The fashion industry is constantly being revolutionized with the advent of new designers. One of the newest designers to make her mark in the fashion industry is Wendy Pepper. Wendy has been dressmaking for the past 20 years and now specializes in Haute Couture. Her major breakthrough occurred just this past year when she was chosen as one of three finalists on the Bravo reality series “Project Runway”. “Project Runway” showcased Wendy’s creativity and unique sense of style for the world to see.
Born in Dayton, Ohio and growing up in Washington DC, Wendy’s memories include observing her mother getting ready for a night out in the city. This according to Wendy was the ideal reflection of beauty. Wendy received a degree in anthropology from the University of Washington. Throughout college she studied abroad in Nepal, which ultimately helped to spark her interest in designing and working with fabrics. Wendy began to weave carpets with the women of Nepal, and realized the importance of this activity within the community. She found it was a way for women to bond with one another. After she received her degree Wendy returned to her families’ hometown in Virginia. There she continued learning about textiles, spinning raw wool, fabric-painting, and quilting. This led her from weaving rugs to sewing dresses.
Today there is an increasing demand for Wendy Pepper’s designs. Unlike most designers she works closely with all of her clients, and gets to know each one personally. This allows her to tailor the design to each individual, and create a design based on their needs. It is important to Wendy that her designs accurately represent each of her clients. Wendy places a huge emphasis on the meaning behind her designs. It isn’t enough that her designs are beautiful they must also be symbolic and have a strong significance to women. Although her designs are sexy and stylish this is not the main goal of her designs. “I am committed to designing clothes for women that accent their feminine power, but not at the expense of presenting them as a purely sexual being,” states Pepper. Currently Wendy is also working on a line that will be more affordable for those who are outside the world of haute couture. Wendy is determined to have women everywhere wear clothing that represents confidence, power, and intellect. We caught up with Wendy Pepper to get an inside look at what it was like to be on one of tv's hottest shows, Project Runway, her favorite places to travel and what she picks up along the way....
FACTIO MAGAZINE: Give us an inside look at your company. WENDY PEPPER: I run a continually expanding business out of my working studio in Middlburg, Virginia. What used to be a small business is now growing into something special. The type of thing in the past that could only be found in my dreams. I have a showroom where I display my current collection and a workroom open to the public by appointment. I produce individual custom pieces for private clients throughout the country, and I specialize in providing discreet and personal consultations on a wide variety of style issues. I have recently produced my first ready-to-wear evening collection and it is for sale exclusively at Santangelo and Sandridge in Middleburg, Virignia.
FM: What was the best aspect about being on Bravo’s hit show, Project Runway? WP: In fashion, the number one challenge facing an emerging designer is to establish name recognition. Project Runway made me a household name and gave me the opportunity to show my collection at Olympus Fashion Week in Bryant Park in February 2005. From that experience I have broadened my network of customers and professional associates, and realized a level of productivity and information exchange I could never have previously hoped for.
FM: Describe your signature style. WP: I seek to fuse the eternal classical ideal with an openly contemporary spirit, striking a balance between commercial viability and decorative invention.
FM: What are your favorite shops worldwide? (Any specifics in Washington D.C. or Virginia)? WP: I love small boutiques where the merchandise is displayed with careful consideration for the sensory enjoyment of the customer. I feel that shopping is ideally a journey towards a personal connection with a designer’s vision, and I have found that this occurs most successfully in an intimate setting.
FM: Where are some of your favorite places to travel and what do you always pick up for your wardrobe? WP: I adore wandering down the odd street in Europe and chancing upon a hidden jewel of a workspace and showroom. I can visit for hours with the designer. I can never own enough stockings/tights/socks. It’s the one thing I know I won’t be making for myself, and I can make a personal fashion statement with my leg wear while still maintaining an otherwise muted appearance. I buy them wherever I go because they remind me of my travels and my impressions of the local color.
FM: What are you always on the hunt for? WP: I am forever striking up conversations with women I meet and constantly inquiring how the fashion industry succeeds and fails to meet their needs. I am always comparing their feedback with the design guidelines I work by. What I’m on the hunt for? I’m watchful of my customer and what she can’t find, and why, and how I can provide it.
FM: What are some of the staples we’d find in your closet? WP: I wear bright colors as often as I can. I take advantage of my professional license to dress as I please. I absolutely can’t live without my high heeled suede boots.
FM: What women and men (from which city worldwide) have great style and why? WP: I think women everywhere have great style, but the degree to which they have permitted themselves a personal relationship with fashion depends on how many other life sustaining factors take precedence.
FM: Do you think money and style go hand in hand or can style never be bought? Is it something you just have? WP: Style is an internal compass that guides one to authentic expression in the face of mass pressure to the contrary. The presence or absence of money lends that experience more of less charm depending on where one falls on the continuum of devotion to being unique. In my experience, style is derived from one’s willingness to explore the mysteries of life with an open mind.
FM: What does global style mean to you? WP: I happen to value the distinctive characteristics created by natural boundaries – whether those be geographic or temporal. I appreciate the cumulative acquisition of cultural elements that result in a representative sartorial style. Fashion for me is about personal expression, and discovering the familiar in the foreign.
FM: What would people be most surprised to know about you? WP: I do not own a TV.
FM: Did you know when you started designing that the company would rise to the success that it has? WP: I set out to create a structure whereby I could serve the needs of my customer. I always hoped that I would be successful in that venture, and I am happy to report that it has exceeded my wildest expectations.
FM: What business advice and inspiration can you give to entrepreneurs? WP: Be honest about what you want to bring to your operation. Understand what the general qualifications are, and then honestly analyze what makes your contribution specifically valuable and distinct.
FM: What tips would you give women and men in general to be well rounded, balancing out life and business? WP: Decide what your mission is, and include some aspect of that journey in every decision you make and take time each day to forward your vision.
FM: Where do you see the brand and yourself in five years? WP: Successful brands embody humanist values that transcend time and outlast changes. They reflect the moral and aesthetic feeling of their time, with an eye towards emerging cultural trends. Modern life is marked by constant change and growth and as I watch my daughter mature, I will guide her in her search for her place in the world and her special contribution. I will be nurturing her quest for self realization much the same way I foster creative investigation into the ephemeral and eternal concepts that inform fashion choices for the modern woman.
- Melissa Maynard
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