Cheryl Matusek’s first fashion designs were dresses for her sisters during childhood summers spent at their grandparents’ farm.
“There was a huge cabinet filled with piles of fabric and we girls were allowed to help ourselves. We made butterfly dresses,” recalls Matusek, 40. “We would cut a slit to stick our heads through, sew a little under the arms, and we would pretend we were butterflies. We would stand in the back of the big grain truck and flap our wings and fly.”
Matusek still indulges in flights of fancy with designs that have metamorphosed into a business with $10 million in annual sales. And making the custom-designed Western wear, accessories, and home furnishings of the Double D Ranch now employs most of her family.
She’s come a long way without venturing far from her roots. Home base is Yoakum, Texas, (pop. 5,731) less than 100 miles from her grandparents’ farm in Inez, Texas.
Some people thought the one stoplight town was too small for such a business, says Matusek’s mother, Margie McMullen. “There’s no way you can manufacture and produce out of Yoakum, people in the industry told us. But we don’t do things by the rules,’’ says McMullen, company president.
The business, which includes Matusek’s sisters, Hedy Carter and Audrey Franz, began on a family ski vacation in New Mexico.
Matusek saw someone wearing the “brightest, prettiest coat made out of a blanket.” She came home to Yoakum and made a coat for herself and Audrey, then her partner in a small interior design shop.
“Cheryl wore her jacket at the next Home Interior Market in Dallas. It was drawing so much attention, she had to take it off,’’ McMullen says. Matusek quickly developed her signature style of Western wear with lots of leather, velvet, fringe, and embroidery.
Today, 700 retailers carry Double D designs, including Nordstrom’s and Simply Southwest. Michelle O’Brien of Ruidoso, N.M., has been a customer since the beginning. “Customers like her designs, her styling,” O’Brien says. “Customers love the tailoring. They love the fit.”
Staying home in Texas means the family has the life they want. Matusek and her two sons, Jack, 9, and Sam, 6, live on a 400-acre ranch outside town where they have rabbits, dogs, and a garden.
At Double D Ranch headquarters, employees indulge in name-dropping. Matusek’s designs are a hit with singers Carlos Santana, Reba McEntire, Pam Tillis, Tanya Tucker, and Eddy Raven. “I was watching General Hospital (the soap opera) one day,” says Jill Stringer, a customer service representative, “and one of the actresses had on our jacket.”
Lisa Barber, Matusek’s secretary, says seven factories in Texas sew for Double D. “The furniture factory is in North Carolina. But everything is inspected, tagged, and shipped from Yoakum,” she says.
Working in rural Texas keeps her designs unique, Matusek says. She prefers inspiration from history, not the latest styles. For example, research on American Indians uncovered what has become known as “ledger art.” When some of the Indians were moved to reservations, they weren’t allowed to have the leathers and tools they normally used to paint and record their histories. Instead, government officials gave them blank ledger books for drawing. Matusek is incorporating that art into designs on a teepee-shaped child’s bed canopy.
“In the past our lines have been very vintage,” she says. “Now, we’re going to freshen that look, more glam, more rhinestone cowgirl.” Still, one design element remains constant: “We’re very American based: American West or Native American.”