Sara DeLuca, Dovetail Workwear
Kelsey Ducheneaux-Scott & Jenn Zeller, DX Ranch
Sara, what’s the DX Ranch Collection?
It’s a capsule within our new Spring ‘22 line, inspired by Jenn Zeller and Kelsey Ducheneaux Scott, and their friends at the DX Ranch in South Dakota. They collaborated with us to make the best denim and canvas workwear for women who farm and ranch.
Do you have to be a cowgirl to wear the DX duds?
Our DX Bootcut pants, Zeller Work Shirt, and Oahe Shirt Jac are very at home in the city, but when you see where and how the DXers live, you’ll want to be a cowgirl.
Kelsey, tell us more about the DX Ranch.
The DX Ranch is a cattle ranch on Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) ancestral lands, now known as the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. My great-grandfather established our headquarters here, and I’m the fourth generation of my family that calls this place home. The ranch is home to multiple operations and activities: DX Beef, which provides grass-fed beef to our local community, horse clinics and internships, and our nonprofit, Project H3LP, where we get to help our local youth build life skills through horsemanship.
Sara, how did you end up collaborating with Jenn and Kelsey?
We’ve been admirers of the DX Ranch for years, and we’ve sent Jenn and Kelsey our gear along the way. But while they’ve been very gracious about the things we do well, it soon became clear that we had a lot more work to do to meet their needs. There’s an obvious, gaping bootcut-shaped hole in our line of pants, but we wanted to dig deeper. So we asked Jenn and Kelsey to help us build a collection. It’s a huge honor for us that they would take time out of their busy work lives and work with us on workwear! They’ve been so generous with us.
K: Nobody has ever asked us what we need in our workwear and offered to make us something better than what’s out there. Most of what is available is fashion-focused and not that concerned with function. This has been a really fun opportunity. And I will tell you what, you guys delivered.
J: Bigtime. Everything is better than I could have dreamed.
Jenn, in addition to working horses on the ranch, you’re also a competitive barrel racer. Are you going to tear around the ring in your namesake shirt?
Hell, yes. It’s got great stretch and darts and gussets for movement. And I’m a huge fan of a Canadian Tuxedo, so the fact that the shirt is denim—Dovetail is speaking my language.
Dovetail HQ is in Portland, OR, and the ranch is in South Dakota. How did the three of you work together?
Sara: Ideally, we would have started this out on the ranch in person, working and riding with Jenn and Kelsey and the women they work with—not just because DX Ranch is where anyone would want to be, but because then we could experience firsthand what they do, what their needs are, what conditions are like. The pandemic got in the way of that dream, but we worked the way everyone else did in Covid times: remotely. We mailed clothing samples, and also relied on email, Zoom, and Jenn and Kelsey’s network of friends and followers who pitched in with their insights.
J: When Sara asked me about my ideal work shirt, I polled my followers on social media and my friends (IRL) and we got a ton of feedback that was very similar to my own. My top needs were theirs, and it’s been great to come back to people who are still telling me their wish list and say, “Yeah, we took care of that. It’s done. You’ll see.”
K: I did my polling more IRL, asking women in my community what they wanted in a ranch pant. It’s easy to find common ground on this because our complaints with existing options are so similar. Sara and I talked about a lot of things, but being Dovetail, Sara was very interested in what I keep in my pockets. I sent her this piece of equipment called a Needle Exchange System, which I use when I’m vaccinating livestock.
S: My husband brought in that package and was like, “What are you up to, Sara?” That little tool became the inspiration for a short ‘n shallow new pocket on the DX Bootcut. It’s not only useful for vet kit materials, but for tradeswomen and DIYers who have multi-tools and other smaller implements that you don't want swimming in the bottom of a deep pocket. We always design with versatility in mind.
Sara, how did working with these two inspire your design process?
How do I count the ways? OK, here’s one way: Kelsey and Jenn’s intuitive relationship with their horses. I was very inspired by their practice of natural horsemanship, and it played out in the way I thought about fabric and construction in the collection.
