We are happy to share with you that Daalarna is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. On this occasion, we have created a Q&A with Anita Benes, the founder and designer of Daalarna.
How did you become a wedding dress designer?
Quite by accident. At the university, I graduated as a fashion designer with a thesis titled ‘The Masculine Woman’. However, my clients, for whom I designed custom made dresses at that time, slowly began to get married. Since they were very stylish on weekdays as well (of course they were, since they asked me to design their clothes), they asked me to figure something out for them for their big day. I was quite scared at the first request because I had never designed a wedding dress before. But then I researched how to make one. As I designed the very first one, I immediately fell in love with the process. I felt there was something much more here that attracted me very much. There are emotions at a wedding and this is the most important to me.
Do you remember why and how you founded Daalarna?
Yes, exactly. My daughter, Sára, was born in May 2001, and with her the idea of wanting to start a self-employed business. I felt I had to finally grow up with two kids (at that time I already had a 3-year-old son, too) and make my own decisions. I felt that I can’t afford to put my co-workers in a situation where they have to adapt to me, and I was also unable to adapt to them in my new status. I thought the only way I could do what I really love and stay part of a team was to create my own company and choose my own team.
Where does the brand name Daalarna come from?
I went to the University of Applied Arts (now called MOME) and had a friend of Swedish descent there. Her father was voted one of the 10 best interior designers in Scandinavia at the time, and since there was no internet at the time and Google was not yet our friend, thanks to my friend, I saw plenty of books that presented the Scandinavian interior design and architecture style that is worldwide renowned. I just love the kind of thoughtfulness and simple purity that surrounds the art of the northern cultures. Daalarna’s philosophy was built on these pillars, and hence the name that is the name of a Swedish city.
Who was your first well-known client?
The one who is still the most famous today: Réka Rubint. She was the first truly famous Hungarian celebrity at the time, from the moment she became Norbi’s wife. It especially felt very good that it was practically my first year in the business, it was the summer of 2002 when she contacted me to design her wedding dress. She came on the recommendation of a very dear client of ours, and what was wonderful about this was that she voted for me with such confidence, and I have been enjoying her trust ever since, and for this, I am beyond grateful. Thank you, Réka!
What was the first year like at Daalarna?
Very familiar. We had a handful of teams, only the four of us, but the most amazing thing is that one of them is still working with me, her name is Erzsike, she is the oldest colleague at the company. She is retired by now and only works a few hours a day at Daalarna, but I can’t imagine life without her. I like that she never forgets to make sure if the iron is warm, or if there is enough water. So getting started in 2002 and coming this far with the team, only thinking about it makes me very emotional.
And how do you see this 20th year of Daalarna?
It’s amazingly exciting, we’re practically racing every day to execute our new and never-ending plans. When I started all this, I didn’t even think about what I wanted or where I wanted to go. One thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to design wedding dresses. That’s the way it is to this day, and all my thoughts and decisions are determined by the fact that I love what I do. For example, last night at 11 pm I was still here and applied lace on one of the clothes from the newest 2023 collection. Although I had to go home because my family was waiting for me, I sincerely hope that my next 20 years will be spent exactly like this.
What are you most proud of in the last 20 years?
Definitely of the team around me. But I won’t say more about that because I get very emotional, but I think it’s the best thing being surrounded by such people, such customers. In 20 years, I’ve managed to create this tiny microenvironment that’s big enough in the world because our stockist network extends from Australia to New York. However, Budapest is the centre of all this, and I think that’s fantastic. The clients, brides and colleagues who surround me, charge me every day, and even if I have a bad day, I still get so much energy, so that’s what I’m most proud of, and that’s why I’m most grateful.
What was your own wedding dress like?
I’m not going to tell you that (laughs). Anyway, we’ve been wanting to show it on Secret Stories for years, but I think we’ll do it this year because we’re going to have our 25th wedding anniversary this year with my husband, so let’s say that I’ll be showing it in September.
Show us your very first collection!
This was our very first catalogue. The Daalarna logo was very discreet pink on this one, then we changed it 1-2 years later, and the logo became much more intense pink, and then at one point, the whole catalogue turned pink. Then we restrained ourselves again and went back to minimalism. But I think that this collection from 20 years ago is absolutely acceptable even today, whether we are talking about its thoughtfulness, the clothes, or the tailoring lines. I opened the catalogue up a little worried because I had already forgotten what I was doing 20 years ago. But I think I’ll rethink some of the iconic pieces from the past 20 years and will show them at our next fashion show on 29 April 2022 in Budapest.
What is your all-time favourite collection?
I can’t even count how many collections I have created in these 20 years. In the beginning, there was only one collection each year, and in the last 10 years there have been two, but the all-time favourite could not be anything other than the FOLK collection. I think for me it was the dream job and the dream collection. I hope one day I can create something like this again.