Debbie Dannheisser with her designs

Artist Debbie Dannheisser with her designs

A passion for connecting with other women through shared experiences—and processing life's hardships through art—has been Debbie Dannheisser's north star for more than 25 years. And this August, Dannheisser took her passion one step further, opening a brick-and-mortar store on Main Street in downtown Sarasota that sells athleisure featuring her unique and colorful designs.

But it wasn't an easy road to opening the shop.

Dannheisser founded Threads as an e-commerce site in 2018, and the line features her  art on leggings, sports bras, padded bras, workout tanks, and more. But as it was coming to fruition, Dannheisser and her husband Dan, lost their daughter, Nicole, to an overdose.

Despite her profound sadness, Dannheisser found healing through art and creating designs. "That's all I really knew how to do," she says.

"I use art as a metaphor for my life," she continues. "I am astounded that it translates in the world."

Beginning with simple colors, she naturally allows her designs to evolve, but carefully takes into consideration how they'll look on different pieces. Once a canvas is complete, it's professionally photographed and uploaded to her clothing manufacturer's website, where Dannheisser customizes the waistband and adds her signature logo. Through a process called dye sublimation, her artwork is embedded into a blend of polyester and spandex fabric, leaving a smooth and stretchy finish.

The Threads collection is made in the U.S. and available in sizes XS to XL. Customers can choose between high-waist and regular-waist leggings and capris, sports bras and tank tops. The downtown Sarasota boutique also exclusively offers bike shorts, children's leggings, body-con dresses and skirts, scarves and decorative pillows.

At the Threads boutique in downtown Sarasota, Debbie Dannheisser displays matching leggings and sports bras with their corresponding canvas.

At the Threads boutique in downtown Sarasota, Debbie Dannheisser displays matching leggings and sports bras with their corresponding canvas.

Threads honors Nicole, too; a few months before her daughter's passing, Dannheisser painted a canvas for her. The design was then printed on a pair of leggings as a physical memory of her daughter.

Being open about her loss has allowed Dannheisser to connect with women from different backgrounds and across the country about their experiences with grieving, she says.

“I just love being able to speak on a public level to help other women and help other people, whether because of death or other challenges, to move forward and find their joy and strength,” says Dannheisser. 

Dannheisser is also giving back to the community by designing special collections for Tidewell Foundation's Blue Butterfly program, which provides families with free grief counseling services. For every item purchased from the collection, 15 percent of the sale will be donated to the Blue Butterfly Grief Center. Dannheisser has also collaborated with the Children's Cancer Center, Animal Rescue Coalition, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Sisterhood for Good.

"I love having a space locally where I can do what I love," Dannheisser says. "I'm so inspired to paint by connecting with everyone."

Debbie Dannehisser Threads is located at 1834 Main St. The shop is  open Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., or by appointment. For more information, click here.

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