Like so many, Laguna Beach, The Hills, and The City topped my reality TV queue in the early 2000s. The rare peeks into the fashion industry captivated me (despite some heavy-handed producing in some instances), as did the fashions worn by leading ladies Lauren Conrad, Olivia Palermo, and Whitney Port. The number of outfits I recreated—statement necklaces, gladiator sandals, and all—is borderline embarrassing. Still, I landed an ELLE internship during filming (where I found myself on the receiving end of a compliment from Olivia one afternoon—gasp) and am now nearly eleven years into a fashion career where I’ve interviewed Conrad, Palermo, and Port for various features.
My latest chat with Port to discuss her new under-$100 loungewear line COZeCO has been the most fun, by far. Maybe it’s my stan-level infatuation with her YouTube reaction video series—we all love Timmy, right? [Editor's note: I, too, am infatuated with these videos. Watch them here.] Or the fact that I relate to her continued career hustle and endearing quirk despite her reality TV fame. Either way, chatting about our mutual love of coziness, sustainability (the brand’s name stems from the two main concepts of cozy fashion and eco-friendly design), and outfits that flawlessly meld ease with elegance was the highlight of my week. Keep reading for more from our virtual date, including Whitney’s heartfelt inspirations, predictions for loungewear post-COVID, and styling tips centering around her favorite pieces. And don’t forget to shop the edit, launching today—Earth Day.
Firstly, I have to admit: I’m living for the reaction videos.
Thank you! Sometimes I wonder, "Am I so lame for thinking this is so funny?" I guess it’s also because I get such a kick out of Timmy, but thank you for watching; it’s been so crazy and fun.
I never thought Timmy would ever want to do something like this, being on this side of the camera. But he’s had so much fun connecting with the community and doing this. He feels like people actually get him—it’s been really funny and validating.
So, COZeCO! Can you tell me how the brand idea came to be, what inspired you, and why there might be an emotional connection to it?
I always have wanted to be a designer. I wanted to have a clothing line, and I was able to launch [one] in 2008. It was the most amazing experience and the biggest learning experience. I did it with my dad [who has since passed away], and when I closed it down, I needed to release that part of my world. I was very much for a couple of years soul searching and thinking, "Now what am I supposed to do?" I had just come off filming a TV show and had this clothing line and had a moment of, "Whoa, now I need to make something happen."
So, it took me a few years and in the middle of the pandemic—which is obviously a difficult time to think of something new—but I think we’re seeing a lot of people start to pivot and think of new ways of making something because we only have access to ourselves right now. I [thought], "I really want to start creating something again, and I feel like I want to marry my love for fashion with my love for lounging and make something really comfortable and eco-friendly, knowing that the fashion industry is a very pollutant industry." Then I partnered with Avalon apparel because they were the production company behind my collaboration with Rent The Runway. They’re an amazing women-run production company that has helped make my sustainable and organic goals come to life.
This whole collection is totally inspired by the boys in my life. Growing up in the fashion industry—my dad was in manufacturing and licensing, and I watched him grow a T-shirt business—it’s all coming full circle. Having these boys in my life [my husband Timmy and 3-year-old Sonny] that are inspiring me and the color palette and the silhouettes and my lifestyle, it’s all intertwined.
I grew up on the weekends at the baseball field, and I have these images—I’m one of five kids—of me, and my sisters, and my brother, and my parents in our comfy-cozy sweats, and that always being a thing. I picture us [that way]. I especially picture my dad on the weekend in this sweatshirt you just want to live in. [I can] remember how it smells. So, that was the starting point for the collection, and now, it feels a little bittersweet because I started this whole thing with him. I thought I would never do anything in the fashion industry again. So, but I’m trying to really enjoy it and think about how proud he would be.
He absolutely is. Can you talk to me more about the line’s sustainability?
The cotton is GOTS-certified and used for everything—[it’s] the most organic fabric certification available and made without modified organisms, chemical fertilizers, or pesticides. We’re also producing small batches to make sure we’re not continuing to add waste and more inventory.
Can you tell me how you’re considering inclusivity in the line? More extended sizes will come after the launch, correct?
[Inclusvity is] definitely a huge goal of mine. Mostly everything in the line is meant to have a very casual, laidback, relaxed, and easy fit. So, it’s meant to fit all shapes and sizes. Right now [the size run is] XS to XXL. But as the company grows, one of our main focuses is continuing to extend our sizing further for future collections.
