Shop Etsy

Handmade Portraits: Built by Wendy

Jul 18, 2008

by Tara Young

MP4 | Youtube | | Subscribe in iTunes

(music by Jukeboxer, Lineland)

Without role models to guide her, self-taught fashion designer Wendy Mullin of Built By Wendy went from selling her handmade dresses in her front yard to owning four stores across the U.S., running a successful clothing label, collaborating on pattern designs for Simplicity and authoring the Sew U book series. As part of Etsy’s Handmade Portrait series, Wendy took time out of her busy schedule to talk with us about how she’s built her business from scratch. Her sense of style and process are rooted in making garments by hand, and though she’s not an Etsy seller, Wendy’s beginnings are similar to many handmade clothing makers getting their feet wet in businesses on Etsy. Her passion, hard work and drive got her where she is today.

Wendy did a lot of drawing, arts and crafts as a kid living in the Chicago suburbs. Her mom, a seamstress, saw that she had an artistic tendency and encouraged her to explore. In high school she focused her creative energy toward photography and video, but with a sewing room back at home, she always found herself making things. During college in Kansas in 1989, Wendy started selling her handmade clothing in record shops where she worked.

After moving to Manhattan and showing her work at Steven Alan’s showroom, Wendy got quite a bit of press for her clothing and guitar straps. She now has shops in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Los Angeles and San Francisco. If you like clean lines with a bit of fun nostalgia, you should have a look at her collection at Built By Wendy.

You can watch more of our Handmade Video Portraits, and we’d be so thrilled if you’d subscribe to our free Etsy iTunes podcast.


If you’re into how-to books, join us on Monday, July 21, 2008 in the Virtual Labs to meet Crafty Mama author Abby Pecoriello. More details here.


  • TeenAngster

    TeenAngster said 13 years ago

    I LOVE Built by Wendy. Her clothes are so amazing! What a great behind-the-scenes look at her process and where she came from. Great video.

  • Chillionaire Admin

    Chillionaire said 13 years ago

    So inspiring! Her designs are awesome and the Manhattan store is sooo cute Fabulous video!

  • pookeh

    pookeh said 13 years ago

    i ADORE built by wendy. thank you so much for this video. you made my friday!

  • papermenagerie

    papermenagerie said 13 years ago

    Built by Wendy is the best, and I so love her patterns and "Sew U" book. It's great that she hasn't lost touch with her handmade roots.

  • MissDandy

    MissDandy said 13 years ago

    This was a real treat to watch - I admire Built By Wendy so much! Truly inspiring!

  • jamieribisi

    jamieribisi said 13 years ago

    Very interesting. I loved hearing her story.

  • shopgoodgrace

    shopgoodgrace said 13 years ago

    I love Built By Wendy & have many of her patterns. So thrilled to see this Etsy article about her. :)

  • ledthread

    ledthread said 13 years ago

    Ah yeah cool. I used to live around the corner from her LA shop. Wendy is definitely an inspiration. And thanks for including my stuff in your Related Items!

  • Schmutzerland

    Schmutzerland said 13 years ago

    I really really really love that she used her gambling money to buy craft supplies! What an inspiring story!

  • littlehabanero

    littlehabanero said 13 years ago

    love! built by wendy,i was really excited to see this.

  • MissCrowland

    MissCrowland said 13 years ago

    That was really inspiring.

  • ZuliDesigns

    ZuliDesigns said 13 years ago

    This was an awesome video and story. I love to hear about self made successes! Wendy seems down to earth and definately creative! Makes me love her clothes even more!!

  • reiter8

    reiter8 said 13 years ago

    Thanks so much for this great video portrait! I have been a fan for some time and it's great to hear how it all started. She's so calm for having 3 stores, books, and seasonal lines! A real inspiration!

  • voudrais

    voudrais said 13 years ago

    I love built by wendy! This story and video was so inspiring because my dream has always been to design and make fashion happen with my hands.. and it's so so inspiring to hear that someone made it that far without big name schools like Parsons or FIT, etc.. (her fall winter collection's inspiration was soo cute too!)

  • thetinies

    thetinies said 13 years ago

    Love love LOVE her clothes, and I've got a couple of her patterns that I can't wait to get started on.

  • sparklinglotusdesign

    sparklinglotusdesign said 13 years ago

    What a great story..would love to check out one of her shops! Thanks for the video!

  • leolucaescobar

    leolucaescobar said 13 years ago

    Thank you for this. So inspiring!

  • catecorcoran

    catecorcoran said 13 years ago

    Yay, Wendy Mullin! Thank you so much for this video interview. What a great idea.

  • lovemaryxoxo

    lovemaryxoxo said 13 years ago

    Encouraging story.

  • fernfiddlehead

    fernfiddlehead said 13 years ago

    This was super-fantastic. Wow. I am in awe.

  • yellowspringscrochet

    yellowspringscrochet said 13 years ago

    What an inspiration!! Thanks!!

  • SusyJack

    SusyJack said 13 years ago

    This was great. Whenever I get down, I'm gonna think of Wendy, out on her front lawn, doing her thing.

  • emilyfrances

    emilyfrances said 13 years ago

    Many congrats to Wendy for making her dream come true. I have so many exciting thoughts in my head now (and I can't wait to get back in my sewing room!) Also - a broken spoke's trench coat is quite amazing.

  • LittleSparrowNest

    LittleSparrowNest said 13 years ago

    Wow!!!! Such an awesomely inspiring short.. This one really struck a chord with me.. Her story is the epitome of what you get when you don't give up and go for it all the way.. thank You for this! xoxo gsg the Sparrows Nest

  • topsyturvydesign

    topsyturvydesign said 13 years ago

    Rad portrait! Wendy is a Dynamo!

  • purlhandknits

    purlhandknits said 13 years ago

    This one was so interesting! Thanks for the great portrait Etsy!

  • artnestshop

    artnestshop said 11 years ago

    EEEEK! I have loved Built by Wendy for nearly 10 years now - I remember when her shop had ONLY guitar straps~ She is such an inspiration and her book gave me the confidence to start sewing clothing or sewing anything for that matter - it was such a treat to learn even more about her story - Thanks ETSY!!! Susannah @ Art Nest

  • viciousthreads

    viciousthreads said 10 years ago

    wendy is amazing!!! i have one of her guitar straps from the 90s. i don't think she makes them anymore. :(

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