I first met Monica Ditzler, the mind, heart, and soul of harMonica Design, at Curve in February 2015. Curve is the lingerie industry's largest trade show in North America: it's harsh, corporate, and relatively bland. (I have feelings about it.) Exciting independent brands are few and far between. But Monica's booth was tucked away in a corner, with funky imagery, crystals on the table, and bralettes for DD+ boobs.
Obviously, I stopped by. The rest is history.
Tell us about yourself.
I learned how to sew in high school and that's when I knew I wanted to eventually have my own clothing line.
I grew up in Delaware, then moved to New York to go to FIT. Now I live in Brooklyn with my husband, and even though I love the city I always want to see other places. Aside from weekend trips, my goal is to get out of the country twice a year.
Besides fashion-related things, I live a plant-based lifestyle and love making delicious healthy food. Halloween is probably my favorite holiday, for both dressing up & people watching. I'm looking forward to the upcoming season of American Horror Story with Lady Gaga.
Why make the career switch to independently designing lingerie? What inspired you to start harMonica Design?
After working in various design roles over the last 10 years - I designed outerwear, denim, & most recently was head designer for DKNY Girls collection - last fall the timing worked out for me to transition into having my own business. I started making panties and selling to friends when I was between jobs in 2007 and it's been a hobby / side business since then. I was inspired to turn it into a collection by the idea of creating a spiritual clothing line that's both comfortable and sexy. When I started developing bralettes, I realized that the standard bralette sizing doesn't fit my DD chest so I made bralettes for A-C and D-DD cup sizes.
Starting with the Fall 2015 collection, each piece has an intention to set when you put it on - an affirmation to wear under your outfit.
Goddess Mini Undershorts by harMonica Design
You did a great blog series on the stories behind your capsule collection. Do you have a particular favorite piece from it? (Is that like asking you to pick a favorite child?)
You're right, I do love & wear them all!
The harMonica term visible intimates is about showing off your bralette & undershorts, and I definitely do that! This summer I've mainly been wearing different combinations of racer bralettes and undershorts. As a New Yorker of course I love black and don't wear a lot of colors. A little flash of color under a black outfit feels like an accessory and adds color to my outfit.
I wear a lot of dresses in the summer so undershorts are a must!
harMonica Design at CurveNY in February 2015
We first met at Curve in February 2015 -- which was both of our first Curve! I was drawn to your shop partly because of the clothes but also partly because of the super badass quotes that accompanied your images and also the amethyst you had out on the table, tbh. You also had your first trunk show at Ritual Ritual. What element does that kind of positive energy and spirituality (my word) play in your business practice?
Aw, thank you! I put the crystals on the table to show the spiritual aspect of the brand, so I'm glad it caught your eye. The quotes you saw there relate to the brand mantra which is harmony - love - beauty - truth.
Ritual Ritual is a store that I connected with from the moment I found it. I love how they've built a creative community around a retail space. One of the biggest things for me in running a business is spreading positive energy, doing things that feel good. I think it's important to have the right partnerships and collaborations with like-minded people, especially women, so that we can lift each other up rather than tear each other down.
As far as daily practices, I like to read a tarot card in the morning to set a tone for the day. I burn candles, diffuse essential oils, and have crystals & sage in my office. Playing music and dancing while I work is an integral part of the process. (Dance breaks are key!)
Feather Prism Racerback Bralette (A-C & D-DD), exclusively at Bluestockings
What challenges have you faced as a small business owner? What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned so far?
Being a solopreneur means I'm working more than I ever have, and learning every day.
Some challenges are: asking for help, and letting go of fear & perfection.
One of the biggest lessons I've learned is to keep it simple! It's so easy to over complicate things - the easiest solution is often the simplest one that's right in front of you.
Another is to not take things personally.
One benefit of having your own business is that you get to choose who you work with. From our first meeting I felt Bluestockings was an ideal partner for harMonica, that we could support each other and grow together. Bluestockings has such a unique mission and I'm proud to be a part of it.
High-waisted knickers made out of recycled eco-lace, what the hell how amazing is that
Who inspires you?
Recently I've been inspired by women that really embrace their own uniqueness.
A couple examples are Este from Haim and Ann Wilson from Heart… Strong women who are amazing at what they do and don't care what other people think.
I also love the Voice (especially Pharell!). It's a positive reality show in a sea of gossip and drama. I think all their feedback & advice directly applies to myself and anyone in a creative field.
Where do you hope harMonica is next year?
I hope harMonica becomes known as a brand that's a platform for creating social change through self appreciation. A lifestyle brand creating a community for positive female body image. The first step in building this for others has been building self appreciation & confidence in myself. harMonica is the tool for that and I'm so grateful for this journey.
By next year I'll be hosting more events and collaborating with other brands. So many ideas for where this can go!