Jenn, what is natural horsemanship?
Natural horsemanship is founded on the idea that the horse is never wrong. We aren’t here to “break” them. We are here to partner with them. Ray Hunt and Buck Brannaman are the founders of this approach and if you want to learn more, I recommend the documentary Buck. I had very little experience with this way of working with horses prior to moving to the DX Ranch, and I appreciate the patience of everyone here who put up with me while I learned. I was pretty much a cranky-pants-piece of work with the horses when I first arrived. Shout out to the horses that didn’t buck me off or run away with me! Lord knows I deserved it.
At the DX Ranch, this approach goes beyond horse training. It impacts everything and everyone. It’s been a huge learning curve for me. The way we do things here is so different from how I grew up.
Can you give us an example?
Growing up, I could never load the dishwasher good enough to suit my mother. She would inevitably come in behind me, or be over my shoulder. Or when I’d unload it, I’d put things back where they went, but I didn’t put them back the way she wanted them put back. She was unknowingly taking the “try” out of me. So I just quit. Here, we reward the try. Let’s say I take my nephews out to see cows and horses, and they ask to get the gate. They may not know how to close the gate the way we would like it closed. But they’re going to try, and we’ll say, “good job.” We might have to sneak out an hour later and close it. But they’re never going to know that. It's the same with the horse. He may not try option A. He might try option D. As long as he’s trying something he’ll be successful. Eventually we will get to option A (which is ultimately what we want). But we don’t get bothered as long as he is trying. At the DX Ranch, that philosophy is holistic. It’s not just horsemanship. It’s lifemanship.
Kelsey, please tell us more about lifemanship and the DX way of doing.
We try to live and breathe the mindset that the right thing is easy and the wrong thing is hard – that we’re all here to support each other. What Jenn just described translates to all parts of life here, or at least we try to carry that idea outward. The way the horses are treated is the way people and livestock are treated on the ranch. It’s all relational. The foundation of our family philosophy goes back to my grandparents. They did a very good job of processing the generational traumas that systemic oppression and genocide has rippled across Indian Country. We continue to build on the culture they created and interpret it through different lenses. For those of us who got to be raised this way, it helps us feel confident in navigating the world. At our ranch, this philosophy also just makes sense to establish us as a quality partner in this ecosystem of land management.
Sara, how did the DX way influence the DX Ranch collection?
Kelsey said it: the right thing should be easy. Working with Kelsey made me think harder about intuitive apparel—about clothes that know when to move with you, and when to get out of the way. This really came into play with the DX Bootcut. It’s our first pant to do away with the double-front thigh that our tradeswomen rely on for the toughest jobs. But for women who work on horseback (and have chaps), an extra layer of fabric and rivets interferes with the animal–human connection—and makes it harder to get a leg over. So did double-duty at the level of the fabric, reinforcing our denim and canvas with CORDURA®. The result is a bootcut pant that looks like a tall drink of water, but has this secret strength. (On the inside. Where Kelsey needs it most.)
KS: Many of us end up wearing men’s clothes because they last longer, or they’re more comfortable. But it’s really frustrating having to constantly tighten your belt, or pull your pants up over your hips when you’re trying to move a hot-wire cross fence. And you’re usually working alongside a man who doesn’t have to deal with any of that because their clothes are built to work with them. So when Sara reached out, I was like, oh boy! Let me tell you. I’ve got some ideas!
For your horse fix, follow Jenn @thesdcowgirl.
When you shop at our site, you can donate to the nonprofit Project H3LP. Based at DX Ranch, Project H3LP is passionate about connecting local youth with the practice of lifemanship.
Dovetail Disclaimer: We are not the boss of our Women at Work. They say it their way and wear it their way.
Dovetail Workwear Disclaimer: We are not the boss of our Women At Work! They say it their way and wear it their way.