With a cult following of musicians, actors, and artists, the intentionally low key brand profile has long been considered a hidden gem to fashion insiders. Fans and friends of the brand include: Lena Dunham, Gillian Jacobs, Sofia Coppola, Zooey Deschanel, Jack Black, Andy Samberg, Parker Posey, Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig, Amber Tamblyn, Rashida Jones, Justin Theroux, Pharrell, Claire Danes, Natalie Portman, Jason Schwartzmann, and Chan Marshal from Catpower. Some notable friends have even modeled for Built by Wendy – Amy Sedaris, Dolly Wells, David Cross, Robin Tunney, Jon Glaser, Justin Theroux, Neal Brennan, Kathleen Hannah and Will Oldham to name but a few.
A native of Chicago, Wendy founded her company while studying at the University of Kansas where she sold her handmade clothing from a laundry line in her front yard. She moved to New York in 1992 to study at FIT. While working part- time at two prominent downtown independent record stores she set up mini Built by Wendy kiosks within each store to sell her collection and guitar straps. She also worked as a costume designer and stylist for music videos by bands such as Sleater Kinney and Pavement, and as freelance designer for Kim Gordon's X-Girl collection as well as Mike D's X-Large.
In 1995, she began wholesaling her own Built by Wendy collection and was a founding designer in the Steven Alan showroom.
In 1998, Wendy opened her first flagship retail store on Centre Market Place in the Little Italy/Chinatown neighborhood of New York City. Her successful online shop launched soon after, and in 2005 she expanded with a second retail store in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. Shops in Los Angeles and San Francisco followed.
The Built by Wendy line has been carried in boutiques and specialty stores throughout the country and around the world. In 2013 she launched Built by Wendy Kids and did a capsule collection called Soft Rock for 2014 of cotton basics offered in a rainbow of colors. In 2016 Built by Wendy relaunched with a full collection sold exclusively at www.builtbywendy.com.
Wendy has collaborated with artists such as Doug Aitken, Marc Swanson, Marcel Dzama, Kahlil Joseph, and Melodie McDaniel; and has worked on various projects for organizations such as UCB Theater, The Director's Bureau, and 826NYC.
From 2003-2006, she was hired as Creative Director for Wrangler Jeans where she created a premium denim line called Wrangler47. The wildly successful collection of classic Wrangler pieces elevated with a modern fit and style.
From 2006-2011, Wendy ventured into publishing with the release of her popular Sew U series of four instructional sewing books Sew U, Sew U Homestretch, Sew U Dresses, and Sew U Coats and Jackets (Bulfinch Press; Little, Brown and Co; and Random House). Her expertise was also tapped by Simplicity Pattern Company for whom she developed a line of commercial sewing patterns called Built by You.
Wendy lives and works in Los Angeles now.