Built by Wendy

December 20, 2017

Wendy Mullin is one of New York's most established independent fashion designers and the driving force behind the Built by Wendy clothing line. A native of Chicago, Wendy founded her company in 1991 while studying at the University of Kansas, where she sold her handmade clothing from a laundry line in her front yard. She moved to New York in 1992 to study at FIT. She also worked as a costume designer and stylist for music videos by bands such as Sleater Kinney and Pavement, and as freelance designer for Kim Gordon's X-Girl collection as well as Mike D's X-Large. In 1998, Wendy opened her first flagship retail store on Centre Market Place in the Little Italy/Chinatown neighborhood of New York City and shops in Brooklyn, San Francisco and Los Angeles soon followed. She currently lives in LA and NY.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I’m a clothing designer. I started my business over 25 years ago when I was in college. I design and produce my own line and sell it on my website and select boutiques. I’m a one woman show!

How did your interest in art or fashion begin? As a kid I always did art and later when I was about 12, my mom taught me how to sew. I got excited to create my own clothing and also connect with my mom creatively. I did film and art also but sewing and making clothing was something that I found relaxing and fun.

If you had to explain your work or brand to a stranger, what would you say? Uniquely classic clothing inspired by a very personal aesthetic. Sort of fashion forward with a nod to the past.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? I gather up imagery and do sketches weekly, or whenever I’m inspired, then when I’m ready to design I pull everything out and intuitively choose shapes and ideas that feel fresh to me. I source fabrics, make patterns, and develop samples. I also put together a color story to work from. Then I go through everything and “test” which means I think “Would I wear this?” “Would my friends wear this?” and I try to cover a lot of bases of different people I know. But sometimes I just make stuff because I want to and I know maybe people won’t wear it or someday they will.

What artists or designers are you interested in right now? I am a big fan of interior design and dabble with it on the side. So mostly I just obsess on interiors and objects and that sort of thing. I love Joseph Dirand, an interior designer.

What’s your favorite thing about your city? I’m in LA for the year so I really find seeing trees and mountains around me really great.

What are your thoughts about the fashion scene in LA? It’s been an adjustment coming to LA and figuring out the weather which is chilly in the morning and then it gets warm. I find that I’m doing a lot of layers and obviously everything is much more casual than NY.

What was the last collection you saw that stuck out to you? I always love anything Dries Van Noten does and really love that line Delpozo.

What is your snack/beverage of choice when working in your studio? Jug of water on my desk. Sometimes I feel run down and realize it’s because I’m dehydrated. I don’t really snack, not for any real reason, I just eat my meals and seem good with that.

If you hadn’t become a designer what do you think you’d be doing? I’ve been doing screenwriting on the side for the past few years as fashion is a bit limited for the ideas I have. So maybe I would be in film. But I love design, so maybe an interior designer as I have always redesigned spaces wherever I am, like the doctor’s office or something, I’m like, “they should move the reception desk over there.” Stuff like that.

What are you listening to right now? I always love any of the Ethiopiques releases.