Welcome to White House Black Market, a one-of-a-kind women’s fashion brand offering sophisticated yet daring styles that allow customers to make their own rules about fashion. Ever since our founding in 1985, we’ve aimed to provide high-quality pieces with unique details that allow modern women to express their personal tastes and flair.
Humble Small Town Beginnings
Our story begins in the 1980s in the small rural town of Cumberland, Virginia. Childhood friends Cherie Williams and Jeff Williams (no relation!) shared a dream of starting their own clothing store catered specifically to the stylish working women that they admired around their hometown but who had few shopping options.
After collaborating on the business idea through high school and saving money from their part-time jobs, 18-year-old Cherie and 19-year-old Jeff pooled their funds together and signed a lease on a tiny retail space right on Main Street in downtown Cumberland. They decided to dub their humble shop “White House Black Market” as a play on the classic contrasting color scheme but also to signify their goal to provide both elegant options fit for a White House event as well as edgier avant-garde statement pieces.
Cherie’s sewing skills and Jeff’s keen eye for spotting the next fashion trends made them a dynamic duo. They worked tirelessly to handmake those first set of samples and establish relationships with wholesale suppliers. Their vision was to offer Cumberland career women fashionable and functional workwear essentials like blazers, blouses, and slacks in fine fabrics and luxe details showcasing Cherie’s fine tailoring paired with Jeff’s unique embellished touches.
On opening day in October 1985, curious Cumberland locals flooded White House Black Market, intrigued by the intriguing store name and displays of lovely blouses and polished accessories. By end of day, Cherie and Jeff had completely sold out of inventory! The enthusiastic response from that small community confirmed their belief that they could fill a gap in the market targeting aspirational customers looking for attentive service and special pieces to serve both daytime office needs as well as dressier after-hours events.
Expanding Our Offerings and Reach
Bolstered by the warm reception, Cherie and Jeff continued to refine our assortment, focusing on quickly reproducing top-selling tailored staples while steadily expanding into more playful woven tops, pretty printed dresses, and sophisticated separates catering to our customers’ desire for work-to-weekend pieces allowing them to effortlessly transition from desk to dinner.
As word spread about White House Black Market’s personalized service and uniqueness, we started receiving calls from women a county over hoping we’d consider opening a second location closer to them or even just mail them some catalogs. So Cherie and Jeff rented a small warehouse, set up a makeshift photo studio, and shot our first print catalog featuring hometown Cumberland women as models. We mailed those catalogs out to neighboring towns and soon enough had an influx of orders and customer visits from across the state.
To keep up with growing demand, we moved White House Black Market operations into a larger production and distribution facility, upgrading to more advanced machines and bringing on talented local seamstresses and customer service reps. This expansion allowed us to extend sizes, design more intricate pieces showcasing premium fabrics and embellishments, as well as fulfill orders nationally just through our catalog and over the phone.
Committing to Quality & Community
Even as White House Black Market gained more mainstream buzz and recognition, Cherie and Jeff stayed true to the hands-on approach and core values that made us a hometown success story. We only work with manufacturers and partners who share our standards for responsible ethical production. Our in-house designers carefully oversee each step of the supply chain from sourcing textiles to finishing intricate beading.
And despite receiving offers to house White House Black Market in major metro hubs, Cherie and Jeff insist on keeping our operations in Cumberland as a commitment to investing in the community that first supported us. We take pride in providing employment opportunities to talented locals including many hard-working family members and friends of our longtime customers.
White House Black Market has grown from bustling Cumberland storefront to a nationally-shipped catalog beloved for making women look and feel their absolute best. Our collections offer polished presentation pieces standing side-by-side with stunning styles making a wildly creative fashion statement. We elementally fuse gorgeous feminine detailing, luxe fabrication and silhouettes in our own White House Black Market way.
Our Commitment to Our Customers
The White House Black Market brand was built on genuinely listening to our customers and continuously excelling at fulfilling their wants and needs when it comes to distinctive fashion. We pride ourselves on forging genuine long-term relationships with our customers and consider many more like family at this point!
