When you’re best friends working together can be tricky. Not so for Genevieve Saylak and Corissa Santos who met during their college years at Washington University. Before teaming up to launch their sustainable womenswear collection Where Mountains Meet, the women earned experience at Theory and Marchesa. Genevieve and Corissa knew they wanted to “build a company that puts the best foot of the fashion industry forward.” The print-loving duo design in the Garment District and work closely with Nest to develop relationships with artisans all over the world to fulfill this mission. For them, the meaning behind Earth Day is a way of life, personally and professionally.
Your friendship dates back almost 10 years, how did you two meet?
We met in college, in our studio art program at Washington University in Saint Louis, and have been friends since then.
How do your backgrounds as designers at Theory and Marchesa factor into your current brand aesthetic, if at all?
We wouldn’t say those roles have an obvious visual connection to the work we do now, but they do present themselves in subtler ways. Our experiences at Theory and Marchesa inform our technical focus on things such as quality finishings and perfect fit, but also our interest in design driven detailing. Creatively, however, we’re developing our own language and codes. We believe in modern silhouettes enriched by handmade textiles, in details that give new life to classic elements such as collars and plackets.
Why was it so important to you to become an environmentally conscious brand?
The reasons are both personal and mission critical. We want to build a company that puts the best foot of the fashion industry forward. One that streamlines processes to be more efficient, less wasteful and thinks first and foremost about our partners and resources. While these principles have always been important to us personally, they’re also slowly becoming a necessity. Our planet cannot compensate for the rapid depletion of natural resources that the fashion industry is, in part, responsible for.
How did you go about building your team of global female artisans?
Though we love working with female artisans, many men in these communities are incredibly gifted artisans as well. In fact, in some communities more men than women are working with the looms, as has been the tradition for generations. We work with a number of non-profits, such as the Nest organization based here in New York, to open channels of communication with artisan communities. Good old-fashioned networking has yet to fail us as well—it’s incredible the number of events we’ve been to where we’ve walked away with a new textile resource or the name of a potential new partner. People in this niche of fashion are eager to share and increase the amount of workflow to artisan communities.
What goes into the print design process?
We love prints. They offer us a way to tie together different colors in a season’s palette and add visual novelty to a collection. It’s important for us to consider how they play off of each other, too—each print needs a reason to live and they shouldn’t compete with one another. The process is pretty crafty—we sketch, cut and paste, print out images, rip them up and tape them back together. Next step is to work with a local graphic designer to digitize the idea and play with color options. For FW17 we worked with an artist friend to create a watercolor study that we turned into a digital print—that fabric was the season’s best seller by a mile.
What is a typical day like at your studio in the Garment District?
Each day is very different, but they all start with coffee at Café Grumpy on 39th Street and 7th Ave. It’s a necessary ritual. For the first few hours of each day we’re often answering emails from our overseas partners. Late morning and early afternoon you’ll find us running around to meetings with fabric vendors, or to our factories to check in on developments and production runs. We have a huge table that serves as our desk and during design periods it’s covered with tears and sketches. If we’re in the office there is always music playing and an invigorating rosemary scent in the air (thanks to a Muji diffuser we splurged on when we moved into the space).
Who is the woman you’re designing for?
She’s inquisitive, creative, well-travelled and actively engaged with the world. She cares about high quality, thoughtful design and is drawn to clothes that are an eclectic, artistic iteration of timeless silhouettes.
Which piece from your collection are we most likely to see you wearing around the city?
We’re both obsessed with our Haven pant from SS17. It’s a wide-leg, cropped trouser that we can pair with anything and really dress up or way down. It’s business-world ready with a silk blouse and heels, but can also be very downtown with a novelty sweater or denim jacket and sneakers.
What NYC boutiques would you like to see where Mountains Meet sold?
We’d love to start a relationship with Bird in Brooklyn. The owner, Jen Mankins, is an incredible curator. We greatly admire her vision each season. There’s always something unexpected on the racks from well-established designers that she’s seamlessly merchandized in with emerging designer collections.
Do you have another fashion filled adventure planned?
We just road-tripped from Texas to California—Austin, Houston, Dallas, Marfa and then on to Los Angeles. We live for being outdoors (something we don’t nearly get enough of here in New York) and so no work trip is complete without a hike or stop at a national park. This trip we had a chance to hike in Joshua Tree, CA and camp out at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. White Sands is going to play a huge role in our creative process for SS18.
What do you enjoy most about working together?
The fact that 99% of the time it doesn’t feel like work. Picking the right partner when you start a business is everything, and the fact that your personal goals and the business’s align makes it far easier to stay committed and driven. We have a shared vision for what we want where Mountains Meet to become, as well as a shared love of tacos, margaritas, hiking, cacti and the American Southwest.
You’ve really made an effort to embrace and integrate the New York City community into your brand identity. Tell us more about your upcoming Earth Day event.
Yes! We’re very focused on our artisan communities abroad, but our home turf is never on the back burner. We’re doing community garden clean up at Warren St Mark’s Community garden in Brooklyn on Sunday, April 30th. More details to follow so keep an eye on our Instagram feed! We’re also doing a sales promotion in honor of Earth month: 10% off any order on our site for the month of April with code EARTH17. 10% of all April proceeds will be donated to The Nature Conservancy, a charity near and dear to our hearts.