Initially I fell in love with Emily Westenberger’s designs and then I learned about the person behind the brand, Emily herself, and fell even more. Read on to see why I am so very impressed.
What is your background and how did you learn the techniques/skills to design and sew clothes?
I am the founder, designer, and creative director behind my namesake brand Emily Westenberger. I grew up in York, Pennsylvania and knew from a young age that I wanted to be a designer. I was first inspired by my mom who liked to quilt and sew. In high school, I would rework old clothing bought on consignment using a sewing machine my mother bought me. I always dreamt of moving to Los Angeles, California, which I did immediately after completion of my Fashion Merchandising and Marketing degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. After working on the buying end of fashion, I decided to pursue Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in downtown Los Angeles, which is where I gained more design related knowledge.
How did you get started in this business?
I created Emily Westenberger the brand during the COVID pandemic shortly after getting my degree in design.
I worked for a custom wedding dress designer in 2019 while I was getting my Fashion Design degree. The business shut down when Covid hit, so during quarantine I decided to start my own brand. I made a mini collection and opened my website in August 2020.
I produce everything made-to-order myself. I created a made-to-order brand for several reasons. One reason is that I am a new designer, so I want to be able to test new styles without the financial commitment that manufacturing entails. By making my styles to order, I don’t need to keep inventory. Since I am still learning about myself as a designer and learning about my target market, I don’t want to keep a large stock that would end up going to waste.
Down the road, as my business grows, I would still like to keep the made-to-order model because it is simpler. For example, I don’t need to worry about quality control when all the pattern-making, cutting, and sewing is done in my own studio. I’m also a slow fashion brand. Even if I did not use the made-to-order business model, I would focus on small scale production. I love fashion design because I love the process of designing, draping, cutting, and sewing. Manufacturing on a large scale takes away from the art of design, in my opinion. An added bonus is that made-to-order also allows me to customize sizing upon request, which allows for inclusive sizes.
Do you have a favorite material to work with?
I prefer working with natural fibers. Natural fibers handle heat better and don’t melt when ironing. This helps a lot during the production process. I also really like the feel of fabrics like silks, cottons, and wools compared to manufactured fibers.
Your clothes are absolutely beautiful, what inspires your creativity when designing a new season?
My brand represents quiet luxury for clothes that are meant to be fallen in love with and treasured with a focus on wearability, quality, effortlessness, and craftsmanship. I find that focusing on these qualities makes for more sustainable pieces that are still fashion forward with roots in timelessness, elegance, and a hint of glamour.
My muse is a woman who makes sensibility, charm, and politeness cool and modern, which is reflected in classic silhouettes that are never overly sexy but still fun. I love to pull inspiration from vintage photographs and designers like Pierre Cardin and Balenciaga. I often find myself designing around a certain vintage element that I love, and I try to figure out how I can make it modern and more my style.
I love art and design in general, so I feel inspired by architecture, interior design, and artwork.
Do you have a piece that you’ve designed that has special meaning to you?
My Eloise dress is a design that resonates the most with me and my customers. It’s been my best seller, and even when designing it I knew it was something special. I’ve since used that design, which was from my first collection, to inspire other designs and help build my signature style
What is your favorite part of owning, designing, and running a clothing company? What is the hardest part?
It’s always been my goal to have something of my own, and the only way to do that is to create it on your own. My favorite part is being my own boss and following my own vision.
It’s pretty scary to just start putting your work out there. It can also be lonely sometimes because I am a small business, and it’s my vision aka not anybody else’s. It’s hard for other people to relate to that.
Self-motivation is so important in my life. If I wake up one day and decide I am not going to do anything, then guess what happens- nothing gets done!! No one else will do it for me. I have to be so disciplined and motivated to keep things moving. I get in a rut sometimes, but I have little tricks to get myself motivated. I am constantly managing online marketing, social media, the website, reaching out to stylists/buyers, sourcing, producing, sketching, fulfilling orders, sewing, hiring, organizing photoshoots, gifting, and on top of that designing new collections. It’s a lot of work to say the least. I have to force myself to rest sometimes.
I also invest my own money into my business, so I work a full time job completely separate from fashion in order to pay my bills. I’m so proud to be building something everyday. It takes time, but I know that as I am getting better as a designer and shipping my work, it will pay off. I constantly remind myself about what I want from creating my own brand. I want to be the best designer I can be, which involves designing every day. I also want to impact the world with my own love for small scale fashion and be able to educate others on the process and art of designing. When I focus on those two things, it gets me through my busy day.
I’m grateful that I have control over my brand and can shed light on things that are important to me like slow fashion and the inhumane practices of fast fashion brands. I hope to one day not only be an influential voice for workers who are mistreated, but also contribute to solving the issue itself.
What does a typical day look like for you?
If I’m not working my full time job, I wake up, make my coffee, and take care of answering emails, IG messages, and engaging in social media – pretty much all the computer related things get done first. Afterwards, I will go for a walk or run and do some sort of exercise. From there I work on fulfilling orders or new designs. I am more of a morning person, so I like to do the bulk of my work before early afternoon and then I’ll do the less tiring work later in the day.
If I have to go to my job, I will typically wake up at 6am and work in my studio until 10am when I leave to go to my full time job.
Emily did an interview that goes more into sustainability and her brand, which you can read here: https://medium.com/@shopsustainably/embracing-made-to-order-fashion-through-emily-westenberger-1a75162cf78c
Emily does everything herself as she builds her brand, Emily Westenberger. I love her determination and drive, and the fact that she’s concerned about sustainability, plus her clothes are gorgeous! Be sure to check out Emily’s fall collection. I’ve seen some sneak peeks on Instagram and am so excited to see what she has designed!