“Clothes should empower you.” That’s the design mantra of ABLE’s apparel design director Whitney.
Growing up in Tampa, Florida with an interest in art, Whitney’s dreams of designing Barbie clothes morphed into a passion for fashion. In high school, she began using her wardrobe as a means for self-expression (her favorite look: hot pink and leopard print!), and so she ultimately decided to study Fashion Design and Marketing at the International Academy of Design and Technology in Tampa.
The more Whitney learned about design, the more she found her niche: Designing clothes that every woman can wear with confidence at accessible prices. While she enjoyed the hands-on start-to-finish nature of high fashion, she aspired to dress as many women as possible for their everyday lives.
Prior to joining ABLE, Whitney gained 11 years of apparel design experience, including 6 years at one of the country’s largest apparel retailers helping to design a collection from start to finish. Creating something out of nothing is what Whitney loves the most, and since November 2018, Whitney has been doing just that at ABLE by elevating our apparel line beyond basics.
Why did you want to work for ABLE?
Not to sound cheesy, but I wanted to use my talents to make a bigger impact. I wanted to feel fulfilled and rewarded with my work, yet also challenged by stepping outside of my comfort zone. I was just really excited to build something new with a team that really cares about the women wearing and making our clothes.
What was the first step you took to design ABLE’s new apparel line?
I learned all I could about our customers. They have a heart for our mission and care deeply about women, so that meant my designs needed to be thoughtful. Where will she wear this? Why is she wearing it? There has to be a reason outside myself for the garment to exist in her life, and if she needs it to work from workday to weekend and day-to-night, I need to make sure my designs are versatile.
What’s been the biggest challenge in designing this apparel line?
The single hardest part of my design process has been finding the right partners who can help us build an ethical and sustainable apparel line. It’s no secret that the fashion industry is dirty and broken. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. But I believe we’re on a trajectory to create real change in the fashion industry.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
ABLE’s mission hits me on a personal level. Growing up I witnessed my mother struggle with substance abuse. Now that I’m a mother myself to a daughter (and a son due in June 2019!), I am amazed on a daily basis by the women I’m surrounded by at ABLE who did manage to overcome addiction for themselves and their children. They’re my daily inspiration as they absolutely crush life.
We’re all given talents in this life, but not all are given opportunities. As someone who did receive opportunities, it’s rewarding to be able to give opportunities to other women.
What are you most excited about?
There aren’t a lot of brands designing ethical fashion beyond basics. We’re launching an ethically sourced leather jacket, a twill jumpsuit that you can wear with heels or sneakers, and woven blouses made out of a fabric that’s just dreamy. This is only the beginning. I want every fashion brand to be like us one day, but right now it makes me really proud to work for a company that’s putting the maker and customer at the forefront of every decision and leading the way.