Who What Wear's Fearless Founders on Power Dressing and Launching Clique
Here at Who What Wear, we’re champions of female-founded, -owned, and -operated businesses—after all, our company was founded by two fearless women. That’s why we’re launching Female Founded, an editorial series that dives into the stories of those who launched their own businesses. Here, you’ll discover who these women are, what they’ve accomplished, and how they style pieces from our own Who What Wear collection at Target.
The year was 2006, and the word "magazine" strictly referred to that tangible stack of glossy pages you had to make a special trip to the store to purchase. That's the year Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power decided to take their journalism expertise to a .com.
To say the digital publishing space was the Wild West would be an understatement, but where many saw vast desert expanse, the two saw a land of opportunity. After 12 years in business together, it seems fair to say they found it, but both Kerr and Power had to take a leap of faith first, leaving their coveted print jobs to launch Who What Wear, which—fun fact—began strictly as an email newsletter.
As someone whose editorial career has been born directly from their vision and determination, I don't mind saying what they've built is truly innovative, first with Who What Wear and, ultimately, its larger parent company, Clique Brands. Clearly, the duo clearly didn't arrive here by chance, evidenced by how tirelessly they continue working to push the boundaries of what this company can do.
Ahead, Kerr and Power reflect on starting their company, the advice they'd give their former selves, and, of course, how to dress for the job you want.
On Katherine Power: Who What Wear blazer; Land of Distraction Cotton Flared Trousers; Chanel mules; Celine jewelry; On Hillary Kerr: Who What Wear cardigan, bag, and shoes; Isabel Marant Dalika Silk Georgette Dress, Jacquie Aiche jewelry
What "Power Dressing" Really Looks Like
What type of clothing always commands respect?
Katherine Power: Whatever you feel most comfortable in, because when you’re comfortable, you’re confident, and confidence commands respect. For me, it’s usually a blazer and a pair of slacks.
Are there any clothing items that are off-limits for the office?
HK: Anything that requires a “stunt bra.”
KP: Yes, quite a few things, but definitely crop tops make the list.
Who do you follow on Instagram for fashion inspiration?
HK: Shiona Turini.
KP: I love Natasha Goldenberg’s style, Pernille Teisbaek, and Loulou de Saison.
The Key to Building an Office Wardrobe
What advice do you have for women to look stylish at the office on a very small budget?
HK: Check out the Who What Wear collection at Target. We make so many incredible pieces, all of which are under $50.
KP: Invest in key staple pieces that are versatile enough to wear with multiple work outfits, and then fill in with less expensive trendy, of-the-moment items from fast-fashion or vintage stores.
How can you let your style shine through in a corporate environment?
KP: A nice watch or statement ring, investing in quality shoes or handbags.
What’s the number one piece to invest in for an office wardrobe?
HK: A really beautifully tailored blazer will get you through so many situations. Wear it with a skirt or trousers for more formal days or with jeans for a more casual look; it’s so versatile and will always ensure you look professional.
On Hillary Kerr: Who What Wear sweater; Cushnie skirt, Jimmy Choo shoes; Seaworthy jewelry; On Katherine Power: Who What Wear sweater and pants; Gianvito Rossi heels; Celine jewelry
What They've Learned from the Past
Fill in the blank. Before founding Clique, I was…
HK: A freelance writer for Elle, Teen Vogue, and Nylon, and prior to that, I was an Elle editor in the features department.
KP: The West Coast editor of Elle and Ellegirl magazines.
What were some of your biggest career mistakes, and what did you learn from them?
HK: Earlier in Clique Brands’ history, I didn’t always trust my intuition about a particular deal—it looked great on paper and seemed like a smart thing to do, but it just didn’t feel right—and I regretted that. The partnership ended up being a really heavy lift and didn’t work out well for either company, and I regret that we spent that much time and energy on it.
KP: I honestly can’t think of any career “mistakes.” Everything happens for a reason.
Who are some of your mentors, dead or alive, famous or ordinary?
HK: I really love the idea of “horizontal loyalty,” which I first heard on Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman’s podcast, Call Your Girlfriend. For me, the people who have inspired me the most, and who have been so incredibly supportive from day one, are my peers: my former colleagues at Elle, friends, and entrepreneurs I’ve met along the way, and really this community of women I know in the fashion/tech/entertainment/beauty space. I feel very lucky to have so many standout women in my life.
KP: Many of my close friends who run businesses and are going through similar things: Jessica Alba, founder of The Honest Company; Hayden Slater, CEO of Pressed Juicery; Tracy Holland, CEO of HatchBeauty.
Their #1 Piece of Career Advice
What’s your biggest piece of advice for female entrepreneurs?
HK: Know your worth, and come to the table completely prepared.
KP: Don’t think about being female. Just think about being great at what you do.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
KP: It’s not one set piece of advice, but more a long list that all boil down to being told to implement the newest technology or popular business strategy. We even once considered going into flash sales when Gilt was popular. Thank goodness we ignored that, because I don’t think we’d be where we are today, and we’ve gotten here by being incredibly disciplined and testing changes in small increments until we see success. It meant staying true to where we saw our business going. No one knows that better than us, and we stuck to our path rather than following the hype.
If you could have your 12-year-old self over for dinner, what advice/words of wisdom would you share with her?
HK: You are incredible just the way you are, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. You are capable of more than you can imagine. And don’t let Holly borrow your vintage Princeton T-shirt, because she will destroy it.
KP: Don’t pluck your eyebrows. They will never grow back, no matter what.
On Hillary Kerr: IRO jacket; Alexander Wang top; Who What Wear skirt; Gianvito Rossi heels; Gucci bag; Jennifer Fisher jewelry; On Katherine Power: Who What Wear top and skirt
Their Biggest Accomplishments (So Far)—and What's Next
What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
HK: Creating with an amazing company with Katherine Power.
KP: Our books, our hugely successful apparel line, the audience of about 160 million women we reach in a year, and the fact that we started this business with about $34,000 from our own savings accounts.
What’s something you’ve yet to accomplish but would love to achieve in your lifetime?
HK: A novel.
KP: At some point, I’d like to help other entrepreneurs incubate their ideas. There are so many good ideas in the world; I’d like to see more of them get executed. I’d also like to help create more wealth for women, in general, in the U.S. I think that would start to solve some of the political problems we are having.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
HK: I want women who interact with our brands to walk away feeling inspired and empowered.
KP: I’d like to inspire others to build a career out of something they wish existed.
Photographer: Paley Fairman | Hairstylist: Kathleen Riley | Makeup Artist: Barbara L | Stylists: Dani and Emma