Whitney Pozgay began her design career at Kate Spade New York where she designed accessories and apparel. In 2007, she became the lead womenswear designer at Steven Alan where she also spearheaded collaborations including Steven Alan for Uniqlo and Urban Outfitters. In 2010, she launched her own ready to wear line, WHiT.
You’re entering your fourth season, and WHiT has been picked up by nearly 70 doors all over the world. What are the key elements that make WHiT a commercial success?
Well, we didn’t want to overdistribute, so while we are in a lot of doors, most are really special little boutiques around the world. We were careful to go after stores we really love. I think the reason it has done well (knock on wood) is because the items are really wearable for a lot of different types of girls. I don’t do a lot of embellishments, but rather focus on fabrics and shapes, so the clothing is really open for personalization. I love statement jewelry and hate when I have to work my accessories around a busy outfit.
Any surprises we can expect from the Spring 2012 collection? What is the inspiration?
I am feeling a little homesick for the Southwest and just got back from a trip to Marfa, Texas. I think that will definitely influence the outcome of Spring 2012.
You seem to be the perfect muse for your collection. When you design, do you think about what you’d like to wear? Are you designing for a specific customer?
I sort of design for all the women in my life. I think about what I would want to wear, but also how a more toughie friend or a taller girl would wear the same item.
Can you tell us a bit about your blog, “Be nice Be kind.” Does it relate to your branding in any way?
I started that blog as a creative outlet before we started WHiT. I have sadly been ignoring it a bit lately. I mainly just post things that make me happy or that I want to bring attention to. Many of those same interests find their way into the brand from time to time. It’s sort of a visual diary. I do think that the industry can be aggressive and sometimes cruel. Be nice Be kind was meant to celebrate design and happy odds and ends, rather than discourage or criticize. I would hope that vein runs through the brand as well.
In what way do you feel you most were influenced by your aunt, Kate Spade? Was she instrumental at all in the launch of your own brand? What was the best piece of advice she gave you?
She definitely instilled a sense that surviving in this business was possible, but they worked incredibly hard and I got to see that first hand. I entered into this knowing I was going to have put in the hours and work my tail off, but it has been worth the sleepless nights.
Kate has an incredible sense of reference and color. I am lucky to have been able to work with her and see her process. The best lesson she taught me was to not be afraid to edit and to not overdesign.
What was your position at Kate Spade? Working with an accessory based company, did you feel you’ve honed skills necessary to launch some of your own?
I designed apparel and accessories (outside of bags) such as gloves, hats, jewelry and scarves. Even though I was designing apparel, it was still primarily an accessory company. I left to design women’s apparel at Steven Alan because I felt that I needed to work for a brand whose main focus was clothing, and was made domestically. It was also helpful to work for a big brand like Kate Spade and then a more boutique brand like Steven Alan. Both helped to round out my training, but I will always be learning.
Lastly, one of my favorite pieces from the Spring 11 collection were the overalls. Amidst a very feminine collection almost seemed like they were an afterthought — how did that come about?
There will always be an element of tomboy to the collection, to mix in with the more girly elements. That summer, when I started designing, I was living in these vintage linen overalls and I felt like we needed a pair on the line. The ones we made are more streamlined than the really oversized eighties ones I was wearing, but are still super comfortable. I have been wearing mine rolled up with espadrilles or over a bikini top.