Five Questions for Vena Cava
Sophie Buhai and Lisa Mayock have come a long way from the living room. Back in 2003, the freshly minted Parsons grads set up shop in the apartment they shared in Brooklyn and began mashing up ideas for their new brand, Vena Cava. In the years since, a healthy sense of eclecticism has served the label well: This season, for example, Mayock and Buhai nicked inspiration from the flick Space Is the Place, starring Sun Ra, translating its kitschy, seventies Egyptomania aesthetics into a collection that was characteristically casually elegant. The designers’ signature draping, idiosyncratic prints, and habit of festooning their clothes with custom hardware has found their brand fans among retailers and editors alike—not to mention the odd celeb. This year, Vena Cava was tapped as a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award. The winner of the 2008 prize will be announced November 17; in the meantime, Buhai and Mayock answer Style.com’s questions about life in the Top Ten.
What made you want to be a designer?
Lisa Mayock: When I was a kid, my best friend’s mom wore the most interesting outfits. She had the best jewelry, too. I always wanted to touch everything she had on.
Sophie Buhai: My grandmother and her two eccentric sisters were pioneers of modern fashion, I swear. I love older women who have been refining a singular style for decades.
What was the most rewarding moment of the whole CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund experience?
SB: I really loved working on the stop-motion video we made for our initial application. Not only was it fun to collaborate with Arden Wohl, but making that video forced us to distill the whole history and philosophy of Vena Cava into three minutes. That was a good challenge.
Still, the process does seem rather nerve-racking. How did you relax?
LM: Cold beer and Steve Martin movies.
What’s your up-and-coming designer’s take on the current economic crisis?
LM: The feedback we’re getting from stores is that the novelty items are continuing to sell really well—our custom prints and the pieces with decorative hardware. What I take from that is, let’s keep pushing the signature Vena Cava look, because apparently price is less of an issue when there’s an urgency to the clothes, a specialness.
If you do win the award, what’s the first thing you’re going to do with the prize money?
LM: It would be amazing to have an in-house sample sewer. We’ve transferred a lot of our production out of the country, so the turnaround time on samples has been a real drag on the creative process.
SB: Also, we’d like to hire a business advisor—someone experienced in helping take a company our size to the next level.
LM: And we really need new office chairs.