Whoopi Goldberg, actress, comedian, TV host of “The View” and executive producer, is entering the fashion world with a witty line of “ugly” Christmas sweaters exclusively for Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay.
Available Nov. 1, each of the 11 sweaters is aptly named and tells a different story. For example, there’s “Bite Me,” which features one gingerbread man taking a bite out of another; “Santa Love,” which has two Santas about to kiss; “The Arm-Me,” which features an octopus menorah; and “Who Doesn’t Love a Tree,” which has a boy wearing a yarmulke putting an ornament on a tree. There also are “Reindeer Kettes” with dancing reindeers; “Hark the Herald,” featuring angels and music notes; “Skirt the Issue,” which resembles a Christmas tree skirt; “All Together Now,” which shows a family and a Christmas tree scene; and “Either Way it Works” that depicts a large Christmas tree that lights up.
“I like Christmas sweaters — the stranger the better,” said Goldberg in an interview in the Green Room following a taping of “The View” last week. She said she has always wanted to design a Christmas sweater line, and her business partner, Tom Leonardis, met with Gary Wassner, chief executive officer of Hilldun Corp., the factoring firm. “Tom had a conversation with Gary, and Tom came back and said, ‘You’re doing Christmas sweaters.’ That’s how that came down,” she explained.
The sweaters are designed in New York and manufactured in China. They will be sold at 37 Lord & Taylor stores and 29 Hudson’s Bay stores and retail for $139 (U.S.) and $179 (Canadian). The sweaters will be housed in the “Happy Christmas” holiday gifting section of Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay stores.
The unisex sweaters range in size from small to extra large. The label in each is WHOOPI spelled out in a line drawing of her face, with the date 2016 on each. Designed to become “collector’s items,” each of the hang tags is an accordion pamphlet featuring sketches of the sweaters and the names in French and English.
The line will be featured in the retailers’ holiday catalogues and in the windows at Lord & Taylor’s Fifth Avenue store, where Goldberg will make an appearance on Nov. 15. In addition, Goldberg intends to wear her Christmas sweaters throughout the month of December on “The View.” She will also make appearances on “The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon” and the “Rachael Ray Show,” where she will have a fashion show of her sweaters. Will she wear them on these shows? “Well, hell yeah,” said Goldberg.
“I love the season, I love the holidays. Holidays have always been very important to me and they were important to me as a kid, and I honor them,” said Goldberg, dressed in her signature white shirt and a light blue denim jacket.
Asked how she came up with the witty designs, she said, “I have a lot of oddness in my brain, and so, this is the kind of stuff that I think about on a daily basis and happily, it all worked out. They’re fun and they’re sweet and they’re not nasty and they’re not mean. They’re very loving. And if you’re going to do something for the holidays, why not something positive?”
The collection is designed “for men and women, like myself,” she said, adding she didn’t design a kids’ line “but if it goes as well as we think it will, we’ll have fun, holiday ‘ugly’ sweaters for kids” next year.
Over the years, Goldberg said she has worn the oddest and weirdest sweaters and “the more bells and whistles” the better. She didn’t do “too many bells and whistles” on her own line because it’s expensive to do but there are some that light up and have bells.
In recent years, Goldberg said she’s been disappointed with the Christmas sweaters she had been wearing. “The quality of the Christmas sweaters has gone down for me. They’re not as comfortable and they don’t feel as good,” she said. “If we’re going to do it, we wanted to do them really well. They’re cashmere blends and they’re really soft,” she said.
Wassner introduced Goldberg to the artist and knitwear specialist and she explained her vision to them. “I wanted to make something I would wear,” she said. “Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re poignant and sometimes they’re silly as hell. I feel like it’s a no-brainer for you, and is just fun. People will be more inclined to wear them and put their politics aside.”
Goldberg said she’s not an artist (“I can hardly take a photo”) but explained, “‘this is what it is’ and they drew it.” For example, she told them, “It needs to have a crack in the butt here,” referring to the sweater with the gingerbread men.
Goldberg is hard-pressed to choose a favorite. “I like them all. There’s Charlie Brown [with a depressing Christmas tree] on one side and a full-on tree with lights on the other side. I love the two Santas kissing. I love the odd family…” she said.
According to Wassner, they received “good orders” from Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay.
“You want to sell out,” said Goldberg. “It wasn’t a gigantic order. But I bet you next time, it probably will be because it’s good quality and nothing offensive (at least to us), and it’s set out just to make you feel good. And that’s all you can ask for over the holidays. Just to have a day where you feel better.”
Of course, the problem with Christmas sweaters is you can’t give them as Christmas gifts because you want customers to wear them throughout December. “You do have to buy it early. You might want to stress that,” said Goldberg.
Liz Rodbell, president of Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor, said of the collaboration with Goldberg: “Having her involved in something so fun takes it to another level. I think our customers are going to love it.” Intermittently, the store has carried holiday motif sweaters.
“What she [Goldberg] delivered in her designs, with the three-dimensional quality and the happiness and the whimsy of it is just going to really resonate as people want to celebrate and have a good time together,” she said. If they sell well, the store naturally would be interested in doing it again. “Yes, 1,000 percent. We’re going to challenge her to make more designs and make it bigger for sure,” said Rodbell.
No stranger to fashion, Goldberg has become a regular at the shows during New York Fashion Week and this season attended Marc Jacobs, Thom Browne, Tracy Reese, Gypsy Sport, Opening Ceremony (where she walked the runway) and Hood by Air. Asked what she thought of the social media uproar over what some considered dreadlocks at Jacobs’ show, she said, “I thought it [the show] was spectacular. I actually have dreadlocks. They did not look anything like dreadlocks that anyone I know has. They look like what they were, yarn and wool. I thought it was art. I was unhappy I couldn’t wear any of those clothes. They were gorgeous. The shoes were great.”
The reason she goes to all the shows is because her granddaughter is very interested in fashion. “She thought she wanted to be a model, but then decided she’d rather design her own jumpsuits and hats. She and her older sister are working together,” Goldberg said.
Besides her work on “The View” (which she re-upped in July for another year) and this new fashion collaboration, Goldberg is also the executive producer of a new TV show on Oxygen called “Strut,” about the first transgender modeling agency. “It’s doing well,” she said about the first several episodes. She said they’ve taped six episodes.
Asked how she feels about all the hullabaloo over the see-now-buy-now movement, Goldberg said she sees a problem with designers showing in-season. “People don’t have time to save up money. If they don’t have fluid cash, [the six-month lag time of showing the next season] gives them enough time to save cash,” she said.
Having gotten her feet wet with this Christmas sweater collaboration, Goldberg said she would welcome the opportunity to design more fashion categories. Top of her list would be eyeglasses, socks or a shirt line. “We’ll try the glasses first,” she said. “If I can sucker people into doing the glasses, then we’ll move on.”