Wear America x Wit & Whistle

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Please introduce yourself, your business name, and where you’re from.
I’m Amanda Wright, the girl behind Wit & Whistle. I design and illustrate witty greeting cards and whistle-worthy paper goods. My husband and I live in a quirky 1970s A-frame house in Cary, North Carolina with two dogs, three chickens, and an absurd quantity of houseplants.

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You have been painting since you were a child, what sparked this interest at such a young age?
I’ve been at it so long that I can’t even remember what first motivated me to start creating. I believe my urge to create is a God-given gift, so it was natural for me to start making art as early as I could. I’m sure I was hooked from the moment I experienced the intoxicating aroma of my first box of crayons.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I’m inspired by my love of drawing and my desire to indulge in light-hearted creativity. My goal for Wit & Whistle has always been to create a line of products that are both funny and beautiful. I leave plenty of room for frivolity in my designs, because creating is so much more enjoyable if you don’t take yourself too seriously. I want my work to feel like play!

What does the day in the life of Amanda Wright entail?
After breakfast I make a cup of tea and head to my studio. I have a short commute, just a walk down the stairs to the basement. In the morning I ship orders, reply to emails, send invoices, and reorder supplies—all the necessary but boring stuff. I try to reserve my afternoons and evenings for creative things like working on new designs, taking photos, brainstorming, and writing blog posts.

What was the first product you started selling?
I first tried to sell sets of block-printed snowflake cards around the holidays back in 2008. I painstakingly hand-printed each card in metallic silver ink. They were lovely, but no one bought a single one! So, I went back to my sketchbook and came up with a few witty Valentine’s Day cards. I had more success (and much more fun) when I started incorporating my sense of humor into my work.

Educate us on your design process and making methods, what it’s like and why do you love it?
My design process involves spending a lot of quality time with my sketchbook. I usually curl up on the couch with my dogs while I draw. Once I finish a pen and ink illustration for a new product, I scan it into my computer to make layout adjustments and add color. I love all the little imperfections in my work that make it obvious each one of my designs was drawn by hand.

witandwhistle_process1Amanda’s sketches coming to life! Jotter above and Spiral Notebook below.

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If you had one product to describe as your signature item, which would it be and why?
My “uterus” birthday card is my signature item. Slightly inappropriate greeting cards have always been my best sellers, and that particular card has been around almost since Wit & Whistle began. I think it’s the perfect blend of funny and awkward while still being pretty—just the way I like it.

We love your humorous approach on your cards and prints, do you consider yourself a ‘jokester’?
I don’t think of myself as a jokester, I just have a strange sense of humor. In the real world my “humorous approach” is usually just me saying weird things and getting strange looks from my friends, hah.

Describe your decorating style inside your home.
I like calming, neutral colors with interesting textures like metallic gold, exposed brick, and rustic wood. I prefer bright spaces with lots of natural light and a mix of old vintage finds with newer pieces. I have a weakness for anything mid-century modern. Above all, a house isn’t a home unless it’s brimming with houseplants. If I could live in a greenhouse I would be happy!

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My coffee table is my favorite handmade possession. My dad, mom, sister and I spent a day piecing together the herringbone tabletop from reclaimed barn wood. We finished it off with hairpin legs and carved our names on the bottom. It’s gorgeous, and whenever I look at it reminds me of how awesome my family is. I even wrote a blog post about it!

Tell us something surprising about you that no one would guess!
Running Wit & Whistle is my dream job, but if I had to change careers I’d love to own a small zoo. For now I’ll just have to focus my zoo-keeping energy on my dogs and chickens.

What is the best advice you would give to designers starting their own business?
Whether you feel ready or not, just jump in. If I waited to start my business until I had everything figured out, Wit & Whistle wouldn’t exist. The most important (and most difficult) thing is to take that first step and get going. Just worry about one day at a time, and figure out the rest as you go along. Baby steps!

Check out Wit & Whistle on ae.com, and tell us which jotter or notebook is your favorite in the comments below!