It’s easy to offer great initial service and attention when courting a new customer. But at White House Black Market, our priority is maintaining that high-quality caring approach that first drew each woman in for the long haul. We check in about what pieces she might be seeking for upcoming vacations, big career moments like a job interview or presentation, family weddings, even just a fun weekend getaway. Our team keeps notes on color preferences, silhouettes that highlight her best assets, that perfect finishing touch item like a statement necklace that pulls together her signature style.
We build trust with our customers by really learning her lifestyle, listening first, then making thoughtful recommendations rather than aggressive sales pushes for pieces that don’t fit her needs. She knows we have her back whether she’s venturing into daring new prints or cuts outside her norm or relying on us for that perfect little black dress never letting her down. We’ll be frank in our assessments but never make her feel anything less than beautiful.
The bonds built with our White House Black Market customers fuel our inspiration as a brand. Her delight in finding that eye-catching cocktail dress or frustration when struggling to find work basics that properly fit provides meaningful feedback we apply in better serving women just like her. Sometimes a customer will even sketch a description of an imaginary piece missing from her closet, and if we can bring that vision to life with our design talents, it’s the ultimate reward.
Doing Our Part
At White House Black Market, we believe that business success also means giving back. As a company born out of and still rooted in our community of Cumberland, Virginia, we have an obligation to do our part in contributing to the greater social good in our region and beyond.
Our employees are encouraged to actively volunteer with organizations addressing homelessness, domestic violence, food insecurity, youth development, and workforce training. We provide paid time off for volunteering as well as sponsor needed supplies and matching donations.
Locally, White House Black Market sponsors an annual dress drive and fashion show fundraiser spotlighting community girls and women selected by area schools and nonprofit programs to receive a confidence-boosting outfit perfect for job interviews, school dances or other special occasions where looking your best matters.
To date, White House Black Market has donated over $1 million in profits and fundraising initiatives as part of our commitment to targeted community investment. Organizations supported include shelters, youth enrichment programs, job training for former inmates, addiction recovery efforts, affordable daycare access, literacy projects, boots-on-the-ground disaster relief response and more.
Internationally, we partner with ethical fashion brands and producers to develop co-operatives and micro-finance opportunities for artisans in Kenya, India, Guatemala and other developing regions to preserve important handicraft skills and heritage textiles while empowering women to achieve financial independence.
The next generation of fashion trailblazers also receives support from White House Black Market through our annual emerging designer competition. Up-and-coming student designers compete for a $10,000 grand prize to help launch their own label by submitting sketches and business plans judged by our executive team.
No matter how large or small, every gesture of social awareness combined creates positive change. We try never to lose sight of that fact as we continue growing our White House Black Market fashion house.
Nearly 40 years since Cherie and Jeff first locked arms and embarked on that downtown Cumberland dream, White House Black Market now operates over 450 store locations across North America and maintains thriving e-commerce and catalog divisions as well.
Our brand has been recognized in major fashion publications like Vogue and Elle and worn by celebrities on Hollywood red carpets. Yet our focus remains fixed on meticulous quality and delivering beautiful pieces for everyday women rather than pursuing flashy hype.
Looking ahead, we strive to expand thoughtfully by introducing new boutique locations only in markets where we know our caring approach will resonate. Tech-savvy innovations allow us to provide exceptionally personalized service at scale so customers can always count on the same wonderful shopping experience regardless of channel.
Staying true to our small-town roots while serving stylish women country-wide is always top of mind. We want her to instantly recognize a White House Black Market piece from across the room. That intriguing but oh-so-familiar contrast pairing symbolizes the confidence, sophistication and adventure inside every woman we dress.
We’d love to have you join our White House Black Market community as we continue growing into the future. Let us guide you to pieces accentuating your best self. Shop with us wherever, whenever. Above all, we hope what you take away after each touchpoint interaction with our brand is feeling genuinely listened to, supported and inspired when it comes to looking as radiant as your inner light shines.