When Leesburg resident Rebekah Murray, 32, discovered her grandfather was a fashion designer in the fur industry in Manhattan, everything about the inherent passions in her life began to make sense.
In her 20s, she was searching for a career she felt passionate about. She tried fashion and wedding photography, traveled in Europe and worked at Anthropologie, where she created retail art displays.
While experiencing all of these endeavors, she found inspiration and realized her true calling and talent was in designing dresses.
Murray created a business plan and began learning how to start a fashion business – and Virginia Dare Dress Co. was launched.
“I found a calling in fashion design, and I could picture a future in it,” Murray said.
The first two years of business were spent learning about designing and production. She reconnected with her grandfather, David Leinoff, well-known in the fur design world in New York City and a designer for Broadway shows and celebrities. He passed away in 2019 at the age of 93.
“This connection made all the difference for me,” she said.
In early 2016 she created the first Virginia Dare collection with three different dress styles. A kickstarter campaign raised $45,000 to pre-sell the collection.
“My goal is to make dresses you can wear to work, on the weekends and for travel. They are versatile and comfortable,” she said.
Manufacturing, based in Guatemala until recently, has been difficult to manage from a long distance, she said. It was Murray's goal to find a local manufacturer, and in December she launched the first “Made in Virginia” collection, which she was able to do without a price increase.
“I started to get more passionate about ethical manufacturing and the need to build a strong base of customer support here. As time went on, having all of the manufacturing in Guatemala was taking too long to develop new collections, and it was too far away to be hands on. I decided to bring manufacturing to the states, and I developed partners in Virginia,” she said.
“It is amazing what a difference it makes to have everything so close. It is about a five-hour drive to our manufacturer now and allows me to have more of the personal touch through the process,” she added.
Her collections celebrate beauty and have a classic, timeless fit, she said, and they are season-less. There are eight styles – each with different names. In addition to dresses, Virginia Dare also sells note cards, tote bags and aprons.
In Loudoun, Virginia Dare can be found at The Corner Store in Waterford. The products are also sold online and at pop-up shops.
So far, the business has seen consistent growth, with 30 percent increases each year, according to Murray.
“I'm really grateful. We have customers from all over the world and across the United States. My goal is to create versatile and flattering dresses and bring beauty back to people's lives. I want women to feel confidence and intentionality through the clothing they wear,” she said.