Introducing Whoopi Goldberg, Holiday Knitwear Impresario

By Liana Satenstein. Photos: Courtesy.

Whoopi Goldberg, a fashion designer? It’s no joke! The comedian, talk show host, and actress is something of a burgeoning fashion icon, having created a buzz this past New York Fashion Week with appearances at Hood By Air, Gypsy Sport, and J.Crew, as well as drumming up some on-air support of Vetements via the brand’s street style–beloved “May the Bridges I Burn Light the Way” hoodie. Now Goldberg has gone one step further, releasing a capsule collection of decidedly unique Christmas sweaters that will launch at Lord & Taylor in late October, just in time for the holidays. A fan of the winter holiday staple (ever heard of ugly Christmas sweater parties?), Goldberg prefers to call her nine-piece collection “funny sweaters,” and each comes complete with classic Whoopi quirk, from a yarmulke-wearing octopus to a Christmas tree with a Charlie Brown complex.

Below, caught up with Goldberg to talk about how she’s changing the face of the ugly holiday sweater.

How did the collection first kick off?

I love what we call an “ugly Christmas sweater.” I have been wearing them over the years on the show. I once said to my work partner, “Maybe I should design some ugly Christmas sweaters,” and he told our friend Gary Wassner [CFDA advisory board member], who ran with the ball. The next thing I knew, I designed 13 and 14 of them. We ended up over at Lord & Taylor and they bought 11 or 12 of them. I was like, “Okay, cool!”

You can’t call them “ugly.” Mine are kind of “funny Christmas sweaters” or “Christmas sweaters with a twist.” They are actually quite wonderful, and they feel good. I have a lot of sweaters that I have bought from lots of different people over the years, but it seems that after two, three years the sweater quality has gone down for me, so I was kvetching about that. I think that’s what initiated it. But I love good sweaters, fun sweaters, and holiday sweaters, so I’ve tried my hand at it.

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What are the special “Whoopi” touches?

There is a Christmas tree with a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, and on the other side, it’s a Christmas tree of how the Christmas tree sees itself, which is a big, lush beautiful thing that’s lit, and the lights light up. There’s an octopus; he is wearing a yarmulke. He has a menorah and he is trying to hold everything. There is a little boy who’s decorating the Christmas tree and he’s holding the yarmulke and he’s got dreidels; he’s got Christmas trees. It’s basically about how we are all in this together. There’s a [sweater that depicts a] family, which is like “what makes a family.” Everyone looks like each other in the family except for one person who doesn’t look like anyone else in the family, but it’s a holiday so they’re all together anyway. I love the Rockettes, and I felt that we should have reindeer like “Reindeer Rockettes.” It’s all in my funny, weird head of things that I like to see. There’s a great one of two Santas kissing, one white Santa and one black Santa, and it’s fantastic. It’s anything that will elicit a smile or an “aw” from you; that’s what I want.

It seems like there’s one for everyone!

Most of my Jewish friends are like, “The holiday thing is okay, but we are here too!” There will be a Kwanzaa sweater next year, a Ramadan sweater. I just want to cover everything. The holidays, regardless of what you believe—it should be a day, a week, a month of let’s all be together. Silly sweaters can unite us and what is better than that?

That’s what the holidays are about!

That’s what I remember. My mom always made the holidays magical. She always seemed to pull out of nowhere amazing things. It was a time where Walter Cronkite said, “There is peace in the world when it is Christmas Eve.” I bought into it! I bought into Hanukkah. I bought into everything.

When is it appropriate to break out the Christmas sweater?

I’m old school. I won’t break them out until December 1. For me, you get out of the turkey’s way; you take a breather.

Do you have a Christmas sweater that you first remember wearing?

As a kid, I didn’t have Christmas sweaters. We just had “sweater sweaters.” We didn’t have any money to do Christmas sweaters. But the very first sweater I ever remember wearing had a decal, like a poodle decal, but the poodle was a little weird. He had one eye and it looked like it had been hit by 14 trucks. That’s what the decal looked like when I bought it. It was pretty great.

You have quite the shoe collection. Are you going to match your shoes with your sweaters?

In my head I do, but the truth of the matter is my shoe collection exists for work. I have three or four pairs of shoes at my house. Most of them are Birkenstocks, and a couple of them are just, you know, wild, strange sneakers. I just bought a pair of amazing sneakers that Pharrell did and I am looking forward to pairing them with something.

How do you style your sweaters?

My wardrobe is very simple, so leggings or skinny jeans, a white shirt, and whatever shoes I happen to put on. I’m not the world’s greatest dresser, and I’m not a boring dresser; there is always something interesting on me, if it is a pin or a [special] pair shoes. During the holidays, if I could make sweaters that talked or sang, I would!

This story originally appeared on Vogue.

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