WHIT’s Whitney Pozgay On Aunt Kate, the CFDA and Designing for the Real World

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As the niece of fashion designer Kate Spade, it’s not hard to see the namesake brand’s colorful and playful aesthetic come across in the work of Whitney Pozgay who launched her own line, WHIT, in 2010. Five collections later, Pozgay is now honing in on what her aesthetic is really about and working on developing her business with help from the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Fashion Incubator program. She travelled to Atlanta last week along with three of the ten brands chosen to take part in the second round of the CFDA’s two-year program, where we got to see her latest collection and chat with the designer about the WHIT line, the WHIT girl and her journey through the world of fashion.

On her famed aunt and her contribution to Whitney’s style and career, Pozgay explained, “Katie had such an understanding of what women were wearing and what they needed. She was doing handbags that were bright and happy and had personality, but were also something you could wear everyday and I think she made it acceptable to not be afraid of color and prints.” Color and prints were abundant in Whitney's most recent collection for Spring 2013. Inspired by a recent trip to St. Lucia, the collection features bold leaf and Caribbean-themed prints and nautical stripes shown in mix-and-match separates and easy sheath dresses. “I’m a sucker for stripes,” Whitney said. “I love a good French stripe t-shirt to wear with basically anything…I almost approach them as a neutral. I think they go with everything.”

While stripes are a staple and the seasonal inspirations are apparent as geographical themes emerge in the prints presented in each collection (her outer space-inspired Fall 2012 line featured a dress and jumpsuit in a planetary motif print), it's Pozgay’s overall style, described as both modern and vintage, classic and quirky, that is making fans of girls from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side. This flirty and feminine meets relaxed, tomboy aesthetic has evolved through her experiences working for other designers, namely Spade and multi-brand retailer Steven Alan. “I love working for other people because you are given this box of here is what the aesthetic is and you have to work within that and that’s always a really fun challenge. When I was at Kate I got a really good foundation of color and prints and having a sense of humor with clothing and then at Steven Alan I got a foundation with tomboy wear and nurturing the more downtown side of my aesthetic,” the designer divulged. “And I kind of fall in between the two. So working for myself I’m able to pull from all the things that I love and make that box myself.”

Originally wanting to pursue a career in costume design, Pozgay soon decided that she, “hated how things got boxed up at the end of each show,” and thus decided to pursue fashion design because of its real-world application. “I really want to design what people wear in real life…It’s really about the clothing having its own story and I want it to be wearable by a bunch of different women,” Pozgay remarked. “I think that’s the most important part about designing clothing. It’s not even the dream or the fantasy, it’s about the real women who want to wear them.”

Now with the support of the CFDA Fashion Incubator program, Whitney is not only able to focus on creating fashion for those real women (who she often affectionately refers to as, “WHIT girls”), but she’s stepping closer to the dream and the fantasy of having a successful fashion line and being an integral part of the American fashion community, too. “People often refer to fashion as a cold, cut-throat industry, but I think the CFDA is a perfect example of how that is really not the case,” she asserted. “They welcomed us all as young designers… They have such a dense support system of seasoned professionals that we’re able to go to for advice…and everyone is super supportive of each other and helpful. It’s been a really nice surprise to see how welcoming the industry is.”