and entrepreneur Donna Ricco built her famous label and
a reputation for dressing real women in New York, but
her passion for fashion began in Milwaukee. Today, Ricco
divides her time between New York and Mount Mary
University, where, as executive fellow, she shares her
business savvy and professional connections to help
fashion students create their own success stories. She
tells MKE Lifestyle about her commitment to local
Are you from
grew up on the south side of Milwaukee. I attended Hamilton High School,
then studied fine arts at UW-Milwaukee. I loved all things “art” — the
history, the culture and the creativity. I also loved to sew. A friend
was studying fashion merchandising at Mount Mary and mentioned they also
offered a fashion design program. I realized I might have more career
success if I joined my two loves — art and creating clothing — and
transferred to Mount Mary to focus on fashion design.
Why did you want to
teach at Mount Mary?
When I was a student at Mount Mary, I was so inspired and felt so
prepared by the professionals who were involved in teaching, critiquing
and speaking to us that I left Milwaukee after graduation to start my
career in New York City. I hope to “give back” to students by offering
the tools and providing the knowledge they need to do the same, wherever
they choose to do it.
What’s the most
important lesson you want your students to learn?
Fashion is VERY competitive. Social media and technology have created so
many opportunities for fashion grads to become involved in so many ways
that weren’t available to me. I would encourage students to understand
and respect their strengths and weaknesses. I hope students can focus on
what [aspect of fashion] they love to do and that Mount Mary can provide
the resources to help them be prepared to launch a career in whatever
area their strength may lie.
How has online
shopping changed the business?
am excited to see variety and new ideas when shopping online. Many new
businesses open stores after first having success as an online startup.
Online, they’re able to tell their story, make their statement and
gather a following far and wide before committing to real estate. That’s
a healthy way to start a business and could be a smart way for our
graduates who may have an entrepreneurial spirit to get in the game!
How can you help
Milwaukee develop as a fashion hub?
I’m just becoming exposed to Milwaukee’s fashion community, which seems
to be developing on its own just fine! I’m anxious to represent Mount
Mary as part of this community, and to meet everyone involved. I hope
Mount Mary can become a resource and a partner for some of the startups
and events, since we have so much to offer. Of course, I’m anxious to
explore the stores too, since I love to shop.
What do you think is
the next big trend in fashion?
Lately, I see the benefits of active wear being applied to everyday wear
as becoming so important. The consumer loves comfort, so stretch and
breathable fabrics, adjustable details and pockets are key to fashion in
all areas. I’ve been reading more about the development of sustainable
fabrics, as well as recycling, restyling and repairing clothing — very
new and exciting trends for fashion, but also good for our environment.
Who would you like to
Obama wear my dress that she bought off the rack really tells the story
of my success as a designer. My dream was always to see “every woman”
wear my dresses. I think it has something to do with the values I
developed growing up in the Midwest — to be inclusive and to be
realistic. As a result, many women I meet today will say they had or
still have a Donna Ricco dress in their closet.
MY FIVE FAVORITE THINGS!
1 The process of working with my hands. It could be sketching a dress,
draping fabric, sewing, cooking, baking, gardening and especially
2 Shopping, for anything or anyone.
3 Flipping through a magazine, whether it’s fashion, home or lifestyle.
4 A well-deserved nap.
5 Road trips, whether in a car, on a bike, or on the back of a