Whoopi Goldberg is already making plans to evolve her new business, Dubgee, a size-inclusive women’s brand. Launching today with a diverse set of retailers such as Amazon, Ashley Stewart (exclusive plus-size retailer), Le Tote (exclusive subscription retailer) and Neiman Marcus (and Macy’s slated for the fall), the company will separate the business into two distinct collections beginning with resort, reflecting Goldberg’s sensibility.
Tier 1 will be a bit more luxurious and refined collection aimed at upscale retailers such as Neiman’s, while Tier 2 will be more mass and item-driven, with novelty pieces and streetwear.
“It allows us to have a sense of inclusion and allows us to stretch in both directions,” said Joseph Boitano, who last month was named president of Powell Cos. Real, which is manufacturing and marketing the Dubgee brand. As reported in WWD last month, Boitano is responsible for the growth and development of the Dubgee by Whoopi collection through wholesale, digital, licensing partnerships and other means.
For resort, Tier 1 will retail from $85 to $160, while Tier 2 retails from $40 to $95, Boitano said. “We don’t want to exclude people,” he said.
Boitano noted that both apparel collections will carry the Dubgee name, but will have different labels, styles, finishes, details and fabrics. While Neiman’s is the brand’s first upscale partner, it looks to add others at that level.
Boitano noted that Goldberg plans to wear both collections on “The View,” and he anticipates the customer will mix and match items from both lines. “It allows us to evolve and continue to evolve,” said Boitano, noting that he’s gotten a nice response so far from stores such as Neiman’s.
Goldberg, who wears several different hats as TV host, actress, comedian and designer, explained the impetus for launching Dubgee and how she wants to create an inclusive brand for women of all sizes.
“I went on a trip and couldn’t find anything in my size that made me feel comfortable, and I started thinking, if I can’t find something, people probably felt the same way once they got to their destination and tried to buy something,” Goldberg said.
“My initial idea was I wanted to put two tops and two bottoms — a short top and a short bottom, and a long top and a long bottom, in a paper bag and have it in a kiosk, so that when people went to their destinations, they could get whatever they needed from the little bag and be comfortable on any beach,” she said.
Goldberg said she came back and Tom Leonardis, her business partner, suggested they talk to Gary Wassner, chief executive officer of Hilldun Corp. and chairman of Interluxe Holdings LLC. Wassner went to several people and got turned down several times, but then the Powell Cos. Real came along and said it would like to do the concept. It’s a family-run business.
“And they said, by the way, you know you’ll have to make more than one thing, and it’s going to have patterns and colors, etc.,” Goldberg said. So she replied, “Sure.” She started looking at patterns and found the Russian propaganda prints. Then she started looking at stuff from the Twenties that she liked and started working them on different silhouettes.
“They’re meant for people whose bodies changed. I have a behind, and sometimes my behind grows. I want to look as good in the clothes when I weigh 1,400 pounds as I do when I weigh 150,” she said. The sizes go from XS to 3X. For the initial launch, prices range from $89 to $140, with special pieces as high as $390.
Dubgee will launch with 41 styles comprised of tops, bottoms, tunics, dresses and loungewear. The line also includes hoodies, T-shirts and a few pieces one can wear formally.
“I tried to make everything I like and I want,” Goldberg said. “I’m going to be wearing this. I wear it on the show and in my life. If you don’t see me in the clothes that I make, why would you buy them?”
Asked what kind of reaction she’s getting when she wears them on “The View,” she said, “People want to know when they can get them.” She’s also been showing the looks on Instagram. “We’ve been getting great feedback,” said Goldberg, who first dove into fashion in 2016 with a line of “ugly” Christmas sweaters for Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay.
The following year she sold the “ugly” Christmas sweaters exclusively on Zappos, which she’ll continue to do again (via Powell), along with Amazon and Macy’s.
Dubgee has built a holiday giftable concept around the Christmas sweaters that includes gifts for children’s, pets, women and home, launching in November. “It gives us a chance to experiment with kids, home and future opportunities for us,” Boitano said.
Describing the Dubgee offerings, Goldberg added, “I will get better at knowing what everybody needs. The core pieces are what everybody should have. Everybody should have really good leggings, and every piece of clothing should have deep pockets.” She’s also doing white shirts, which she’s known for wearing.
Overall, she said, the styles “have to be a little longer than people are comfortable with. Unless you’re 22, your ‘v’ below your thighs doesn’t need to be highlighted in your leggings.
“Whatever you have over the leggings will give you comfort there. A little comfort in the back also. What I’ve discovered is little tiny women and very tall women and big women, everybody wants to cover their backside. We make it look good. The philosophy in my mind is the last thing you should ever worry about is what’s in your closet. When you go in your closet, you never have to think, ‘Oh my god, I don’t know what I’m going to do,'” she said.
For the first collection, she said she made certain things for Amazon and different things for Neiman’s. “There are things that are different on the pieces that we sell. It’s going to be more expensive because you had to do more stuff on it and finish it in a different way.”
Dubgee, which is produced in Asia, stands for W and Goldberg. Goldberg said her granddaughter did many of the graphics on the shirts, although there aren’t a lot. Her great-granddaughter helped with some of the kids’ clothes called Oopi by Whoopi, which is part of the overall line.
When it comes to her participation, Goldberg says she’s all in.
“There’s no point in them doing it if it doesn’t reflect me.…If it goes really big, there will always be somebody to help, but I have to be part of it. I have to be able to say to you, ‘What do you mean it shrunk, because when I wore it, it didn’t happen to me.’”
Goldberg said she learned an important lesson from doing her “ugly” Christmas sweaters.
“You know what I learned? People want quality….You have to stand up for what you want people to buy,” she said.