Danielle Simpson is a fine arts student at the University of Delaware. It’s not every day you meet a college kid possessing both the know-how and the entrepreneurial spirit to operate a business within their field of study, all while attending classes. Simpson is doing just that.
Her embroidered sweatshirts and t-shirts have garnered a following of over 47,000 on TikTok. One particular viral video is the cause of much of her success, featuring her school colors.
@theartsofdani These sweatshirts are FULLY customizable and coming to my site soon! #universityofdelaware #ud #delaware #udel #embroidery #machineembroidery #embroideredsweatshirt #custom #collegesweatshirt ♬ original sound – Dani | Embroidery, Art, Crafts
“Delaware is overlooked a lot,” Simpson says. “That’s why I was like ‘wow!’ when my UD sweatshirt got over a million views. People don’t think about Delaware. A million people, for those 30 seconds, were thinking about Delaware. And they’ll probably never think about it again, but that’s fine! I got you to think about us for 30 seconds.”
Despite growing an international following and shipping out orders to several countries, Simpson has a lot of home-state pride.
“I say I want to make it out of UD and Delaware, but I want to start and solidify roots here first.”
“People don’t think about Delaware. A million people, for those 30 seconds, were thinking about Delaware.”
With her fun ’90s-inspired designs and a unique mix of clean machine-embroidered work and rustic hand-stitching, TheArtsOfDani immediately took off. The online retail store offers plenty of options for customizable apparel, from matching couples sweatshirts to college and professional sports gear. With the online store growing in popularity, here’s a look at how Simpson built the brand into what it is today, and how she plans to expand her business in the years to come.
The Beginning of TheArtsOfDani
Although TheArtsOfDani has existed as a brand since around 2017, it wasn’t until March of 2020—when Simpson lost her full-time job to pandemic shutdowns—that the business became her sole focus.
After dabbling in different mediums and selling products like graphics and logos, Simpson realized it was time to change things up. Rather than doing side-projects for some extra cash, it was time to combine the business with her true passions and, hopefully, create a sustainable full-time career.
“I’ve always wanted to make clothes,” she explains. “I really wanted to get back into sewing, so I pulled out my sewing machine that my grandmother got me.”
The machine had never been touched. Simpson decided it was time to learn all the ins and outs. She started spending hours on end creating garments and getting comfortable with a sewing machine. She started simple with small accessories like scrunchies. Already, she found that this was much closer to the type of art she wanted to turn into a full-time career.
“It’s a really good life skill. If you can make your own clothes and you don’t have to buy them, that’s a power.”
Not long after Simpson picked up sewing, she stumbled upon a TikTok account featuring machine embroidery videos. The embroidery machine piqued her interest and she was fixated on the artform. For her next birthday, her dad bought her an embroidery machine, and the rest is history.
What’s Coming Next?
“I would like for the business just to keep taking off, and I can just keep doing that after school.”
Simpson is a bright and eloquent young woman with plenty of aspirations—and the talent and drive to back them up.
“I do graphic design. I do illustration, cartoons…I would like to do animation for video games, illustrations for books. I’m keeping it very open-ended,” Simpson explains. “I’m actually going to start doing airbrushing this summer.”
A good multidisciplinary artist can pick up multiple mediums and still have a distinct style that shines through their work. Simpson has already developed that while still in school. Personal artistic style is something she takes seriously, going so far as to hesitate to attach her face to the brand, because she hopes the designs speak for themselves.
“It’s about the work,” she says. “I really like when people just look at the work and that’s what sells them on it.”
This isn’t a common mindset for artists who get their start on social media. TikTok is a personality-driven platform, and it’s hard work to cultivate a following without attaching a face to the name. With only a couple of TikTok videos showing her face at all, Simpson is certainly putting in the extra work to let the art speak for itself. She has already experienced the payoff of this way of thinking, though. People have seen her sweatshirts around campus. Despite the custom designs, and no two looking exactly alike, people know immediately, “That’s from TheArtsOfDani.”
Thus far, TheArtsOfDani has been exclusively online retail. However, Simpson is ready to change that and is scheduling pop-ups and art show appearances throughout the summer. To keep up with TheArtsOfDani, follow the brand on TikTok and Instagram. To place an order, check out TheArtsOfDani’s website.