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 AEO Wear America

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This season, we partnered with extremely talented designers to bring you awesome products that were created in the USA. We will be introducing you to some of these designers over the next couple of months, sharing the inspiration behind their designs and a look into their studios.

In addition to these collaborations, we’re excited to announce our own collection of T-shirts, jeans and more products that we made in the USA. Here is a little back story from our NYC designers about the denim.

“Our women’s jeans are inspired by the Gold Miner jeans of the 1890’s and hand sewn in L.A.,” says our denim designer, Helen K. “Each pair is unique and takes over two days to make… crafted from 11.75 oz. denim yarns produced in our Greensboro, N.C. mill and finished them with timeworn topstitching, busted outseams, vintage metal shanks and rivet finishes.”

We asked men’s denim Sr. Design Director, Clint G., about the inspiration behind the denim and he said, “Authentic, masculine, old-fashioned American jeans! Inspiration came from our very own AEO vintage denim archives, which I have accumulated over the years. It’s a combination of flea market finds and jeans from vintage dealers. These jeans are crafted from slubbed 11.75 oz. and pure indigo 13 oz. denim in our North Carolina and Georgia mills and finished with hand sanded and whiskered details.”

In addition to our Wear America collection, here are the other brands we are partnering with:  Woolrich, Pendleton, Topo Designs, Baggu, Word., The Urban Smith, Muses & Rebels, Pommes Frites Candle Co., The Great Lakes, Wit & Whistle and Knot & Bow.

 

Keep checking the blog for interviews with the designers from these brands.

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Budweiser Made in America Festival: AEO is the Official Fashion Partner

We are so excited to share with you that we are the official fashion partner of the Budweiser Made in America Festival. The festival will take place coast-to-coast simultaneously during Labor Day weekend at Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia and Grand Park in Los Angeles on Saturday, August 30th and Sunday, August 31st.  Kanye West will headline in both cities, first in Philadelphia along with performances from Pharrell, Rita Ora and Kendrick Lamar, and will then topline the final night in Los Angeles with Iggy Azalea, Imagine Dragons and John Mayer, among countless others. Check out the official music festival posters below for the full line-up for both cities!

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Los Angeles line-up

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 Philadelphia line-up

Watch the Made in America Official Trailer to get pumped up for the festival!

 

Make sure to check back for festival inspired outfits and follow us on InstagramTwitter and Snapchat: officialaeo for live coverage from the events.

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