WHIT's Whitney Pozgay on Her 'Old-School' Style and Music Muses

The designer chats about her line and Fashion Week

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Dippin' Sauce
Whitney Pozgay of WHIT.
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Whitney Pozgay is a promising young face in the constantly moving world of American fashion. Her line, WHIT, has been inspired by geographical themes such as the old Southwest (where she grew up), the Space Age (her husband and business partner’s obsession) and the Caribbean (where they spent their honeymoon).

Pozgay chatted with Rolling Stone about her line and the musical influences that inspire WHIT. 

Tell us about WHIT.
We started WHIT three years ago and before that, I was at Kate Spade and Steven Alan. I had actually gone to college for acting but fell in love with costume design. In the summers, I was interning in fashion, and I decided I liked the real-world application of fashion versus costume design. Unfortunately, when you design a costume for a show, it kind of gets boxed up afterwards.

I like the idea of the clothing having a life of its own and making its own story, so that kind of pushed me towards fashion after school. I worked for Kate Spade and then for Steven Alan. Parker [Pozgay's husband] and I were thinking we really wanted to start a brand. We really wanted to partner with someone who had production and business background and that's why we partnered with Zonda [Sochorow] and Zach [Cooper] and it's been the four of us. Now, we are gearing up for spring, which is exciting. I love designing for spring because it's bright and happy.

What is the inspiration behind WHIT?
Parker and I have always been inspired by mid-century design and that definitely makes its way into the collection a lot. I am from Arizona, Parker's from the South; I went to school in Texas. I am a Southwest girl so, well, it is a little preppy and a little modern. It's a really relaxed collection. It's definitely a lot of color – it's fun, it's playful and maybe even a little retro but there is a relaxed vibe to it. We try not to make anything too precious or fussy because that's not how we live our lives and that's not really how we see our girls. You can wear it to a cocktail party or you can also wear it on a bike.

How has the brand transformed since 2009?
We started in 2009 but our first collection was the Fall 2010 collection. When we began, we started with a really small collection.  When we did our brand exercise before we started, we said: What are we about? We love stripes, French noir film and mid-century design. Parker and I like structure to certain things but paired with things that are more relaxed and really always having juxtaposition of structured and soft, tomboy and feminine, and having that kind of work throughout the collection.

That’s where that first collection was started. It had the vintage prints but also tomboy elements and stripes. It was tiny, though, so it was easy when you have one delivery, one capsule to make it this tight little story so as it keeps evolving, it grows into this bigger dialogue. We always remind ourselves [of this] because you get so excited to add and draw from all different things, and so our seasonal inspiration usually comes from what we are currently into and missing or feeling nostalgic about. I was feeling very homesick for Arizona and the desert and we did a very Southwestern themed collection.

For fall 2012, we did a pre-NASA space and pop culture [collection]. Parker really likes sci-fi and we were gearing up for our wedding and we were talking about our differences a lot. I thought that was a good thing for us to work on together while we were planning our wedding. 

 We were in St. Lucia for our honeymoon. For Spring 2013, it’s about reminding ourselves to decompress. Getting out of the city is something we forget to do a lot. The collection is Caribbean-themed. It’s really about decompressing and breathing and unplugging. Not being on your phone. Just sand, water sports, letting all go.

What is currently playing in the WHIT offices?
In the morning, we play a lot of oldies like Lionel Richie and Neil Young.  I really like Led Zeppelin but I don't think the interns like it as much as I do. Yesterday, we let one of our interns pick the music and he were listening to a lot of hip-hop. He was asking me about what kind of hip-hop and rap I listen to. In high school, I listened to a lot of Biggie and Salt-n-Pepa. We split the day between his rap, like Kanye, and our oldies; we did a little mix of that including a little En Vogue. On a typical day, we listen to a lot of the Velvet Underground, the Kinks, Beach House, the Pixies, Grizzly Bear, Neil Young, LCD Soundsystem and Tennis. My favorite song lately is "Green Onions" by Booker T.  We do a mix of things.

Is there specific music that has influenced the collection?
We always have something that we are listening to at the time. This season we have been listening to a little reggae for our Caribbean theme. When we are starting to work, especially when we are getting towards the presentation and the look book, it's about how we are evoking this emotion so we are looking into a lot of vintage reggae and calypso-rock as well. For the Southwestern [theme], Parker was looking at a lot of remixed country or old, dusty cowboy music.

How do you make your fashion show playlist?
Last season we worked with Ben Brunnemer; he is more runway, so there is a start and a finish. It was a composed piece, basically. With him, we pulled a bunch of things that we wanted to sample and then he brought things to the table and we also pulled in some sound bites from Forbidden Planet, like the space noises. We opened with Mike Simonetti’s ‘The Third of the Storms" then went to Moderat's "A New Error" and then closed with KZA's "Le Troublant Acid.’" Throughout the show, we mixed segments of the Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes for You." It gave it a sort of spooky feel.

Otherwise, we work with Justin Spindler; he's a DJ and also works with Mute Records and with him, we go for a mood. We say we are going for this; I usually [provide] three [songs] that I'm really feeling and Parker will bring some stuff to the table and then Justin will go and say, "This is what I have in my catalogue that you guys probably don't know about," and we mix and match. There is a lot of French techno in there that I don't know of. For Spring 2012, we opened up with Tipsy's "Cinnabar," which felt like a psychedelic western sound to us.

For Spring 2013’s Caribbean theme, there will be a lot of Willie Colon, maybe some Dizzy Gillespie, Neil Young, mixed with some classic calypso.

Is there any musician’s style that you are influenced by?
The Velvet Underground, Neil Young, Serge Gainsbourg, Francoise Hardy, the French Ya Ya girls, that whole era. They had amazing style. Actually, if you have watched a Serge Gainsbourg video, he is singing but he has like 20 girls in funny costumes that are just bouncing in the background and he goes from one to one, and he just twirls one's hair.

Who is the ultimate WHIT muse?
Francoise Hardy was a pretty dead ringer. Old school. I also love Florence Welch's style.

What are your Fashion Week plans?
We are doing Fashion's Night Out with Bird in Brooklyn. It's us, Loeffler Randall, Melissa Joy Manning and Gretchen Jones. It's our neighborhood. I'm a Williamsburg girl.  The city gets really congested on that night but her parties are really fun – lots of music and beer. Everyone has a really good time.

 For Fashion Week, we are doing our presentation on [September] 5th and that's what we are working on now: our music score. We are trying to figure out what we are going to play.  It's from 3:30 to 5 so it's not quite cocktail hour so it has to be lively, day, pool-party music! 

What is next for WHIT?
Right now we are focusing on Spring.  We are collaborating with some fun people for spring on shoes and bags and hats. We are working with Osborn for the shoes and Yestadt Millinery does these amazing hats. I am so excited: we are actually doing baseball caps but in our fabrics. Her baseball caps are really cool; they are chic and have a cool edge. Even though it's a very "beachy" season, it's a little sporty too –  an elegant sporty.

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