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Whitney Manney: Confident, Fearless and Unapologetically Authentic

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Whitney Manney believes de-constructing is a key element in re-constructing.

The Kansas City, Missouri, native became so enamored with fashion as a teen that she decided to teach herself sewing by purchasing thrift store items and ripping them apart to analyze how to put them back together. Now, after nearly a decade of exploring the world of design, she’s heralded as a darling of the Kansas City fashion scene, designing bright textiles in graphic patterns, reflecting her statement in clothes that any woman can wear.

“I was always a creative kid. I had to be because I was six foot tall and constantly growing out of my clothes. I would get something and only get a couple of wears out of it before it didn’t fit anymore. That’s when I decided that I could remix them and turn them into something new,” laughed Whitney. “On my thirteenth birthday I got a sewing machine from my mom, but there were no sewing classes at school, and I didn’t know anyone who sewed. So I taught myself. I thrifted a lot and took things apart to teach me how to construct a garment, then I moved into paper patterns and kept on going from there.”

Textile Expertise
Building on that drive and determination, Whitney has established WHITNEY MANNEY ready-to-wear women’s clothing and accessories. She combines her innovative textiles designed with distinctive shapes, yet she remains true to her street art and urban-inspired roots. Whitney also offers freelance textile design and fashion and textile-based education workshops.

“I’m a textile designer and that was my focus at Kansas City Art Institute. I design the patterns for the fabrics and all of those involve some type of hand process, dying or digital textile design. For instance, I may create an art piece, take a picture, digitally manipulate it and have it printed on fabric,” explained Whitney. “The pattern is a chance for me to tell the story of my inspiration, piquing the levels of investigation by the viewer and the person wearing it to come up with their own meaning. I’m inspired by street art and working with an environment rather than working against it. For instance, how can my pattern enhance the body or space of a woman? I’m also inspired by stories and cultural movements that shape our urban landscape such as women’s rights, city life and black culture. How can I process, dissect and transfer that into a textile design and then create the clothing?”

Warp and Weft
Interpreting the equation of street art and the effects of cultural and urban segments into ready-to-wear wearable art and textile design is a challenging role for this 28-year-old. By experimenting with many accustomed fiber methods, her textiles are painstakingly hand created and digitally influenced in the studio. From beginning to end, Whitney hypothesizes, drapes, forms, analyzes, revamps and constructs all of her pieces. To ensure the utmost quality, she employs only fabric print services guaranteed to achieve the finest product. These same stringent standards are engaged when developing her fabrics. Through each garment and accessory, she “challenges women to wear their statement.”

For the young woman who made pillowcases for her girlfriends’ moms to have spending money for new sneakers or “whatever I wanted from Taco Bell,” her success during the five years that she’s established her label has brought rich acclaim. WHITNEY MANNEY clothing is constantly chatted up in many fashion and art blogs. Kansas City media outlets have marveled about her designs. Boutiques and stores have clamored to feature her collection, including a major display in Halls Kansas City. She’s been showcased in more than a dozen local and regional runway and gallery shows, including solo exhibitions at The Box Gallery, UMKC Gallery of Art, Kansas City Fashion Week, Saint Louis Fashion Week and Mulvane Art Museum at Washburn University. The Drugstore Studios in Westport Kansas City has landed Whitney as a resident artist.

Art in Life
Whitney is keenly focused on changing the mindset of simply wearing clothing to viewing fashion as art displayed on the body. With her creative processes, it’s easy to embrace that notion and so have many others. She’s received the 2017 AltCap Your Business award, 2015 M-AAA Artistic Innovations prize and she’s a 2013 ArtsKC Inspiration Grant recipient. She has teaching partnerships with the HALO Foundation and various area schools.

“I was in KC Fashion Week and Saint Louis Fashion Week and retailing in two stores. It was enough that I knew I was onto something, and I just kept growing it. Then in 2014, I did Halls. This was an amazing opp. They ordered so many things from me. It was a golden opportunity, and if I needed to stay up for two weeks, I did it to fulfill the order,” noted Whitney. “Because I design my patterns, I’ve been able to take advantage of opportunities that are more like fine arts. I won a grant, developed a fully digital collection and showed it at KC Fashion Week. In 2015, I won the Mid America Arts Alliance artistic grant and worked with a gallery downtown to display my fashion.”

Never one to shy away from experimenting with her own look, Whitney has developed the motto “Get in where you fit in and everywhere in between” to guide her business processes and her own feelings of self. “It’s about finding your place, making it your own and being distinctive at it. Be confident, fearless and unapologetically authentic. I’ve experienced that through the growth of my art,” shared Whitney. “I’m to the point where I won’t allow anyone to tell me what I can and cannot do. I would say that you need to make a place for you, and I’ll make a space for me as well, and we’ll be at the table together.”

Step Out
Whitney realizes her bold designs and vivid colors may not initially attract everyone, but she encourages all to take a chance, making a statement about who they are and what they can be. “So many times I hear women say that they could never wear my designs or pull it off. Well, who told them that? They did!” Whitney exclaimed. “I make separates with the idea to incorporate them into your everyday wear. Don’t wear it just once or twice,” she stated. “I want people to feel the confidence that they should have when they put on my designs. Your look speaks for you before you even say hello. Fashion is a communicator for the many facets of your personality. ‘How do I want to present myself?’ Be true to yourself; besides, life’s too short to wear boring clothes.”

She thinks of her work as art because of the finished creation and the process of producing the work. Given that, the last three runway shows she’s done were produced by her in an art gallery setting. “Runway shows may be done in five minutes, but I wanted a fashion presentation,” she said. “After opening night, I can display the clothing in the gallery for the next two weeks and create an environment for the clothing to live in and for others to view.”

Creative Evolution
Whitney understands that some creative types may believe they don’t have the knack for running a business, but she points out that creating art requires an analytic process to culminate in a final piece. “You have to understand those voices within yourself. It can be easy to get freaked out on sales goals and being in the black, but you still have to cultivate your creative spirit. If I’m not creative, there’s no business. It’s okay to feel concern but maybe you need to make yourself dinner or stay in bed for a bit longer. Anxiety and depression can be very real for creative types. It’s about self-care. Did I eat today, drink water today or go for a walk? Give yourself rules and take good care of yourself,” she commented. “For new entrepreneurs, I suggest you find your ‘person’ that isn’t related to you to help guide you. Support can come from sources you never considered.”

The future looks amazingly bright for this young woman, and Whitney relishes the good fortune that can come from hard work and having the support of others. Her creative spirit and methodical mind have combined to offer the world innovative, fun fashions that are works of art to be worn on the body.

“I’m never going to give up, and I’ll figure out a way to get anything done. It’s about self-discovery and understanding my aha moments. This is who I am and I’m going to let you know it, while I keep growing and showing who I am as a person,” revealed Whitney. “It’s that grit to never give up, dig in and learn and understand the importance of constantly evolving as a person. You won’t be just one person forever.”