Guest Designer Interview: Whitney Manney

Interview: Whitney Manney





Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What is your community like?

My name is Whitney Manney, I am a fashion and textile designer from Kansas City, Missouri

KC is an arts town! We have a lot of thriving visual & performing arts institutions that are really supportive of the arts community. It is an interesting experience to be a fashion designer based in the Midwest, but I always felt like if I could make it here then it was meant to be

Why did you initially choose to make garments? Did you teach yourself to sew?

I started sewing at the age of 13, I taught myself to sew by deconstructing my old clothes and remixing them into something new. I loved taking apart my old jeans and turning them into skirts and purses. I eventually took a fashion class in high school and wanted to learn more.


You seem to create in many different ways – garment making, jewelry, photography, fine art. Are you professionally trained in any of these areas, or did they come about because of your desire to explore new avenues?

Designing in multiple mediums feels so natural to me, I think I’m just curious about finding how many ways I can express myself through art. I took all kinds of art classes growing up: ceramics, darkroom photography, creative writing, mixed media, etc. so that has carried on into my professional career.


How did the WHITNEYMANNEY brand begin? Where do you see your brand going in the future?

I went into school knowing that the end goal was to be an entrepreneur. I grew up in a family of business owners so I always felt like I could make it happen. Art school was a very interesting and challenging experience but it helped me shape the vision of WM and my artistic voice. My brand officially started in 2014 and it has been such a unique journey. I am looking forward to growing the brand while being based in Kansas City, MO. I look forward to doing more wardrobe design work, expanding my e-commerce platform, exploring more materials, and producing more show

Can you tell us about StudioWM in Westside Kansas City? Who do you work with there? 

StudioWM is my second home! It’s the biggest space I’ve had so far and is perfectly located. I’m near the Crossroads Art District, Westport, and the Plaza. I do everything in this space! I paint, dye fabric, sew, and everything in between. I have enough space for all of my sewing machines, but probably need to squeeze in one more cutting table. I work alone in the space, I am working towards hiring a part-time studio assistant. 


What do you find challenging about creating garments for sale? Or even jewelry?


I think the hardest part is trusting yourself! As a business owner, I have to keep the bottom line in mind but I still need to love what I am making. The passion that I put into a design will come across to my audience and they will be able to understand the value. I try to approach it that way instead of guessing and trying to make what I think everyone wants

What can you tell us about the chicken project with @thecitygirlfarm. You got kind of carried away, didn’t you? (Please include the IG photo March 18, 2021)

City Girl Farm is a fiber studio specializing in chicken footstools. They create beautiful knitted and felted fabrics and use those to create really cool functional art in the form of chicken footstools. Sally, the owner, and I connected a few years ago and she and her teammate Carly approached me about collaborating on a chicken and the project quickly grew. I haven’t worked in felting, knitting, etc. since college so it was fun to be hands-on with the process while learning new techniques. They wanted to create a bold and bright collection, which is not normal for their brand, so I was the perfect artist to work with!


When you need to recharge, where do you turn for inspiration?

I have to make a concentrated effort to enjoy hobbies but roller skating and reading are definitely my top two. Roller skating helps me move my body and clear my head especially when it’s a nice day to skate outdoors.
I enjoy reading so much! Whether I have a physical book or am listening to an audiobook, I always have a pile of books checked out from the library. I enjoy YA fiction, mystery, biographies of artists/fashion designers, and art research books.


Describe your typical day. Do you work on a fixed schedule? Do you adjust your schedule based on what you have going on?

I try to set a schedule for the week on Sundays but a lot of stuff just pops up. I have a general idea of how the week needs to flow, deadlines, and steps. I am at the studio a minimum of 6 hours a day but my day consists of work from home + studio mix, so my days can be long.

If you had to choose only one of the things you love to do, which would it be?

Dyeing fabric


How do you give back to your community?

As a Kansas City, MO-raised and based artist, it is incredibly important for me to stay plugged in and active in the community. I am thankful to have developed a long-standing relationship with the local organization HALO Foundation. HALO focuses on providing housing, tutoring, life skill work professional development and healing through outlets like art for the youth of Kansas City and beyond. During my eight years with HALO, I have volunteered to teach sewing/fashion classes to the children they serve. As community members of the city’s urban core, some of my students are a part of restart programs or are living in homeless shelters. For a few hours a week during the summer, they can take their minds off of their outside worries and learn problem-solving skills, find their creative voice, and gain confidence while learning how to sew.

Where can readers find your work, either to purchase or admire?


What are you reading right now?

Dava Shastri's Last Day by Kirthana Ramisetti


Fill in the blank: On my nightstand you’ll find ______.            


My glasses, iPad, and earrings  


Hop over to Whitney's Jean Applique project here.