Don-ya’ (born December 8, 1978) is a Tucson-based fashion designer who also works in Los Angeles as a costume designer. In between film shoots, he works at a local fabric and craft shop.
Don-ya’ was raised in the city of Southgate in east Los Angeles, California to a middle class, struggling, family. He was raised by his grandparents until the age of seven. His grandmother taught him to sew when he was five and his mother taught him to draw at the age of 12. The influence his grandmother provided has been his inspiration and helped him through difficult times. His life was filled with love while living with his grandparents however, his father moved the family to Tucson AZ when Don-ya’ was at the age of eight. He and his family experienced abuse when living with his father. Being raised on the Pasqua Yaqui Indian Reservation was not easy, as there were many struggles that the Indians experienced – financially and socially.
All that surrounded him were gangs, violence, drugs and alcohol. He chose to run from fights instead of becoming violent like his father. He would rather reflect the love that his mother and grandparents provided him. His mother became his inspiration with her amazing creativity. He learned to love challenges because his mother faced challenges straight on. Don-ya’ witnessed his mother get through hard times through her art and creativity. It inspired him to use his talents to get him through life and away from a constant struggle his environment provided at that time.
He studied fashion at the “University of Grandma and Momma.” Studying the way his grandmother tailored clothes purchased at second hand stores, he understood how amazing people would look with well tailored clothes. She explained to him that clothing in the 40s and 50s was all about fit, class, and elegance. His grandmother had an appreciation for garments in the black and white films they would watch together.
Don-ya’ first gained attention, at the age of 20, after being asked to design and create for the famed Barbie Doll that would be auctioned off to help raise money for the charity “Youth on their Own.” When Don-ya’ designed for Barbie, his mother was his assistant. His mother’s extreme imagination pushed his designs to a whole new level. She showed him that as long as he stayed on the classy and glamorous side of design that he could never go wrong. “Let your work get noticed. Don’t blend in or you might as well be invisible” was something she would say. “I feel all school teaches is technique and history, but school can’t put the love of design in the heart. When you design for someone you have to give them everything; your heart and soul. That’s what I do, and I think that’s what makes me unique.” -Don-ya’
After winning his first designers blue ribbon award, people called him the next Bob Mackey. Soon after, he became a local tailor and began sewing for people where he then began to design. At the age of 25 he was given the opportunity to costume-design for films which provided an opportunity to build his clientele as a fashion designer. Designing has become his passion and main focus. The opportunity to do what he loves is a blessing. Setting goals in his life keep him on track and focused. Challenges inspire him and there’s no stopping him. Growing up in a low, socio-economic area has inspired him to want something more from life. Making a living at doing what he loves is a dream come true. He is a versatile designer and his originals are not offered for sale in any stores, but he is only a phone call away from his next creation. He is available to all who desire a custom design.
Most of Don-ya’s work can be seen in the films he has worked on. He has also worked with and designed for Tiffany Amber Theissen, Faye Dunaway, Renee Taylor, Vivica A Fox, Brooke Burns, Valerie Harper, Ernest Borgnine, and Bailee Madison, just to name a few. This earned him the title by his peers as “Designer of the Stars.”
Don-ya’ treats his career like a relationship by staying committed and loyal to it. He has made himself available to all who desire custom-made garments. He also puts on fashion show events to raise money for smaller, local charities that need support. Don-ya’ has dedicated his life to serve and help inspire change and love. He works and saves his money all year in order to fund the annual event.
He is also a motivational speaker at the high school where he graduated and is an inspiration to many. For those seniors at the high school who have faced challenges in their lives, he offers the chance to win the prom gown of their dreams through an annual essay contest. He has become like a “celebrity” to the students and has inspired them to dream and do better in their lives.
His inspiration comes from people of all ethnic backgrounds as well as his surroundings. He has a very deep love for people and is always willing to offer his services wherever they are needed. As a designer he designs for people and gives them what they want but still allows his artistic side to influence the design. He dreams of becoming “The People’s Designer.” His ultimate dream is to become a known designer and win an Oscar for Best Costume Design.