Will & Ivey has moved to the beautiful mountain town of Lake Tahoe!
In case you haven’t heard, the working mice of Will & Ivey and its founders have moved from their Nashville abode to a new adventure in the beautiful mountains of a lake that sits right on the border of California and Nevada. But why the move? We sat down with Sandra Ney, head designer and founder of Will & Ivey to find out more about the move and hear some exciting news about Will & Ivey’s very own store coming soon!
Ok Sandra, what a big move, why did you decide to head from your home in Nashville to Lake Tahoe?
All my 28 years of living in Tennessee my heart never stopped longing for my most treasured place in the U.S., Lake Tahoe. There are so many childhood treasured memories growing up at our Tahoe lakefront property in Carnelian Bay. The sparkle on the water, catching crawdads, waterskiing in the ice cold water, daydreaming in the row boat, suntanning, TAB and Peanut M&Ms, paint by number art, my mom painting on the patio, my parents’ best friends and their kids, Monopoly, miniature golfing, games at the dining table, and golfing with my dad, just to name a few. My grandfather, an architect in the Bay Area, built this cabin in 1939. The summer after my mom was adopted by my grandparents, she was eight at the time, they brought her to Lake Tahoe. It was a treasured spot for her and she continued that legacy for our family. We packed up after school was out and spent most of the summer there. Then several years in the winter time we would go snow skiing. I was three years old when I learned to both snow ski and water ski. To this day those are my most favorite hobbies.
What does it mean to you to have a store in Tahoe?
Community. I long to connect with people. It’s a vulnerable venture, but I long to offer my soft, favorite, comfy minimalist clothing for littles and their parents. I hope to encourage parents to find pause in their day and connect with their littles or give themselves a chance to refuel. I also hope to have special events at the store, including story time and creative arts, as well as events for parents. I also long to connect with local nonprofits and the Department of Children’s Services here to see how we can help to support the needs of children in foster care in any way.
Why did you want to make children’s clothes vs adult clothes?
I actually started designing children’s clothing back in 1991 after the birth of my first born. Discouraged by the busy prints, rough fabric, and an overabundance of snaps, I decided to embark in designing minimalist children’s clothing in more mature solid colors, soft fabric with elastic waists and a minimal number of snaps and buttons. I longed for the child’s face to be the art piece seen over the crazy busy prints.
I now see the need for lounge wear for both littles and adults, to be cozy at home but also be able to wear the same outfit out. Less fuss for everyone.
How do you go about choosing such soft fabrics?
The first thing I look for is knit fabric, with the certification of being Organic or Oeko-Tex 100 standard. Next thing I look for are fabrics made of Modal, Tencel or Bamboo. I know that these knits will be dreamy soft and safe for the child’s skin.
Why did you decide to focus on foster care for the philanthropic arm of your company?
Early in my years at design school I became aware of the needs of orphans. My heart was moved to one day have a company that brought awareness to the needs of vulnerable children and perhaps provide clothing to these children. When starting Will & Ivey that longing turned my eyes to the need of children in the foster care system in the U.S. and realized the root of this desire came from my mom’s story of abandonment to foster care then being rescued through adoption.
Wow, and how cool to help people by using your gifts. Can you tell us more about how you became a designer?
I’ve been able to work in fashion industry off and on for the past 35 years. In 1985 I attended FIDM [Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising] in LA which was fantastic. We learned everything from history of fashion to illustrating to design. Being an artist I found that I loved fashion illustrating and painting with water colors. I thought perhaps that was the career direction I was going to take. I found the technical side of things, such as pattern making, was difficult, there was a lot of math involved. My time at FIDM helped me find where my strengths were which definitely are body shapes, design and color.
So that was 1985/86 and we did everything by hand. Now you can hop on the computer and it’s 10 million times quicker. Entering back into the industry 40 years later I am in a brand new era and there’s a learning curve. But I’ve been really blessed by people in the industry who have helped me catch up to speed.
My first few jobs where in textile graphic design for silk screening and print designs. I was hired as a freelance designer for a Beverly Hills Polo Club and worked my way up to head designer in 1990. Shortly after that promotion I had my first child, a boy, which opened my eyes to the world of children’s clothing. I found that I was not very excited about my son being covered in dinosaurs and trucks and longed for minimalism in design and pattern. This ignited my journey down the road of designing children’s clothing with more sophisticated colors and minimalist styles.
Shortly after that I moved to Nashville with my husband and first born because my husband’s music career was moving there. And in Nashville I got the chance to do a project for Winona Judd and Trisha Yearwood. Trisha was a huge honor. I worked with her wardrobe stylist and it was a moment in life when I really felt proud. It’s like, ‘I’m getting to use the gifts I’ve been given and it means something! It’s helping her feel beautiful and fantastic,’ it was for the Grammy Awards.
You just used the words beautiful and fantastic, is that something you’re always striving for?
Always. The goal is when they are up on stage they should never have to worry about what they look like, so they can be comfortable and do their craft well.
After that I worked as a wardrobe stylist for several years. Then fast forward a few years and in 2011 I was hired to brand and design a new denim company called Southern Blues. It was such an honor to be trusted by them to come in and help them with design and branding. We studied the history of Blues Music which inspired so much of our design and style names. This opportunity brought me back into the fashion world working with pattern makers and manufactures LA. The owners of Southern Blues took me to both China and Japan to see where the jeans were being made. This job was bringing back confidence to be able to jump in and follow my dream.
I always want a brand with a purpose, so I asked the heads of Southern Blues if they would be open to my designing a baby jean with a percentage of the profit going to support orphans in Zambia. We found out that in the history of Blues Music they called their harmonicas “Pocket Blues,” so called the baby jeans Pocket Blues which we thought was so cute.
I was so excited by these baby jeans that I decided it was time to go for it and design children’s clothing again. Then in 2015 Will & Ivey became a reality.
If you had one bit of advice for someone wanting to start their own fashion line what would it be?
Start small. Choose the one item that you see is needed or that you feel most passionate about. Then once that gains a following of committed customers then think about bringing in new designs.
Any last comments for your fans?
(laughs) My fans? I’m excited to continue to grow and long to hear the needs of moms. I’ve learned so much getting back into this. I’m finding that I’m still evolving and finding where my niche is but one thing I will never stop doing is trying to bring comfort and ease to babies and caretakers and never stop looking for an opportunity to give back.