Meet: Staci Woo
MEET: STACI WOO
LINE OF WORK : DESIGNER - THE HOUSE OF WOO
A: Tell me a little about yourself.
S: I’m Staci, I was born in Northern California and now currently residing in Santa Monica. I have been running The House of Woo since 1997.
A: So is this company called I love woo or woo and can you tell me about your other collections you have in this store?
S: The company started off as Woo. It has transformed in so many ways now that we have the store. The building is called The House of Woo, which encompasses the retail, the workshops that we do in the back, and now we just started design studio, which is all under the name of The House of Woo. We also have The Sand & Sea Club, The Uplifters, Canyon Gear, and The La Nina Collection.
A: Do you design for all the collections?
A: That’s crazy!
A: How did you get into designing?
S: While attending UC Santa Barbara as an art major, I was interning as an assistant for a swimwear company. Eventually they allowed me to start designing for their ready to wear beach line. This experience actually launched me into the industry. I was given so many responsibilities at such a young age with very little experience, which was very exciting.
A: How did The House of Woo all start?
S: So after graduating from UC Santa Barbara and living there for a while I moved to Los Angeles and began working for Adriano Goldschmied and Ron Herman. They owned a denim line called Agolde. I learned so much from Adriano and Ron they were such huge mentors to me and when I left that job when Adriano left to do something else, I didn’t know what to do. I knew I wanted to be in fashion but I didn’t want to work for another designer, I had set such a high bar after working for them. So I began making these bags on my own and somehow with whatever experience I had, I was able to sell them to some specialty stores then eventually I began adding in some clothes, working with garment dye and it just all started to evolve from there.
A: How many people do you have in your team or do you work alone?
S: Good question! So my husband runs the business side of the company and I do the designing and creative side. I also have a great and very loyal team that I have had for a long time. I got the same sample sewer, sample cutter, and office manager that have been here for about 10 years. I have a great assistant who is amazing as well as my retail girls who help with the store up front. So under this building we have about seven people here, it’s quite a small team. As for running production we have factories in downtown that we work with as well as our sales reps.
A: So you mentioned you had two mentors, did you have any other mentors that also helped you build up Woo?
S: There are a lot of people that I have met down this path that I have been able to lean on for help. They helped guided and navigated me through my problems. I had a couple of various people throughout my struggles.
A: How did you gain connections in this industry?
S: For me I gained my connections through Adriano and Ron. When you work for someone so revered, that opens many doors and connections. I think it has to do with your work ethics and how you treat people like your vendors, customers, your friends, and your partners. From there I think it was just all about putting in the effort to build a relationship. You will find a lot of great networks where they will be totally okay with lending you the information. I have no problem calling up someone I would consider competition and ask them who they use for a problem.
A: Where and what materials do you source?
S: Most of our fabrics are bought from fabric vendors that we have used over the years. We use a lot of simple fabrics like knits, jerseys, supima cotton, linens, and tencels. We also buy stock fabrics from local fabric vendors in the market. Some of our embellishments are actually imported, but we try to use fabrics from domestic vendors but of course it varies per season. We love using quality, soft handed, feel good fabrics that will be durable and sustainable. For our line, we are not chasing fast fashion. We like to keep our concepts very basic and minimal. When we started out, we were using repurposed cashmeres, Hawaiian shirts, and kimonos that actually placed us on the map of up cycling. Back then, up cycling and eco friendly designs were not that major but now everyone is trying to incorporate the two when designing. We still try to keep our lines true to our intentions. It’s super easy to just buy fabric on bolts, roll them out, and cut quantities. When we repurposed fabrics, it was more of a challenge because we had to sift through piles for the right colors, for the right season, the overall cleanliness, to cutting and working around small holes and stains. I think it made our line more special by giving the repurposed fabrics a connection to its original roots.
A: So the first time I stumbled upon The House of Woo, I spoke to Bailey who actually told me a little about your store and she mentioned that you have workshop for little kids! Can you tell me more about that?
S: Yes! So we keep the same kind of concept of repurposing fabrics at these workshops. Usually when we have left over fabrics instead of throwing them away, we keep the scraps and catalog them. Once we had this space, we opened it up for the public to see our design studio and began inviting kids to attend The Little Woo Workshops. They pick their favorite fabrics through the archived library and then assign them to their chosen pre-patterned garment. They can be as creative as they want and choose the fabric for their binding, to the color of their zipper and thread, and tweaking the length of their garment. It’s so interesting to see what they choose and it’s so nostalgic to see old signature fabrics we have used in the past collections being resurrected into little t-shirts or dresses. It’s fun to see! It has been a really creative experience for us to see their lack of inhibition when they are designing too. It’s so raw and truly creative they way kids design.
