Dahlia Popovits has been weaving creative cloth for more than 40 years. She designs and handweaves all the garments and accessories in her collection, Dahlia. The process starts with an idea where the fabric is developed on a sample loom. She works to try to arrive at the correct combination: a fabric which will be the perfect weight and drape, and function beautifully in the garment. This process incorporates design decisions all the way through which get refined by the placement of color and texture.
Popovits was raised in Israel and New York. She studied painting at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, but she learned about clothing design at home. “My mother was a seamstress and a maker of everything and anything textile—she was really incredible,” recalls Popovits. “I grew up with that and I picked it up when I was about five. I always enjoyed things like crocheting and knitting.”
During her last year of art school, Popovits took a weaving class on Cape Cod that ignited her love for the craft and started her on a career path that’s spanned more than three decades. “I have designed thousands and thousands of fabrics and I could see continuing to do it for another whole lifetime,” she says. “It’s fun to come up with a concept in my head, actualize it, and see the variations that comes forward within the original idea.”
Popovits says the tactile aspect of the work also draws her in, as she encourages a visitor to feel the softness of a bamboo jacket. Bamboo has become a popular material for environmentally conscious clothing manufacturers, she notes, because of its sustainability. “The full plant is used—it’s cut and spun into yarn—and bamboo grows like a weed,” explains Popovits. “It’s also an incredibly comfortable fiber that wicks away moisture and is relatively odor free. So people like to do yoga in it, for example, and there are sheets now made of bamboo.”
Many women who buy Dahlia designs return year after year to add to their collection, says Popovits. As her clients have moved into their retirement years, she has moved away from business attire and toward clothing for special events and travel. The idea is to make clothes work for the customers, who can order items in the sizes and colors that best suit them. “I love my customers,” Popovits says, “so if they’re coming to me and looking for something in particular, I’d like to be able to offer that to them.”
Inspired by fashion, color, texture and nature, Popovits’ clothing is comfortable, stylish and distinctive, with fans who know it when they see it on other women. “I’ve heard this a number of times,” she remarks, “when somebody wears something of mine to a meeting or function and another woman says, ‘Oh, you’re wearing a Dahlia.’ It’s highly recognizable, and that to me feels great.”
Dahlia Gallery is her boutique gallery in Boston, MA. Her creations as well as garments and accessories from other talented artisans can be seen there.