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Wear America X Muses & Rebels

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We sat down with former AEO Women’s Wovens Design Director, Natasha Landenberger, the founder, owner and designer of Muses & Rebels to talk about daily inspiration, the pros and cons of starting your own business and balancing it all. When this Los Angeles native is not hard at work building her lifestyle brand empire, she is spending her weekends making frequent trips to the beach, the Rose Bowl and other local flea markets to find materials, vintage clothing and unusual objects for photo shoots. Basically, she does it all.

How did you start Muses & Rebels and where do you draw daily inspiration from?
I created Muses & Rebels in 2010 after spending a month in Japan with one of my best friends. She had made a beaded necklace that I loved which influenced me to make jewelry while I was staying with her & her family in Osaka. I made my first thread wrapped chain bracelet during this trip. When I returned home, my mom was extremely supportive of the pieces I had made (as most moms are) and told me I should sell them… that was the beginning of Muses & Rebels.  When I launched M&R, it was a new venture into accessories and I am completely self-taught when it comes to jewelry.

On a daily basis I am inspired by images on Tumblr, Pinterest, blogs and magazines. I have always loved the beach and my husband is a surfer, so I am naturally inspired by the surf/beach lifestyle.

You mentioned being completely self-taught when it comes to designing jewelry, can you describe that creative process?
Designing jewelry has been a very different process for me personally than designing clothing. With jewelry, I first find the materials and then design the styles. With clothing, it is the opposite – I design the styles and then find the fabrics and trims that best fit the design. As I am creating the jewelry for a specific collection, I draw from images I’ve curated, key colors for the season, and the overall concept of the collection. Being a self-taught jewelry designer means I am learning new techniques with each design and the collections are growing stronger with my knowledge.

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Muses and Rebels began selling jewelry and and has slowly transitioned to clothing, can you tell us about that natural progression and motivation behind your current assortment?
Coming from a fashion design background, I have always intended to add clothing to the line. I created Muses & Rebels with the idea that it will become a lifestyle brand, not only focusing on jewelry. I first grew the line with a small assortment of hand tie-dyed bikinis and screen printed tees. Adding a men’s jewelry line seemed like a natural progression and also a need in the market. More clothing for both women and men will be added to our online shop with a focus on vintage items that are trend right and pieces you just need to have.

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Can you tell us a little about Muses and Rebels’ “made for you” concept?
The Muses & Rebels’ “made for you” concept means our products are made to order. M&R styles are not mass produced – they are lovingly handmade for each customer in limited quantities. I also like to think of Muses & Rebels as a line with products that are perfect for the individual. These are pieces that are “made for you.”

You’re also a fashion illustrator for many American contemporary brands – how do you balance this, along with your M&R responsibilities?
M&R is my top priority, but I will always make time for fashion illustration opportunities because it is something I truly enjoy doing. In order to keep the business moving forward and take on additional projects, I tend to count every day of the week as a workday. I work a lot, but it is so worth it.

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Can you speak to the pros and cons of running your own company vs. designing for a large brand?
The great thing about running my own company is that I am my own boss. This is a good thing and also a bad thing. It’s great because I am ultimately the decision maker and get to envision and create a brand exactly as I want it to be. Creating a brand and watching it grow and become known is so gratifying and rewarding. It is tough being your own boss because you are completely responsible for all aspects of the business – meeting deadlines, growing the brand, sales, and production. The stress and pressure of the business side of owning a company can be a lot to handle while still motivating to be creative. When compared to designing for a large brand, the business pressure is quite minimal because you have the support of a large company. In many ways it seems easier to design and be creative when you have a team to help produce your designs. Large brands also provide the comfort of a salary, compensation, bonuses and benefits.

Do you have any advice for someone interested in starting their own company?
Don’t wait to start your own company if you have the passion and the idea – take advantage of the moment and dive in. My advice is to be very aware of your financial responsibility for the company, slowly build your brand in a way to minimize your expenses and learn from your customers. It is important to keep the big picture of your company in mind and to not get sidetracked by the minute details.

