Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dallas Dweller: Caitlin McConnell

If you are like me, every month you flip through the pages of PaperCity, F!D Luxe, Modern Luxury, D Magaizne and the like, scouring the social pages to see who was deemed worthy of photo recognition.  There are the faces that get published with frequent regularity.  But there are a LOT of people that you should know more about because of their fabulous style, interesting back-story or amazing accomplishments.  Dallas Dweller seeks to introduce you to these fabulous faces. This week, let me introduce you to a gal who's no dumb blonde. She's blinging the world one tee at a time:

Caitlin McConnell

Caitlin McConnell
I was familiar with Caitlin's work long before I met Caitlin.  As the creator of Bling Is The New Black, McConnell has created works of wearable art for companies like Paws In The City, Big Rich Texas and The Fashionistas. I was surprised when I met her that she was so... young.

It hasn't even been 5 years ago that she was studying fashion design and art history at the University of North Texas.  Her Mother was searching everywhere to find a company that could make her some bedazzled t-shirts for a conference. In desperation she said to Caitlin, "You're the fashion major! Why don't you figure out how to make these for me!?" So... she did. And she kept making custom tees for friends and family throughout college, calling her new business Bling Is The New Black.

McConnell and Tyler
Towards the end of her college tenure, she took a 5-week internship for Marchesa in NYC handling PR and media. She was offered a position but never really considered staying in New York.

McConnell says, "By the time I graduated, the business had been going a year and we had built up several licensing deals, Steven Tyler was wearing my shirts and we had a decent following. My parents are entrepreneurs and the idea of having a successful company on my own without a boss and unlimited potential appealed to me much more than working for someone else."

Wait. Hold up. Rewind that... Did she just say Steven Tyler of Aerosmith was already wearing her shirts?

Gretchen Rossi of Bravo TV's RHoOC
"My parents know (the band), they took me to my first Aerosmith concert in 2001 and I got to hang out with Steven backstage.  Being artists, they appreciated my art - Steven even has a few  of my paintings. I had taken some custom tees as gifts to Steven Tyler in July 2010 and his now fiance, Erin, asked me to make his stage tees. She felt my work was much better than the company they were using, so I promptly made about 20 pieces which he wore the rest of that tour."

BITNB is taking on a whole lot more these days than just t-shirts.  "After three years, we know what works and what doesn’t, sometimes we just have to say no.  I’ve blinged some crazy things: helmets, mics, guitars, electric toothbrushes, shoes and there  will be a huge piece on the American Idol finale.

Blinged guitar made for Joe Perry of Aerosmith
Some custom work is as simple as a soccer mom shirt.  And then we have an event in the fall that needs 4000 totes!  I love my customers and I work really hard to make sure they are happy with their bling purchase, a lot of it is very personal & meaningful to them, especially the causes, and I want them to be very happy they chose me to do the work," muses McConnell.

I had to query McConnell a bit about what she loves about Dallas:

Q:  What's your take on the Dallas fashion scene? Do you think we're making headway or will we forever be battling the boots and cowboy stereotype?

"Bling Your Bottoms" for shoes
A:  I think that Dallas is really starting to make a name for itself, especially with all the attention from reality and television shows that have been focusing on the city. Unfortunately, there is always going to be a cowboy stereotype, no matter what we do. I was in Italy last month and an Italian man asked me where my cowboy hat was when he learned I was from Texas!

Q:  What are your 3 favorite places in Dallas to eat/drink?

A:  I’m a total foodie so I love Kenichi, Stephan Pyles, and Dram for drinks.

Q:  If you had a guest come into town who had never been to Dallas before, what 3 places would you take them to give them a good sense of our city?

A:  I would take them to the Dallas Museum of Art which is one of my favorite places in Dallas, maybe a concert or game at American Airlines Center, and take the out on McKinney Ave.

Q:  What are your 3 favorite places to shop?

A:  I like to mix high and low. I love to shop at Michael Kors, H&M and Forever 21. I’m all over the place when it comes to shopping!

Q:  Is there a charity you like to support? Why?

A:  Autism Speaks is really close to my heart because my younger brother is actually Autistic. The organization also licensed me internationally in 2009 to make all of their merchandise. Another major charity for me is Paws in the City. We have been involved with it since it started and they have raised a lot of money selling our bling merchandise. We also adopt all of our animals through them.

McConnell and BITNB were featured on last Sunday's episode of Big Rich Texas when the scheming Leslie sweet-talked LeeAnne into co-chairing a "bling party" benefitting The Fashionistas in an attempt to get closer to Heidi and land a coveted seat as a Fashionistas board member.  As LeeAnne put it, "Bling it on, baby. Bling it on!"

And who doesn't need a little more sparkle in their life. Some people see the world through rose colored glasses. Caitlin McConnell just wants the world to be a (be)dazzling place. And I'm down with that!

Connect with Caitlin and BITNB on Facebook and Twitter.  Check out her wide array of blingable goods at

photos courtesy of Caitlin McConnell