By Sarah Schwarz
For The Beachcomber
It is clear from first glance that there is a message behind “The President of Me.” The casual clothing shop in the Old Fuller Store, which has celebration flags and a woman with foliage hair out front, opened July 5.
“I didn’t open the store to be in the garment business,” said owner Rebecca Wittman. “I did it because I feel strongly about the concept that we hold on to our personal power in this life if we learn to take responsibility for our own actions.”
This philosophy guides the line. Every piece is meticulously thought out in order to best express the manifesto, which is even sewn into the inside of some garments. Her clothes are simple and causal. She has three requirements for a piece to be part of the line.
“A piece must afford an opportunity to carry the message. It has to be quality goods — it has to be a fabric that I would want to wear and that won’t fall apart. And, it has to be a very classic piece of clothing,” she said.
Wittman moved her design studio and store into the Old Fuller Store building last month, and previously sold her garments through Common Thread. Wittman describes her resume before begining the line as similar to a Jackson Pollock painting.
“It’s evidence of great energy even though it’s a little hard to decipher,” she said.
She began sewing as a young child, making her own clothing. She worked professionally in the garment business in her 20s, studied opera and jazz in college, sang professionally for about five years, owned a yacht refinishing business, wrote two books in conjunction with that business, did marketing design and worked in real estate for about 10 years before moving to the island and beginning work on The President of Me about eight years ago.
Upon moving to Vashon, Wittman spent a couple years trademarking what she needed for her line so she would be legally prepared. It wasn’t until that was finished that she began the four-year process of designing the line. This exemplifies the preparation and thought Wittman has put into the brand.
Customers will notice a stick figure design on many of the garments. Wittman said his name is Zeteticus, meaning “seeker of the truth” in old Latin. All the items are black, white or grey. The black and white symbolize truth and lies, while the grey represents the necessary compromise in life. The only color is found in Zeteticus’ orange hat, which she said represents possibility, opportunity and energy.
“If a person travels this world enough, you learn that the black and white of truth has to have a little bit of compromise,” she said.
Wittman said the line will continue to grow and develop, though it will remain casual and easy to wear.
Although her hours are not set in stone, she tries to be open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from noon to 7 p.m. On weekends, she tries to only be open on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., but is sometimes open on Sundays as well. Other days are reserved for her to sew, but since the studio and shop are one, she may let the occasional customer in on those days as well.