Dana Veraldi is an expert when it comes to capturing the likeness of famous faces. And she has the T-shirt sales to prove it.
The 33-year-old New York artist, who grew up in King of Prussia and Gulph Mills, has perfected Dolly Parton’s lashes and seemingly unending swirls of curls. Veraldi’s black-and-white sketch of shaggy record producer Rick Rubin is particularly on point. She’s mastered the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s kind-eyed serenity. And her Cindy Crawford interpretation is precious — consisting simply of the model’s full red lips, a tube of lipstick, and her signature beauty mark.
Verladi’s artistic accuracy is why her 2012 rendering of Kanye West as a pharaoh prompted the narcissistic rapper to send her flowers. And it’s certainly why Veraldi’s portfolio includes the coolest of limited-edition collaborations with “it” brands such as Uber, Madewell, and Pressed Juicery.
On Sunday, Veraldi and her sister, J.Crew executive Amanda Veraldi, will address an audience of do-gooders at the Merion Cricket Club for a tea and fashion fund-raiser for Career Wardrobe.
I caught up with Veraldi to talk about her popular 10-year-old DEERDANA brand, what inspires her collection of more than 120 designs, her favorite illustrations to date, and her forthcoming collaborations.
Tell us about your artistic journey.
I went to the Shipley School for middle and high school. I graduated [in 2007] from MICA [Maryland Institute College of Art] with a degree in photography and a minor in graphic design. While there, I took a screen-printing class and started drawing pictures of my friends and family on T-shirts. But I didn’t try to sell them. [I thought of it as] a cheap and easy way to share my art with friends and family without being too serious. Then a few stores got interested in them.
Pat Field was the first store that sold my work, and then Colette in Paris. But for me it was still a small passion project. I printed all the shirts myself, and I had a slew of jobs, including an assistant to a fashion stylist and working in events at Adidas. I funneled the money into my company, and it grew very organically. It wasn’t until three years ago that I was able to focus on my company full-time.
Who was the first celebrity to wear one of your T-shirts?
I don’t like to use the word celebrity. Half of the designs are authors and filmmakers who one might not think of as celebrities. I like to think of them more as cultural icons. The first “known” person I did was my friend [model] Agyness Deyn. And she wore it in a Time magazine photo shoot. I didn’t make it with the intent of selling it. I really just started drawing people who I was inspired by, like Carl Sagan. I did Obama shirts back in the day.
Who are you working on these days?
The next shirt I’m releasing is Cher.
Why Cher? Why now?
I was looking at photography books and saw pictures from her in the late 1970s. And I just decided on old-school Cher.
You’re partial to old-school icons, huh?
I’m just influenced by the things going on in the world. But I do try to break up my subjects. Like, I wouldn’t do three social activists in a row. More like an actor, a singer, a filmmaker, and an author.
Do you have a favorite rendering?
Right now, Frida Kahlo. It’s the flowers I love. It’s fun to draw an accessory. I really like drawing hair: facial hair, hair on the head. I’m really bad at drawing teeth.
Anyone ever not like any of your renderings?
I never had any negative feedback from a person. [But] I feel like when Larry David looked at his, he made the same face he made in the drawing. I don’t think Howard Stern would wear his shirt, but he thinks it’s funny.
Has anyone asked you to do a shirt?
All the time. Bu I feel like I would embarrass them if I told. Coach K — you know, [rapper] Lil Yachty’s manager — every time he sees me, he asks me. I think it’s funny when people want to wear a picture of themselves on their shirts.
Would you wear a picture of yourself on your shirt?
For more information on the Career Wardrobe Empowering Tea and Fashion Show call 215-568-6693 or visit www.careerwardrobe.org