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Los Angeles shoppers who’ve yet to finish Making the Cut are in for quite a spoiler when they visit Pantora designer Andrea Pitter’s new boutique.
The season two winner of the Amazon Studios original series — led by returning co-hosts Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn — debuted her first brick-and-mortar store at Row DTLA, the creative retail hub that’s also home to season one winner Jonny Cota. The 600-square-foot boutique offers Pantora’s full line of ready-to-wear ($52 to $395), including the convertible draped coat with oversized grommets, maxi dresses, statement-making jackets and sequined houndstooth suits seen on the show.
Calling to mind a luxurious version of a New York subway, the boutique is decked out with gold fixtures, glossy monochrome tiled flooring, sleek black seating and faux windows and doors. Pitter will also open Pantora’s first West Coast bridal boutique (the second outpost after its Brooklyn flagship) next door later this year.
The Brooklyn-based designer won the $1 million prize and then some, beating out fashion veteran Gary Graham and Colombia-born Seta designer Andrea Salazar (both runners-up), fellow New Yorkers Raf Swaider and Olivia Oblanc, Love Hero designer Joshua Scacheri, French designer Lucie Brochard, L.A.-based designers Ally Ferguson and Dushyant Asthana and New Jersey-based menswear designer Lendrell Martin.
“I’m reprocessing; trying to figure out what this all meant,” Pitter tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I’m getting extra therapy sessions with my new reality!”
Speaking with THR from L.A. (where she was putting the finishing touches on her new boutique), the Jamaican-American designer adds, “I haven’t had to do too much deep diving … I was ready for a change in pace and this was a very welcomed retreat,” she says of her whirlwind West Coast visit.
The winnings also came with a dedicated Amazon store (and the chance to sell a second collection on the e-comm retailer), a free three-year lease at Row DTLA, a fashion mentorship, the opportunity to sell a second collection on Amazon Fashion and what Klum called “career- and life-changing opportunities.”
Here, Pitter shares more about what Making the Cut viewers didn’t see, why diversity continues to matter in the fashion industry, the inspiring stories that have landed in her email inbox and more. Read on below, and shop Pantora online at Amazon Fashion.
How much time did you get to spend with the judges off-camera?
Our time with the judges was pretty much what you saw. We spent a lot more time with Tim, he was an awesome mentor. He would give us all of these amazing “Tim talks”; [he gave us] more time than what you got to view. They took really good care of us and were concerned that we all stayed safe.
One million dollars is a huge prize, and no doubt you’ve dreamed about how you would spend that money. Have any aspects of your plans changed now that you’ve won?
Right now I’m still learning how to spend this kind of money because I’m taking my time. I’m still a little cautious about how to spend, but I want to dream a little bigger. I’ve been gifted time and resources and I think that’s the most amazing part about winning such a big prize. You’re not necessarily in a rush to spend.
The New York Times‘ recently published a revelatory piece that there’s “more work to do” when it comes to Black representation in the fashion industry. How does that compare to your experience?
I feel like I’m gonna say the cliched thing, but representation matters. If I thought so before, it’s been enlightening on how my win has affected others — Black women, children. My inbox is full of supportive emails from them. I didn’t necessarily know that was the purpose I would serve participating in this show, win or lose. The thing about my business, I made sure they were the center of [it]. Now with the money, I can solve more problems for more people. That is the most beautiful thing, when you’re trying to solve problems without resources, you’re wondering how good fo job you’re doing. I know now with extra help, I can do better than my best. More people are recognizing my brand, and people are seeing themselves in me.
I know I spoke about being a first-generation American on the show. I had a lot of people saying, “This is so exciting, I watched it with my parents, now I’m able to pursue their dreams with their support.” I had a 9-year-old girl named Dara [who told me she was] was running through her living room when I won. I FaceTimed her, she’s really sweet! There are so many stories like that, or people who are considered plus size in the everyday world, who are not able to shop fashion and are stuck buying what’s offered to them. I love giving them joyful pieces for their wardrobe.
I have a ridiculous amount of people sharing their stories. I love to wind down and read them at the end of the night.
How has your design process changed after the show?
It’s so much fun now. I was having a great time in bridal, but designing in color — I made a little reel on Instagram that I feel like the movie Pleasantville or the book The Giver.
I see people differently, and women differently. It’s really nice to see those women outside all the time, before I would envision women in wedding dresses. It’s just really nice to people-watch differently. I’m such a people watcher, I’m such a fan of women in general.
I ran into a young lady the other day, she just passed me and said, “Oh my god, you’re a goddess!” And she kept going. This is who I design for. People who want to cheer other people on, that’s who I design for.
What’s it been like settling in at Row DTLA?
Well, there’s people there now [compared to the height the pandemic]! The energy was so great, I spent so much money this weekend. The energy was really good, such a diverse crowd, kids and their parents. It was very packed this past weekend with Smorgasborg. Me and [Making the Cut season 1 winner] Jonny Cota, took a stroll through the entire property.
That sounds incredible. Did he share any tips?
Tips, no. But we did [have] a lot of common ground conversations, like “Were you scared about that?” and spilling the tea. We’re the only two people who’ve had that experience so it was kind of nice. We were talking about how a million dollars is insane! Wild! And saying, “Do you remember when we were dressing with less than $10?”
Since your collection is available on Amazon, we have to ask — what were the last things you bought on Amazon?
I bought a phone case! One of those Cuban link-ish-looking ones. I bought matching swimsuits for me, my husband and son, with pineapples on them. We do matching everything, and Amazon is the first place I go to [for that]!
It must be so incredible to be able to see feedback in real-time now that Pantora is shoppable on Amazon. How has that changed your approach as a designer and business owner?
It’s a very different experience but in some ways, there are similarities. That’s what’s really cool, I’m using the Amazon experience which is really about customer satisfaction and being able to get my pieces in their hands in two days. In the comments, they’re talking about the clothes, and what they’re saying on Amazon and the reviews and on social media — people are really in a place where they’re chasing joy and I love seeing the things that they’re doing — people are going out to brunch in my sequin suits. And that’s the point, we shouldn’t be waiting for something to celebrate, wear it because you want to. Waking up is a celebration enough. People are creating TikTok! And then I’ve touched into a new customer base, stylish women over 50, they really are the most swaggiest women.
When I think of my brand, it has always been about inclusion — size and race. And there are other factors that people help you consider, that my eyes have been open to. These women, I had no idea this was a customer base of mine! They seem so full of life and they are some of the best influencers ever! I buy what they wear.
Last question — which star would you love to see in Pantora?
My answer is always gonna be Beyoncé! But if I’m being really honest, the women who wear my clothes right now are my celebrities. There’s no better way — they’re choosing you.
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