Black History Month Feature - Q&A
Whitney Manney of WHITNEYMANNEY Designs is a Kansas City native who created her independent label to pursue design and make an impact on her community. Her belief that fashion is art is shown through her innovative collections and colorful designs. All of the clothes at WHITNEYMANNEY are handmade with the highest quality of fabrics, and each collection is unique. We caught up with Whitney to ask about her goals for the brand and about what inspires her during Black History Month.
WHITE RHINO: When you began building your brand were there any unexpected challenges you faced? Any pleasant surprises?
WHITNEY MANNEY: I think time management was the biggest challenge I faced. It took me quite a while to find the perfect balance of delegation, taking time off, being okay with saying no, and working smart. I've always been surprised that there are people who keep up with my career and are excited to see what I come up with next!
WR: People talk about having to ‘wear all the hats’ as an entrepreneur. What are three skills that you have or had to develop that you feel have been the most valuable?
WM: 1. Customer service- There have been many orders or contracts that I felt like I blew it but my ability to be honest and openly communicate with clients and quickly problem solve has helped my clients understand that I care about them and that I take pride in my work
2. Budgeting- So important! I always know what my "must-have" number is for every month to keep the doors open and I pay attention to how much I spend on creating a piece so that I can price myself appropriately. There is no need of lowballing myself if the quality is there
3. Storytelling- Creating a narrative and being open about my story as a designer and what is on my mind has made it easier to build an audience that engages with me, which is important for the organic growth of my business.
WR: Reflecting on Black History Month, who or what (could be a historical figure, movement, event, etc.) has been a point of inspiration for you?
WM: I've been studying the work and legacy of Lois K. Alexander-Lane heavy this year. She was monumental in the conservation of Black fashion and created platforms for Black designers to establish themselves and flourish during a time when the industry felt like we hadn't made any notable contributions. A few of my biggest Black fashion inspirations are Patrick Kelly, Eunice Johnson, Kimora Lee Simmons, and Jackie Peters-Cully.
WR: Whitney Manney's designs are bright, unique, and anything but boring. How do you find inspiration in designing your pieces, and what does your design process look like?
WM: I try not to be too controlling during the design process, I never want anything to feel forced. I am a big list maker and I often start with a running list of ideas, words, themes, etc. that I am interested in. After a bit of writing, I notice a pattern and build an inspiration board with images and research. I usually start with designing my fabrics and one or two really art-centered garments and then build out from there.
WR: Do you have any advice for aspiring designers?
WM: Never be afraid to keep learning, create a creative space that makes you feel at peace, and hold tight to creative peers who will support you and challenge you.
To shop Whitney’s ready-to-wear designs and learn more about the brand, check out whitneymanney.com