One Sunday morning this past November, Dana Veraldi left the hustle and bustle of her West Village neighborhood in New York City and headed to Merion Cricket Club, where she delivered a keynote presentation at Career Wardrobe’s annual Empowering Tea and Fashion Show. It was something of a homecoming for Veraldi, who graduated from the Shipley School in 2002. What she’s accomplished in the 15 years since was more than enough to inspire a former classmate to ask that she share her story at the Career Wardrobe fundraiser.
Veraldi built her 10-year-old DeerDana brand largely from scratch. It’s now the beneficiary of various celebrity affiliations and partnerships with major brands. While she was majoring in photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Veraldi started making T-shirts screen-printed with hand-sketched portraits of her friends. Later, from a new NYC home base, she moved on to celebrities and other public figures, working various full-time jobs in the fashion industry as she developed her business. Via some powerful social networking, her shirts found their way to the likes of Jay-Z and Justin Bieber. “I wasn’t setting out to do this,” says Veraldi. “I didn’t have a formal business plan or investors. It’s all been very genuine and organic how this company has grown.”
That makes her success all the more enviable—and there’s more to the story. At 33, Veraldi is also a talented artist who’s landed collaborations with Superga (her sneakers are due out this spring), La Mer (tote bags) and Madewell (personalized T-shirts), to name a few. She’s also been hired to work on several projects with Tory Burch’s company. One is a social media campaign for Tory Burch in Color, where Veraldi created alluring collages for each color represented in the book. “While Dana’s style is quite organic, she’s exacting,” says Honor Brodie, creative director at Tory Burch. “She has high standards and delivers only her best work.”
Despite her success, Veraldi has managed to remain humble. “I have a group of friends around me in New York who are also in creative fields and building businesses, so I can bounce questions, ideas and problems off of them,” she says. “Watching my friends’ companies grow alongside mine helps to ground me, too.”
A select few in Veraldi’s NYC squad have ties to the Main Line. Her best friend, Pookie Burch, was stepdaughter to Tory when she was married to Pookie’s father, Chris. The two were at Shipley when Tory’s business catapulted from a small boutique to a global phenomenon. Samuel Snider, son of the late Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider, graduated from Shipley and interned for Veraldi while he was attending Parsons School of Design. “Sam just launched his own fashion line,” says Veraldi. “I’m so proud of him. He was my intern, but now he’s a good friend.”
Veraldi’s Shipley loyalty runs deep. She even took the time to exhibit her work during the school’s annual alumni weekend last spring. “As a student, I remember her as talented, largely self-motivated and idiosyncratic in her approach to many of her projects,” says Steve Baris, Veraldi’s former art teacher at Shipley.
Veraldi grew up in Gulph Mills with her mother and sister Amanda after their parents’ divorced. Her mom taught at Shipley, which is what led the girls to attend. “My mom was our main motivator,” says Veraldi. “She maximized her time always. She led by example, and we follow in her footsteps.”
While Veraldi and her sister were surrounded by wealth and privilege at Shipley, their mother balanced it out by instilling a commitment to giving back. “Even now, when we go home, my mom will say, ‘We’re getting up at 8 a.m. tomorrow to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House,’” says Veraldi. “We’re happy to do it.”
Through her business, Veraldi has given back to causes like Standing Rock by donating T-shirts or a portion of sales. Former supermodel Christy Turlington recently asked Veraldi to collaborate on a project for her foundation, Every Mother Counts.
“My company is small,” says Veraldi. “I’m not donating tens of thousands of dollars to anyone, but the awareness component is big.”
Veraldi closed out 2017 with an Estée Lauder campaign and a number of new T-shirt designs. “I know it’s nonconventional what I’ve done with my company,” she says. “But I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing—making myself available and willing to meet new people and saying yes to opportunities. It’s all about not being afraid to fail.”