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Farmington woman has gone from gumshoe to fashion guru

Monica Lyon has held a lot of jobs over the years, but she's happiest when she is making things, like the hat she is wearing above.

For six years, Monica Lyon's job required her to learn the worst about people. She was a private investigator, running surveillance on cheating spouses and doing background checks on CEO candidates at big companies.

It was interesting work, and Lyon was good at it. But it wasn't really good for her peace of mind.

"It doesn't encourage you to view humanity in a positive light," Lyon said.

So, she turned her attention to hats.

When Lyon officially launched D8agirl Design in December, it was her attempt to make a living doing something that had always been part of her life. She is from a family of seamstresses, people who liked to make things with their own hands. Her mother cooked from scratch and made homemade candles. She sewed and crocheted and knitted. Nearly everything Lyon wore growing up was made by her mother or her grandmother.

"Some kids made fun of me, but I didn't really care," Lyon said. "I didn't even realize how special it was until I got older."

Lyon never really viewed sewing as a career path. She'd make things here and there for friends, and people would encourage her to make a business with her work. But as a child she was always encouraged to engage her intellectual side. She did that in a series of jobs that, in addition to private investigator, has included preschool teacher and massage therapist. She found plenty of jobs she liked, but never one she loved.

"It was like, I could reach a certain level of satisfaction and after a while it leveled off," she said. "I've always been happy creating things and I've been doing that since I was a kid."

That's how she ended up with D8girl Design - D8agirl was her nickname when she was an investigator, and the login ID she used when she was digging up information with online searches. She does a little bit of everything, from hats to jewelry to clothing.

Lyon is back in school now to study apparel technology. She wants to become a better tailor before she jumps into clothing in a big way. In the meantime, she's focusing on hats.

Lyon has long had a fascination with headwear. Her ancestry is mostly English. She figures she has a genetic predisposition.

Eventually, as her skills improve, she wants to expand her lines. She'll focus on women's clothing at first, until she gets more comfortable with menswear. She describes her style as whimsical. Storage boxes in the work space of her Farmington home have labels like birds, butterflies and flowers.

"As I progress, I'll be going for a more elegant whimsy," she said. "A little more grown up, but playful.

"I want to help women be the funnest version of themselves."

Lyon has never doubted her decision, and things seem to have worked out as she has gone along. When the job she had conflicted with her classes, she quickly found new work as a personal care attendant. She had more flexible hours and a raise. When she really needs to make a sale, customers seem to appear.

D8agirl has a Facebook page, and a presence on online retailer She makes sales that way, but Lyon said usually when people contact her through Etsy they're looking for a more personalized version of something she has on the site.

Lyon hopes to have her items in boutiques within two years. She's already talking with a downtown St. Paul boutique about selling there.

It all seems to be going well. No cheating spouses required.