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It's been nearly five years since Whitney Port's reality series The City left the air and fans of the show have probably noticed the star's absence from television. It's not an early retirement, though. Whitney has instead devoted her time to her fashion line, Whitney Eve, which celebrates its fifth year with the current fall 2014 line.
We caught up with the former reality star, who was in Chicago this past weekend for her first-ever pop-up shop at Thompson Chicago, where guests shopped the new collection featuring geometric patterns and autumnal colors.
We spoke with Whitney about what inspired Whitney Eve's fall collection and how the line has evolved since the days she was just breaking out of her reality-TV career.—Courtney Ryan
Photo: Whitney Eve fall 2014 lookbook
Racked: What influenced this current collection?
Whitney Port: It's really centered around this beautiful, tiny floral print and some really awesome snake prints. We call it our "winter floral collection" because it definitely has that ode to a pretty garden setting but then has that edgy animal print injected into it. So it's like feminine silhouettes mixed with a little masculine grittiness.
R: You say this line is inspired by being bi-coastal. What do you think are the biggest distinctions between New York and LA fashion?
WP: Well, obviously because of weather [the cities] permit different kinds of styles. In LA it's lighter and more easy-going. And what you can wear to work is easier in terms of jeans and t-shirts and that relaxed look. In New York it's a bit more sophisticated but there's also that grittiness.
R: How did you bring those distinctions together to create this line?
WP: I think it's really about layering. Pretty feminine dresses with moto leather jackets––it's all how you mix it. In my collection there's a pair of skinny sweats but then you accessorize them with leather ankle boots or maybe a tuxedo-type blazer.
R: Which piece in the collection best reflects your personal style?
WP: I have a jacket called the Maricopa Jacket that is really comfortable and cozy but can be worn in so many different ways. You can dress it up or dress it down… it can easily be worn when you travel with sweats or jeans but it's also super cute over a little black dress with heels. I just love how versatile it can be. I think that's what really makes a great piece.
R: When did you you first want to become a designer?
WP: I think deep down within me I always wanted to be a designer. But I guess when I really made the decision to actually go for it was when I was about 24 and I had worked in all the different facets of the fashion industry as an intern and assistant. I realized design and creating was what I really wanted to do.
R: A lot of people were introduced to you through The Hills and The City. Do you find any similarities in creating a fashion line and creating a persona on television?
WP: You know, I think they are two totally separate things. I think the TV personality and the exposure from being on TV helped to launch my clothing line, but I think that creating a clothing line and showing it is a much more arduous task than being on television.
R: What was the biggest challenge for you when you took that leap from being on TV to becoming a designer?
WP: The exposure that I got from the TV show and having people look down on the clothing line because of it. I think that there's a negative connotation with being on reality TV and so when I came out with my clothing line I think people thought maybe this was a flash in the pan and that I was just doing it to make money. And that's totally not what it was. Everyone in my family has been in the clothing industry for years––my dad showed me the ropes. It's something I've been doing now for five years with just my family… So it was hard to break into it and have people actually take me seriously as a designer as opposed to just a reality TV star.
R: Now that you've been doing it for five years have you noticed that people take you more seriously?
WP: Yes, definitely. I think the longevity of the clothing line has proved to people that this is something here to stay.
R: How has Whitney Eve evolved since it first debuted?
WP: I was very young and the economy was very different [when it started] so I was designing for a very different demographic and using 100% silk and making dresses for $300–$500. I was kind of making what I would want to wear down a red carpet and quickly I learned that's not what people were shopping for. So I scaled it back a little bit and started making fashion-forward clothing at affordable prices. So now I'm a boutique brand but I'm still able to sell my clothes for $50–$200, which I think is really important. But it's still unique and different than what you find in your typical Zara or Top Shop.
R: Where do you see Whitney Eve in five years?
WP: I hope that it continues to grow. I'd like to be able to launch into different territories of the world. I hope to be able to see my clothing on more girls. That's the best part about designing: seeing your creations come to life and seeing girls choose to spend their hard-earned money on something I created.
· Whitney Eve [Official Site]