Spinning Marissa’s Webb

by Paige Reddinger

After 13 years in the biz, Marissa Webb spun out on her own to launch her eponymous label for Spring 2013. The industry took notice: In April, Webb was tapped to revamp Banana Republic’s look as the brand’s creative director and executive vice president of design.

What was your earliest fashion memory?
I was a major tomboy growing up. It’s still the way I am now, but I also loved fashion. I’d roll around in the dirt during the day and read all my mother’s Glamour magazines at night. I remember taking sketches to her and saying, “What do you think of this?”

Where were you growing up?
I like to say I grew up in Pennsylvania, because that’s where the majority of my childhood memories happened, but we moved around a lot.

What did your parents think about your decision to go to FIT?
They actually didn’t know that I transferred to FIT. I was very independent. I thought I was going to study psychology, then I decided I didn’t want to sit in an office all day.

What inspired you to start your own label?
Things just kind of happened organically—I landed an internship and from there, a full-time job. It’s a great way of learning about this industry, but after 13 years, it was time.

Do you think it was better that you gained experience first?
I don’t know, but I would say that the knowledge that you gain working in the industry is extremely valuable. So it helped me in a lot of different ways when I launched my own label.

What was the biggest learning curve when you first started?
I’m still learning, and I’ll be learning till the day I die! Honestly, the biggest learning curve is that when you start your own label, it’s not just about sitting down and designing. You design maybe one day out of one or two hundred. I always say that having your own line is like taking crash courses in HR, law, and accounting. I have to make sure that the water is here and the electricity is on.

Has it been scary?
If I ever panic, I give myself five minutes, and then go on. It’s the only way to stay focused.

Do you have any muses?
I have a girl crush! Cate Blanchett. There’s something so regal and cool about her. I don’t know her on a personal level, but I would say she would look amazing in a burlap sack. She just radiates.

What can we expect from your Spring 2015 collection?
I’m pretty consistent in my thought process for every season. I have a hard structured side and a whimsical one of me as well. I’ve been calling this season “East West.”

Who are you designing for?
Many different types of women. It can be a very classic type, who loves tailored items, or an adventurer, who does not fear stepping out in her personal style. She’s a tomboy with a little bit of femininity. I think you have to stay true to what you love and what inspires you, because if you don’t then it’s obvious. I look at what I’m sketching now, versus what I sketched at FIT, and it’s very consistent.

What was it like showing at Fashion Week for the first time?
The first time for my own label was intimidating, but at the same time, I try to take one day at a time and just keep on moving. I try not to be held back by fear, because that’s one of those things that can paralyze you. You just focus and everything always seems to get done. And it’s exciting once it does!

You also recently took on a big job at Banana Republic. How crazy is your schedule?
I don’t think my schedule has actually changed that much. My sister recently said, “If you do not fill Marissa’s calendar, she will find a way to fill it.” So it’s still jam-packed, but I’m used to it. It’s a different kind of busy because I’m focusing on two different clothing lines, which is fun. Just imagine being able to have two lines! It’s great that our team is so supportive and they help me balance a lot. People are like, “What is your hobby?” and I’m like, “Working!” That’s a weird hobby, but…

Walk us through a typical day for you.
Yesterday, I got up at 5 a.m., and then I went until 9:30 p.m. When you are really engaged in what you are doing and working with people you love to be around, the time flies and you don’t even feel tired. It’s important to be around that positive energy.

When will your first Banana Republic collection hit stores?
Summer 2015, in terms of a collection I’ve overseen from concept to completion, but what you can see is the new sensibility for Banana Republic in the styling, and the way we are communicating with our customers and the way that we are focusing on the store experience. There are strong designers there, so I’m just giving the direction, but they are amazing, so we are really excited about what’s coming.

How many people do you have working for your name-sake label?
I have six full-time staffers, and we have PR as well.

Do you ever change runway looks the day of the show?
Oh, always. One of the models drops out, or you send something out to get fixed and it comes back looking completely the opposite of what you envisioned. Or maybe you’re waiting for that one piece that has gotten stuck somewhere. Sometimes those end up being happy accidents. It’s part of the fun! If it’s easy, it’s not worth doing.

Where would you like to see the brand in 10 years?
I would love to see people walking around wearing it in the streets. The best feeling is when you see someone walking down the street in one of your items, or when some of the girls on my team will run in and say, “Hey! I just spotted this on the train!” My brand is only two and a half years old, so to spot someone on the train sitting across from you wearing one of the items is amazing! I like to take it one day at a time, but of course I would love for this label to be successful. I love having my own company and I love the team, especially. I really want it to be successful for everyone.

What do you do for fun in your free time?
Free time is not something that’s in my vocabulary at the moment, but that’s okay. But when I need a break from working, I will say to my fiancé, “We need to watch a superhero movie, please!” I love action-hero movies. He’s like, “You are such a boy!” People always ask me why I like them, and I think it’s because they face so many challenges and yet they are successful. They always figure out a way to win at the end, and that’s inspiring. If they can face a thousand things that smashed them into the ground, then I can make my deadline.

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