The invention of a new, innovative accessory was born out of an ongoing joke. Michele Dando admitted that “once the weather gets chilly, my neck disappears.” She and her husband, Chris, were talking about the necessity of mask-wearing, due to the coronaviral pandemic, when he teased her that she should design a scarf that could double as a mask. So Dando did. Enter The Modern Scarf – and, along with it, Je Veux, a brand that seeks to offer consumers a natural choice for accessories.
“At the end of 2019, I had exited my job … , started my master’s [degree] and was doing a few other things,” Dando says, looking back at the birth of her invention. “It was an organic challenge from my husband.”
The Modern Scarf, similar in style to the blanket scarf, features slits along its edges to ensure adaptability in form and purpose. After positive feedback from family, friends and contacts in the apparel industry, in which Dando boasts two decades of experience, she began development on the Je Veux (French for “I want”) brand.
One of her previous projects –a collaborative mission with the federal government – afforded her a new connection: the co-owner of St. Louis’ high-tech knitting factory, Evolution St. Louis.
“John Elmuccio and I are both part of this U.S. delegation, working with the farmers department and a U.S. trade representative on a project with El Salvador, [where] we spent a week together right before everything closed,” Dando says. “We did a prototype [of The Modern Scarf], and it was perfect. With the scarf being produced at Evolution in Grand Center, there’s no transportation cost. [It’s a] very low carbon footprint, getting the products from the factory to me.”
Minimalism is important to Je Veux, both in providing a neutral base upon which to build a wardrobe and in ensuring little impact to the planet from creation and production.
“I want to make products that last a long time,” Dando says. “The blend we chose is of merino wool, a natural fiber, [and] viscose, a regenerated cellulose fiber made from wood pulp. They’re utilizing trees for the pulp, and actively replanting forests to sustain.”
Dando has begun production on a new line of earrings through The Clay Collection, once more sourcing natural materials to create accessories, particularly for “the keyboard-up” style that people have adapted to for video meetings and chats.
The best part of taking on her husband’s challenge, Dando says, is joining a community of creatives and forging new partnerships. “The city truly enjoys small, local businesses,” she says. “St. Louis has an amazing small business culture. Everyone shares information, ideas and contacts. I like to be a part and to have my little piece [of it].”
Je Veux, jeveuxbrand.com