That makes sense. I know some brands will start smaller and then see the need or demand and expand from there.
Yeah, exactly. For us, we’re starting small and trying to be as eco-friendly as possible and hoping to be able to offer it to everyone. I know it’s difficult, and it can be a touchy situation. But my end goal, hopefully, sooner rather than later, is for [COZeCO] to be completely inclusive and unisex. I’d love to get into family dressing, and a lot of the pieces in the collection [already] can be unisex. Like, Timmy definitely plans on wearing the Dad Sweatshirt. I wish I could have made a little kids collection with [these exact pieces] because it would be the cutest thing ever.
So, I feel like the vibe of COZeCO goes hand-in-hand with one of your and Timmy’s favorite wardrobe staples: Long-sleeve T-shirts in washed colors that you buy when traveling (can you tell how much I stan your reaction videos?). Did that nostalgic and sort of kitschy aesthetic inspire you in any way?
Yes, for sure. It’s very much our version of that travel shirt—[they’re] really cool and soft, and you have them forever. The longer you wear them, the better they get, and they [come] in the best colors, and they’re not that expensive. So, [COZeCO] is totally [that] aesthetic with a little bit more of an edge to it, a little more fashion.
What are your thoughts on the relevance of loungewear post-COVID? The category is a staple in many wardrobes, but it majorly boomed over the past year. How do you see it evolving?
I really think through the rest of this year and into 2022, people are still going to be spending the majority of their time at home or being comfortable. I think it’s hopeful that we’re getting out and about again, but I think there’s still a need for [loungewear], and I think there’s a need for people to want a fresh take on that—fresh colors, fresh fabrics, and a fresh mentality with it being organic.
I think after this launch, our next [delivery] will be in June, and we’ll be moving into bodysuits, wrap skirts, casual shorts, and summer dresses, really taking the loungewear aesthetic into a more cohesive collection with lots of different items.
So, stylingk [**the "k" is an inside reaction video joke]. Can you share some of the ways you’ve been wearing the collection yourself and talk about your favorite pieces from the line? I notice you play with proportions a lot, pairing loose or oversize tops with more fitted bottoms, and often mix in more elevated accessories to avoid looking sloppy.
So, I am planning on filming a video for my YouTube channel that shows how I style every piece. But I love that you noticed that because so much of the way I dress is that type of silhouette, where it’s usually something baggy or loose on the top and then maybe a little slimmer on the bottom, or vice versa, just to play with shape. Everything is meant to be styled and worn together, as well as with other basics that you have.
I love the Dad Sweatshirt ($94) over the Melt Rib Dress ($98) because it’s very straight and follows the line of your body and the oversize sweatshirt gives it a more relaxed and pulled-together look.
I love the Melt Cardigan with a white T-shirt and jeans—I think it’s such an easy go-to look. Or the Comfs Sweatshirt ($84) with the little Ribbed Shorts ($58). The mix of the french terry and the ribbed bottom is a really fun play on texture.
I love the idea of our Cahz Ribbed Pants ($88) in Crown, which is a dark blue, with a white button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up with cool chains and loafers. It’s such an easy silhouette that works. The pants, you feel like you’re wearing nothing but, you still look like you did something.
Okay. If you had to, how would you describe the collection in a few words? This is meant to be fun!
I think Dad Vibes sums it up well. Like, melty. I always think of the word "melt" when I think of it. It’s like melty, cool loungewear.
Last question: Your reaction video merch. What are the differentiating factors between the two lines, and is it your hope for people to combine them?
I think the goal is one day to be able to combine it and have one easy place where everybody can find everything that we’re designing. Really the merch is Timmy’s passion and hobby, and he is the one that’s designing it and thinking about the graphics for it, and he works with the artists. I help him with the terminology. I think he’s the creative director, and I come in and assist him. All of that stuff is basics with custom artwork on it, and it’s really inside jokes from the channel. Hopefully, the audience will combine, and it will be one big happy family of [coziness]. It’s been fun to do both, and it’s been a great learning experience for me.
Whitney will be donating 10% per each COZeCO Organic Cotton Graphic Tee (both designs, all colorways) and Swingy Sway Organic Cotton Sweatshirt purchased between April 22 and May 22, 2021 to the National Forest Foundation.