dress, nipped at the waist, and a pair of heels.
Favorite Magpie post.
Too many! I love this Women of Substance series, of course. I know I’m biased, but my favorite posts are the ones about our family. Your recent one about our brother was perfect. And don’t even get me started on the “Dear Mr. Magpie” post. We’ll both just start crying!