when winnie met tracy: the backstory behind WARM’s design duo
Photos Courtesy of Warm
Winnie Beattie and Tracy Feith have shared a love of vibrant prints, ‘70s surf culture, and dreamy imperfections long before they teamed up last year to launch Warm.
In the ‘90s, a young Winnie Beattie—a transplant from the Midwest who had come to the city to work in fashion—was walking through Nolita and became entranced by a “teeny closet of a store filled with vibrant clothes.” The store was the eponymous boutique of Tracy Feith, and the rest is history.
Winnie is chatting with us from her summer shack in Amagansett, where she’s holed up with her “surf-and-skate-obsessed family,” combining her vacation with work for the next Warm lookbook and designing the brand’s Pre-Fall collection with Tracy, who will fly over from L.A. to join the working holiday next week. West Coast to East Coast, city to beach—it’s all part of the lifestyle that Warm is built around. And to illustrate this sensibility, Winnie is taking us back to where it began on the corner of Mott and Houston.
WARM Georgette Canyon Club Dress
“I stood on the corner at a payphone and called 4-1-1 to get the store’s number,” reminisces Winnie about that fateful day. “I called, and Tracy himself answered. I said, ‘Hi, I just discovered your store and am standing about 100 yards away. I’m obsessed with you and have to work for you!’ He said, ‘It’s just me and my girlfriend, but we want to hire someone.” Without putting me on hold, he literally yells, ‘Hey Susan, want to hire somebody? There’s a girl on the phone who loves our clothes, and she’s around the corner.’ I went in right then and sat on the floor with Tracy and Susan [his then girlfriend and business partner], and I told them I had some art school and design experience but that I would do anything. They hired me on the spot!”
Over the next few years, Winnie did everything from design to production—“that exposure was priceless”—and discovered that she had a knack for PR. “I was so obsessed with what Tracy was doing and baffled that bigger designers were knocking him off! I would walk down the street in a Tracy Feith dress, and girls would literally try to buy it off my back. It was very easy for me to help let the world know about his talent.” Eventually, Winnie left the company to pursue her PR career, and the two remained friends.
WARM Floral Petite Maison Dress
When Winnie decided to launch a line to share the name with Warm, the Nolita boutique she opened in 2012 with her husband Rob Magnotta, she knew exactly who to call on. “I certainly understand the vibe, direction, and the Warm girl, but when it comes to bringing that to life, I needed a formally trained design partner, and it needed to be Tracy. It’s our sensibility together that makes it so strong,” explains Winnie. “Warm is different than Tracy Feith was, but there’s still that strong emphasis on prints, color, and ease of wear.”
When describing Warm, Tracy and Winnie often reference an idea of a dream girl. “We both gravitate toward a girl that is natural and easy in her sensibility, a bit earthy even,” Tracy tells us. “We love women who are unfussy and confident in they way they look and dress—who have an underlying sense of cool with subtle nods to skate, surf, music, and decades past.” Winnie adds that she’s, “perfectly imperfect—maybe she doesn’t always wash her hair, and her toenails may be chipped from skateboarding.”
WARM Chiffon Hostess Maxi Dress
That being said, the beauty of Warm is that it works as well over a wet bathing suit with unruly hair as it does at a fancy Hamptons wedding, and versatile dresses are at the core. “I always love a girl in a great dress,” admits Tracy. “We’re driven by color and prints and the surprise mixing-in of trims, texture, and fabrics. I’ve always been known for mixing colors and fabrics in an unusual and surprising way, and that signature is still at the heart of Warm.”
WARM Peasant Woods Wide-Leg Jumpsuit
Inspiration for the Fall ’16 collection came from a Big Sur road trip Winnie took with her husband. “We were so enamored with the natural, rough beauty of that area, so this collection is really dedicated to the central Californian coast in the winter,” she explains—adding that when she and Tracy were designing, they also asked themselves a very important question: “What would people have worn to dinner at Joni Mitchell’s house in Laurel Canyon?” Warm’s answer: rich velvets, shearlings, multi-colored florals, and ethereal silks.
It’s been 20 years since the heyday of Tracy’s stand-alone brand, but Warm is living proof that his vision is as relevant today as ever. Along with Winnie, he’s continuing to make a reality of his his nostalgic, unfussy dream girls. “The Tracy Feith woman has gone on and matured, but she still very much exists,” says Winnie, herself living proof.