Whitney Port: Bairbre Power talks exclusively to the star of 'The City'
Bairbre Power talks exclusively to 'The City' star Whitney Port about her own fashion collection and launching a limited-edition tote bag here in aid of Barretstown
As fashion-themed TV shows go, MTV's 'The City' had a sprinkling of stylish fairy dust that made it maddeningly addictive. Doe-eyed Whitney Port (26), the former 'Teen Vogue' intern with impossibly long legs, was rewarded with this spin-off show of her own after 'The Hills', in which she had stood out for her effortless style while, all around her, the nails were out -- not to mention the 2.55 Chanel bags.
Emerging from the shadows of the Lauren Conrad v Heidi Montag catfight (both ladies have launched their own fashion collections, with mixed success), Port took on the New York style queens. She launched her own label, Whitney Eve, and was mentored by her acid-tongued boss, PR guru Kelly Cutrone, and the queen of the wrap dress, Diana von Furstenberg.
Now back in LA where she is nurturing her fashion collection after the success of a styling book earlier this year, Port admits her personal style has changed a little. "I've gone a bit more casual because I'm living in Los Angeles. In New York, you tend to get a little bit more sophisticated because you're going to sophisticated places."
The day we spoke, her office look was baggy grey jeans, gold flats and a flannel, button-down shirt. A shopping trip that day to Virgo, a fabulously curated vintage store in downtown LA yielded some gems. (Note to diary: Virgo, 216E 9th Street. Tel: 001 213 988 8899)
The Whitney Eve collection hums with a user-friendly vibe and an attractive, trans-seasonal appeal, delivering a strong feminine take on menswear.
It's a look she espoused on 'The City', and five favourite looks in her wardrobe this summer are: floral maxi dresses; cut-off shorts; printed blouses; wedges, and flowing sweaters.
Her jumpsuits were designed as a chic alternative to dresses, and her summer bestseller -- an olive silk one -- has a very flattering silhouette. It costs €315 at Alila boutique in Drury Street, Dublin, exclusive stockists of the range in Ireland.
Whitney is enthusiastic about her upcoming autumn/winter 2011 collection. "It is a feminine, day-to-night look with lots of silks and print placements; you can wear it to work or accessorise it for a night out."
Every designer has their favourite, and Port's is the 'Eva' silk ruffle-front blazer in punchy colours which she wore for the launch of her book, 'True Whit: Designing a Life of Style, Beauty, and Fun'.
The 'Zuri', a modern take on the wrap dress, caught my eye and made me think her time working with Diane von Furstenberg was creatively constructive. A veteran of 'Teen Vogue', 'Women's Wear Daily' and 'W magazine', Port says the work placements gave her so much experience.
"It's one thing to be a designer and have that creative intuition, but it's another thing to see the business behind it," she says.
Reflecting on what she learned working in New York, Port says: "With Diane Von Furstenberg, it was about designing for every woman and not thinking in a box, and really making a well-rounded collection.
"Kelly Cutrone at People's Revolution taught me that it was okay to step out of the lines and that I wasn't ever going to get anywhere by just being average; that I had to take some chances and not be afraid of failure because sometimes when you fail, it gets you to that next point.
"Right now, I'm at an age where I'm trying to figure everything out. I don't have all the answers and, professionally, I would just like to continue the line and the whole brand."
Port has parked her trademark honey-blonde hair for a reddish, 'sun-kissed apricot' look that is getting as many column inches as the end of her romance with 'Buried Alive' star Ben Nemtin.
Spreading her wings, Port makes her first visit to Ireland on July 1 to launch the Summertime Festival at Kildare Village, a four-week shopping, entertainment and Irish artisan event. Kildare Village commissioned Port to design a limited-edition canvas tote to celebrate the summer festival. The €15 cream bag is available only at the outlet mall and all profits will go to Barretstown children's camp.
"My fall 2011 fashion collection is a modern feminine take on tribal wear, so the tote has a really cool tribal print. I thought it would be something cool, with universal appeal for men and women," she says.
Port displays a maturity for someone so young in the tough ragtrade, but she grew up in the industry and her father "has been in the apparel business forever", so he provided advice and contact. She is clearly listening to feedback, too, such as requests from fans to cater for more body shapes and sizes.
"Yes, I've lots of requests and it's something that I definitely have to pay attention to. We provide size zero through to 10, but I'm definitely working more towards creating silhouettes that fit more body types."
With two TV series under her belt, Port reveals she is still in contact with some of her former colleagues. Which ones? I press. "I talk to Roxy and Kelly, both from 'The City'. Other than that, I haven't really kept in touch much with people." No surprises there.
She knows what she wants to achieve with her fashion career and hopes to expand beyond clothing into accessories.
"I want to be able to empower girls through fashion. I want to show that fashion can be that creative expression of your personality, that it's okay to be different, that trends aren't necessarily there just to be followed and to take chances with your wardrobe."
Fans can meet Whitney from 7.30pm next Friday, July 1 at Kildare Village. She'll be signing her bespoke designed tote bags, selling for €15 in aid of children's charity Barretstown