From scraps to shreds: Million dollar fashion accessory comes from an Iowan

The walls inside the Dona Bela Shreds office are covered with shreds.

The saying One man’s trash is another man’s treasure rings true for Alli Davidson Motoyama.

As the owner of Dona Bela Shreds she uses the ends of shirts clothing companies can’t use for the company she founded in 2010 that creates looser fitting scarfs. Alli explained to Clay & Milk that roughly 15 percent of the material clothes are made from end up on the cutting room floor. Through relationships with textile companies, Alli uses that material and turns it into one-of-a-kind neckwear for men or women.

“It’s simple, for people who put it on and go,” she explains. “They can feel unique.”

It’s comfortable fashion

Because Alli doesn’t like wearing anything close to her neck, she started making clothing designs. In 2010 the Cedar Falls native made shreds in her house and sold them at the Des Moines Farmers Market. Six years later in 2016 her company sold roughly 50,000 shreds and reached $1 million in sales.

At her first trade show in Kansas City she paid $2,000 for a booth; And went on to sell $10,000 worth of shreds in a weekend.

“So right off the bat we’re like, ok this is cool,” Alli explained. “Then everything has kind of evolved. We had to come up with pricing, different styles and ways for people to order.”

It’s all about the love

It has been seven years since Alli was making shreds in her living room and now Dona Bela Shreds employs seven full time employees to make shreds that are sold in all 50 states, Von Maur and over 800 boutiques. In Iowa shreds can be found in over 60 locations across the state. Today retail prices of a shred can cost anywhere from $24 to $32 depending on the style; Wholesale prices are about half of that.

“There’s a unique factor,” Alli explained. “So if somebody gets a design and they love it and want another one. Well, that’s it, once it’s gone it’s gone. That unique factor is so cool because it’s yours.”

But that adds pressure to her staff to be confident in the colors they put together and distribute to their retailers. For the retailers who sell her shreds, they don’t get to pick what they sell.

Alli Davidson Motoyama
The owner of Dona Bela Shreds Alli Davidson Motoyama hand selects an assortment of shreds at her shop in Windsor Heights.

“They come in packages of ten and it’s an assortment,” she explained. “We put a package together for each retailer and look at where they are located in the region.”

Alli says the East coast orders get more muted and sophisticated darker colors compared to those on the West coast who like brighter colors.

And while other brands have tried to replicate and duplicate the Dona Bela Shreds product, Alli finds it flattering.

“For everything we’ve done here and the process, go ahead and give it a try,” she says. “It’s a lot of love that goes into this.”

It’s just different

Linda McKinsey sells Dona Bela Shreds to retailers in Texas and said when she walked by the Dona Bela Shreds booth at the Dallas Trade Market, the booth was surrounded by people.

She says their booth is always surrounded by people.

“It’s just different,” McKinsey explains. “We are always looking for different, for the next Beanie Baby. This isn’t quite that yet, but it could be. Because clothing tends to trend so now it just seems to have hit.”

 

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The Fiona Shred is around 30 inches and six ounces. One “shredfiona” is $38.

McKinsey says there’s nothing quite like a Dona Bela Shred on the market.

“No two are alike so it’s unique and people love that it is made in the USA,” McKinsey says. “I have been selling for a couple years and this has been our best year. The line is off the ground and down here with the heat in Texas, we are still not having any issue selling a scarf line. Because you don’t get hot wearing it.”