Want a chance to win a @musesandrebels necklace from our #WearAmerica collection? Follow and RT to enter! See Official Rules for complete details.

 

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Introducing: Artisan De Luxe for AEO

We’re excited to announce a brand new partnership at American Eagle Outfitters: Artisan De Luxe for AEO. Artisan De Luxe is deeply rooted in vintage spirit, specifically in denim. Every product is an expression of the American spirit, nodding to nostalgia with a passion for craftsmanship and artistry. Obviously a natural pairing for AEO. We had them design a special collection exclusively for us, all created from premium materials. If you love this collection, snap up your favorites while you can… every piece in this capsule is limited edition.

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The Cable Knit Pocket Sweater takes an icon to the next level with a chest pocket done in distressed denim and deliberately placed stitched details. It pairs perfectly with the Juliet Boyfriend Jean, which is finished with paint splatters and patchwork embellishments.

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Your go-to outfit this fall? Pair the Plaid Button Down Tunic, designed with contrasting plaid patterns and a longer back hem, with the Yvette Skinny Jean. We love that this jean is designed in soft coated denim with zippered details at the pockets and ankles.

0390_9546_001_4989The ultimate boho-inspired dress… the Fringe Dress, designed in a fit and flare silhouette with crochet and embroidery and long bell sleeves. It’s even fully lined, so no slip needed!
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Give your standard denim shirt an update with allover stitching. The Stitched Denim Shirt is designed with buttoned chest patch pockets and goes perfectly with the Shawl Cardigan (lent a heritage feel with leather buttons). Throw on the Destroyed Jean crafted in rugged cotton denim and you have a look that’s ready for any occasion.

Love this line as much as we do? Tell us about your favorite looks in the comments below.

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Designer Interview: Tamarah Ghourdjian

Bright, bold and colorful prints grab our attention every season. This season’s print… Global!  We wanted the inside scoop on what influences our design team to create these fun and trendy prints, so we caught up with our Senior Director of Women’s Concept, Tamarah to learn what things and places sparked her team to conceive this season’s collection.

Name:
Tamarah Ghourdjian

Occupation:
Senior Director of Women’s Concept

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 Tamarah in our New York Design Office concept work space

Where did you draw inspiration for the global prints?
We pulled inspiration from everywhere — Vintage [finds], traveling the world, blogs, books, paintings and more!

Can you tell us how you wear the global print trend?
I wear our black and white print mix jumpsuit with a military jacket.

What are your three favorite global print pieces from this season’s collection?
I love the black and white floral jumpsuit, the tropical romper and the black and white zig-zag soft shorts.

If you were to share what global print piece that every girl must have in her closet right now, what would it be?
My favorite is a jumpsuit or romper, whether it be an ethnic print or tropical. Both are on trend this season.

skateboards with AEO spring global prints

 A few skateboards that our design team had printed with some of our global prints for Spring 2014.

How cool, right?

Now we would love to learn a little about you!

What made you want to pursue fashion design?
I grew up in a crafty family. My mother and grandmother taught me to sew, knit, dye fabrics, make jewelry, weave—you name it, they can do it all.  I started making clothes at a very young age, first for my dolls, and then later for myself and my friends.  As far as I can remember it’s always been a part of my life and I can’t think of anything else that I’d rather be doing.

What kinds of projects do you find yourself working on from day to day?
Everything and anything — No one day is the same, but research is always part of my day.  I am always looking for new inspiration; a new brand, [fashion] blogs, [street] style, silhouettes, boutique finds, prints or a color that inspires me.

What three items will we always find in your purse?
Chapstick.
A hair tie.
My passport.

What inspires your style and how would you describe it?
Anything vintage, authentic, lived-in and casual inspires my style.
You could say it’s boy meets vintage girl or somewhere in between.

