With the premise that “a lot of women need better pants”, Debbie Baer founded The Willary in 2016. Ms Baer’s career trajectory went from costume design for the theatre, to designing jerseys for Nike, to starting the Willary. Ms Baer launched her company with a Kickstarter campaign that was so successful, it caught the eye of Forbes magazine. Forbes then ran a 2 part profile of the start-up. In the Forbes articles, entrepreneurial experts weighed in with advice and suggestions on how The Willary could best continue to build on its initial success.
With determination, persistence, high standards, and a dedication to the women who wear her clothes, Debbie and the Willary are holding strong and returning to the Philly Bike Expo for the 3rd year in a row. Each investment-quality piece in the Willary’s “Core Wardrobe” is made of durable, stain-resistant fabric and constructed to hold its shape off the bike and hold up to the rigors of the road. While more and more companies seem to be entering the market of sport (and sporty-looking) cycling clothing for women, the Willary’s pants, tops and dresses are designed so the wearer arrives at work (or anywhere!) looking neat, tailored and put-together.
PBE Where did you receive your fashion design training?
DB I started as a costume designer and hold an MFA in costume design from Northwestern University. Later I studied at Parsons School of Design where I hold an AAS in fashion design. A lot of my training also came from working in the field–first as an intern at Outlier and later as an assistant designer for Nike SB.
PBE What’s the story behind your business name?
DB The Willary is a mash-up of my grandma’s names: Wilhelmina and Mary. They’re the patron saints of this operation.
PBE What’s your favorite part of your business?
DB My customers! The women I outfit are all around superstars–bold, interesting, driven, active, creative, dedicated–I must be doing something right if I connect with such a stellar group.
PBE Where do you find inspiration?
DB Inspiration for the functional aspects of our clothes come from observation. I pay attention to moments when women are fighting against their clothes and try to figure out how to ease those pain points. Creative inspiration comes from architecture, art, and my background in costume design–I love costume history and am a geek for quirky little details from the past. I’m also really inspired by a recent trip to Japan–you’ll see some of those influences coming through in the next few collections.
PBE What’s your favorite ride/route/destination?
DB I’m a 100% recreational rider! When we lived in Philly I liked taking the Schuylkill trail to the art museum. My wife commutes by bike everyday and is The Willary’s beta tester. If the pants survive her they’ll survive anything!