I love meeting people and making new friends. It has been such a pleasure to get to know Daniela Mallas, of Miele Moda and Honeydrops Designs, over the past few weeks! We first met in person at Frick to plan our photoshoot showcasing Miele Moda’s European Couture Gowns for girls. Images from the photoshoot will be featured in KidFash Magazine in the April edition. I’m thrilled to share our recent interview on the blog today. I am extremely excited to continue to work together, because fashion and photoshoots go so well together! -Laura Mares, Pittsburgh Child Photographer
Dani, you were born and raised in Bulgaria. Tell us about growing up in Bulgaria.
First of all, let me take a moment and thank you and your readers for taking the time to get to know me better. It is greatly appreciated. As for Bulgaria, it is a small country in Eastern Europe. My hometown in Bulgaria is very close to the borders of Greece and Turkey, so my experience of multiple cultures flourished in this region. Bulgaria is rich in history, religion, resources, and so much more. It is a real hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
How long have you lived in Pittsburgh?
I came to Pittsburgh in 2001 to work on my Master’s degree at Carlow University and have been here since.I love Pittsburgh.
In your opinion, what’s the best thing about Pittsburgh?
I find Pittsburgh to be very charming. It has the safety and friendliness of a small town with the glitz and glamour of a big city. It is the perfect combination for raising a family and also having a great time. There’s a vintage side to Pittsburgh, with some great architecture. At that same time, there is a very modern look and feel. It has changed a lot over the last 15 years but all for the better. There are so many great things about the city: the people, the food, the neighborhoods…. The best thing about Pittsburgh is probably the breathtaking skyline view from Mt. Washington, day or night.
Tell us about your family.
I met my husband in late 2002. His name is Dino and although he was born and raised here, both of his parents are from the beautiful Greek island of Zakynthos. We connected from the very beginning and were married 9 months later. We are heading on 16 happy years and counting. We also have two beautiful children: Dionysios is now 13 and Argyro will soon be 9. Argyro is slowly becoming Mama’s helper with her creative ideas and interest in art and crafts.
I’m curious how your childhood and your children’s childhood are similar and how are they different?
The obvious difference is that I grew up under Communism (until 16). As a result, my children have certain freedoms that I did not have. As for similarities, I believe in sharing our traditions and values with my children so that they can pass those on to the next generation, as my parents did with me. We visit Bulgaria and Greece as often as possible. I think it’s important for people to understand their roots. As a result, my kids speak a little of each language, love the food, and can’t wait to visit family overseas. I am very close to my family and I want the same for my children.
How did you become interested in fashion and design?
My mother was a seamstress and designer in Bulgaria. Growing up, she taught me and my sister everything she knew. All the tricks of the trade. Over time, my sister was able to open her own factory in Bulgaria for mass production. Although she remained in the industry, her line of work is more based on taking predetermined orders for a specific bulk product. I was more interested in the creation, design, and intricacies of each item so I took a different path and opened an on-line boutique.
How did you decide to open a girls online fashion boutique?
This is a funny story. My initial dream was to become a photographer. I had a certain camera and lens in mind so I started selling some handmade hats and headpieces to offset the cost. As I kept making pieces, I started working with different styles and materials, and experimenting further. My love for creating unique pieces was coming back to me. At the same time, the demand for these pieces kept growing, in particular from photographers who were using them as photo props. This led to me doing what I am best at and enjoy, while still being part of the photography world. I have met many great people since then, like yourself, and have learned more about photography from them while continuing my passion of designing.
Tell us all about your business, Miele Moda.
Miele Moda sprouted from my initial brand: Honeydrops Designs. At Honeydrops, I was exclusively manufacturing handmade headpieces, tiaras, crowns, headwear of different style. Customers kept asking for matching dresses and this brought on the birth of Miele Moda. At Miela Moda, some of my dresses are hand-made and some are from vendors throughout the world. I meticulously select all my vendors and inspect all pieces before sell. My vendors are primarily from Europe but I am always looking for new talent. Miele Moda serves the needs of mom’s looking for extravagant dresses for their daughter’s special event. Events include: photoshoots, pageants, contests, weddings, first communion, etc….
What does Miele Moda mean?
This is Italian for “Honey Fashion”. My first brand is “Honeydrops Designs” and I wanted some continuity between the two so I kept the “honey” theme. Since Italy and Fashion are practically synonymous, I chose this language for my title.
Describe the first dress you sold on Mielemoda.com.
It’s been so long… it’s hard to remember what it looked like. But I will never forget the first smiles I saw once the clients images started to come. Those happy faces make it all worth doing what I do and going that extra mile for each and every client.
There are many highs and lows being an entrepreneur. Tell us about some of the highs!
Getting positive feedback, for me, is the best! I want to know that I created a “memory” with my pieces. I love when customers send me pictures, or testimonials. If I had to pick one high, I would say when one of my dresses or headpieces makes it into a magazine. I have been published several times at this point and I must admit, it never gets old.
All business owners have done a happy dance at one time or another, right? Tell us what causes you to do a happy dance!
So many things I could say here. I suppose the one thing that excites me the most is when there is a tight deadline with specific demands and it all unfolds in a successful way. I want to be part of the experience, part of my customers team. If I can take some of the stress away from my customers, and make their event a success, then I am definitely doing a happy dance.
What business goals do you have for 2019?
As with all businesses, my goal is to grow Miele Moda. My focus for 2019 is to create more exposure for my brand. Aside from magazine shoots which create awesome exposure, I want to shake up the market with various approaches. Newsletters, blogs, sales, coupons, contests, projects and more. I will be reaching out in a variety of ways to keep the momentum going.
Tell us your “why.” Why do you what you do?
Having a daughter myself, I understand the stress involved in planning for life’s events. I feel that I have a gift, if you will, and I want to use my gifts and talents to bring happiness to others. As I mentioned earlier, I want to create “memories” with my products. I want my customers to feel like the little princesses that they are. In answering your question, I do this so that I may utilize my talents in the best way possible to bring happiness to my customers.
Do you have a Brand Ambassador Program?
Yes! It is very new to the brand and I haven’t mentioned to anyone yet is that I will be initiating a Brand Ambassador Program. I have been working on it diligently for weeks now and am very excited to introduce this program very soon. It will be an amazing initiative and opportunity to invite those, who share the same core values as my brand, to become part of it. I think that will be a pivoting point for Miele Moda’s growth in the future.
How did you decide that you would like to collaborate with Laura Mares Photography?
We were brought together by KidFash Magazine initially and I felt we hit it off. We immediately clicked on what needed to be done, from scouting locations to giving the session a sense of order. I felt right away that you were someone who I could work with easily. We bounce ideas off of each other, and that’s great. I look forward to many future collaborations with you.