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Designer Interview: 10 questions with Natalie Malcolm

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We had a rapid Q&A with Senior Designer Natalie Malcolm of Men’s Swim and Outerwear. We fired off 10 questions to Natalie to learn what inspired this season’s swim trends and get a brief insight into her personal life.

Ready.Set.Go.

1. Where are you from:
Manchester, England

2. What are the trends for men’s swim this spring?
Neon brights, color blocking and shorter inseams lengths. Favorites include; beach photo real and galaxy prints.

3. Where did the inspiration for these trends come from?
California beaches, from festivals and runway shows.
We also loved the color and energy from the 90’s vibe.

natBeach, Festival and Street Style Inspiration

4. What do you love most about working in a creative field?
Endless boundaries and ever changing trends, keeping up with the latest and greatest.

5. Five words to describe you-
Honest, grounded, sarcastic, fun, optimistic.

6. Favorite destination:
Cote D’Azur with my family and friends.

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Cote D’Azur  (Photo Credit: smarttravelinfo.com)

7. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Keep your head up and put your best face on.

8. And the advice you’d offer aspiring designers?
Be open to criticism, accept advice, have thick skin and of course, dress to impress.

9. Three fashion staples every girl should have for spring:
Rompers, printed sundress, and shades.

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10. One swim trunk every guy should have on his wishlist?
Colorblocked Swim Trunk!

 

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Designer Interview: Ernesto Fernandez

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Cargo shorts.. a must have staple for every guy’s closet for spring and summer year after year.  American Eagle Outfitters has so many fits and colors of the cargo short that it may be overwhelming to pick the perfect pair for you. So we reached out to our men’s shorts designer, Ernesto Fernandez to talk everything..cargo shorts!

Name:

Ernesto Fernandez

Can you tell us about the history of our cargo shorts?

Cargo shorts are an interpretation of real military garments and have become a signature piece for AEO.

AEO is one of the leaders in the Market for Cargo Shorts, historically we have provided multiple fits, details and price points for a broad customer base. There is a cargo short for every one out there.

Has the fabric we used changed over the years? Can you tell us how?

We have used twill cotton cloth for cargo shorts and cotton ripstop for our ripstop cargo. Fabric has changed in weight, we are lighter now than where we have been before, moving with the [fashion industry] market trends.

Any cool prints or colors you love this season?

I love the new neutrals such as Honey, Khaki Uniform, Mushroom and Shooting Olive and our Officer Camo is just the right print to have.

What is your favorite cargo short design?

I really like our new slim fit light weight cargo short  because it has a more taper, slim leg. This will be new for July 2014.

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We also asked our Director of Styling, Preston to share his favorite shorts this season.

1. AEO77 Cargo Short

2. Camp Cargo Short

3. Americana Cargo Short

4. Belted Camo Cutoff Short

What is the styling inspiration behind cargo shorts?

Traditional military garments..now incorporating work-wear and utility influences as well.

Why are cargo shorts a staple year after year?

Because it is a short that is versatile and comfortable and accommodate to so many situations. Our guy can dress it down with a T-shirt or a tank or dress it up with a button down shirt.

If you could recommend the one cargo short that every guy should have in his closet this season, which one would you suggest?

I’d like that to be the new light weight Slim.

What made you want to pursue textile design?

I was always drawn to texture and detail and looks at clothes ever since I can remember…my fathers’ jacket’s or mom’s coats. Also, clothing is such a personal purchase decision…when a guy picks one of our designs, we actually touch his world and everyday life.

What kind of projects do you find yourself working on from day to day?

Designing and making sure our product looks right at every stage of the approval process…from concept to fit, to color, to great product in the store.

Describe yourself:

Passionate,  a bit too much into detail!

Favorite destination:

Greece…so far.

Favorite quote:

“Treat others the way you’d like to be treated”

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Live life to it’s fullest because it’s too short and be happy.

Any the advice you’d offer aspiring technical designers?

Explore, be hands-on, challenge yourself, experiment and be true to yourself.

Love learning about our designers? Click here to learn more about the designer behind women’s swimwear, Sarah Cassar.

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