A: That is so cute! It seems so great! What if the kid grows up and decides to pursue fashion because this workshop got them into designing? How cool would that be that you made an impact on a person at such a young age!
S: I hope so! I mean, I hope whether or not they become designers, igniting creativity in these kids and seeing something they designed come to life is amazing. With The Little Woo Workshop they have accessibilities to all the materials and tools they need. They get to learn and be responsible in a setting that is not necessarily suited for kids, they don’t get the dumbed down version of anything here. I think this is a very interesting process. Even for adults! They come back here and are amazed at what they see. Things I find so simple like seeing a sample cutter cut a pattern or seeing our sample sewer stitch together a sweatshirt or a zipper or whatever, to a lot of people it is very fascinating. When you are in something for too long you forget it’s something unique, so it becomes rewarding to see people’s reaction.
A: Can I help one day? Hahah
S: Yea! Of course!
A: What inspires you and how do you keep inspired?
S: That’s a good question, for me, I get inspired most under deadlines which is terrible. I come up with the best ideas right before I need to have it done like a trade show or an event. So I have to retrain myself to get inspired earlier. Most of my inspiration comes from people. Watching people, traveling and seeing their cultures. It’s not really the fashion and what they wear but more of how they live, how they travel, and interact. It’s more inspiring to me with the way they carry themselves collaboratively. Interior design and even landscapes inspires me. I can’t say it all comes from one thing. It’s definitely a day-to-day experience, my kids or kids who come in for the workshops. If you put things together with confidence it will all come and fall in place. Be malleable and shift if something doesn’t work right for you. For my brands I curate what appeals to me. Sometimes someone might not get my look, but if you brand it right and make it unique to you brand it becomes something great.
A: So you also work with garment dye and screen-printing, can you tell me about that?
S: Garment dye is wonderful! The thing I love about garment dye from a business and creative standpoint, it is again, very malleable. You can cut and sew hundreds and hundreds of the same style garments but you have the flexibility to do tons of different looks with each one of them. You also can’t beat the hand feel after it has been garment dyed and treated. There’s got to be a shift the way garment dye is done though, it is very wasteful with water and chemicals so we are always looking for new ways that will have less impact on the environment. For silk screen-printing there are different ways to transfer a design onto a garment or fabric. You can screen print the traditional way, to block printing, foiling printing, and make something really different. We have a silkscreen company we work with in downtown that has the most amazing archives of all these different processes.
A: 3 tips you would like to pass on!
S: That’s hard, there’s more than three! My top three would be, you really need to follow your passion. There are so many creative jobs out there, the reason why people are hiring you is because they want your vision. So the one thing you have to do is stick to what your passion is, and what you believe in. It’s really hard to do because you want to make money off of your business so you want to listen to what other people are asking for but also staying true. I sort of took a leap of faith at such a young age, because I knew I was passionate about it and it’s something I knew I wanted to do in the long run. My second tip is to NOT OVER THINK THINGS. That was a huge bonus for me being so young and not having to over think about anything. I was only about 23 years old at the time I started. I was not tied down to anything, I had no one else to consider but myself. In terms of designing, the way I started was when the designers were the untouchables, like they were celebrities in a way. For me I worked for a big name denim designer who was and still is a true creative. Being his assistant I had to learn everything. These new generation of designers I think are just stuck in being creative. You also have to design with production and practicality in mind. Understand how it’s going to translate into retail and how the margins are going to work. So my last tip would be this: in this business, having limitations can actually help you become more creative. When you don’t have set limitations or any structure, that’s when things begin to spiral and you start losing focus. Some designers have the funds to do whatever they want, but for my company, it’s all about margins.
A: How many designs do you do per season?
S: Normally per line we have about 40 pieces but they are not all brand new. We like to reinvent what does well for us. Revamping a popular style by changing the fabrics and or changing the sleeve or length.
A: Do you do any collaboration?
S: We do a lot of collaborations within The House of Woo. We do artist collaborations that is done within the retail sector.
A: Can one get involved with The House of Woo?
S: Definitely! The retail store has really opened that up for us. Many people we meet are creative locals in the community. That’s how we came up with most of our artist collaborations. We have been in the arts districts for ten years and we have a really strong network of neighbors.
Check out Staci!