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In Conversation - where Mountains Meet

Genevieve Saylak and Corissa Santos met in 2008 and thus, the seeds of creating a brand together were planted. Their visions were brought to life when when where Mountains Meet launched sometime later in 2015.

A thoughtful combination of art, sophistication, nature, and girl power, where Mountains Meet has a piece for every wardrobe. Today, we're getting behind the scenes with the founders and learning a bit more about what makes this brand tick.

On the name, as inspired by William Blake's quote: “Great things are done where men and mountains meet. This is not done by jostling in the street.”:

Nature plays such an important role in our personal lives, it was only right to infuse the brand with our love of it. The stories we like to tell with our collections lie at the intersection of nature and fashion. Our color palettes and prints are always inspired by the natural world in some way, and, of course, it is part of our mission to do our best by the environment. The fashion industry is one of the world’s top polluters, and we want to be a part of the next generation of designers committed to changing that statistic. The name where Mountains Meet is a subtle allusion to all of this.

On the start of the brand and your partnership:

We met at Washington University in Saint Louis as undergrads, and both moved to New York for our first design jobs. Over the next few years we caught up constantly about our experiences working at different companies, and had heated discussions about aspects of the industry and the business of fashion that we felt needed a shake-up. In the summer of 2015, both ready for a professional change, we outlined our own vision of that revolution and it became a business plan. Then it was only logical to build a brand that would serve as the vehicle to actualize it.

On your artisan selection process:

Artisan partnerships have been a central pillar of the brand since day one. We do a ton of research, networking and investigating to source potential partners. It’s an on-going process. Working with several groups allows us to tap into different techniques and materials, some of which are more seasonally appropriate for Spring vs. Fall collections, for instance. That variety is also what adds dimension to each collection—gives us a lot to play with and explore design-wise.

On your design process:

We typically come up with all of the print direction ourselves, and then think about which of our artist collaborators could bring them to life. We also discover artists during the preliminary stages of our design process, get inspired by their work and reach out to see if they’d like to work with us. To-date we’ve never had someone say no! We like to give guidance, particularly related to color palette and motif, but otherwise we give the artist an opportunity to make it their own and let their voice come through.

On your favorite materials:

We’re very drawn to natural fibers—cotton, silk, linen, wools—in both blended and single-content fabrics. We also love denim and use it every season. I guess you could say we’re purists in this way, but it also relates to our hand-feel, structure and drape preferences. Our artisan partners almost exclusively work with naturally-derived materials, and in general natural fibers are more eco-sensitive to produce. One exception to this is cotton—we try to find mills that recycle/reuse water in the production process, but it is definitely a sourcing challenge for us.

On your favorite pieces to design and wear:

We both love pants and love designing them. Give us some cool pants, and a few simple shirts or sweaters to top them off, and we’d both feel set for life. Thankfully, for our business’ sake, that’s not how every woman feels! We certainly focus on designing a well-rounded offering each season, and like to do so. We want our clothes to blend into her closet, but we also love the concept of the where Mountains Meet woman outfitted head-to-toe in the collection. For the current collection we’re designing, we’re really thinking about those outfits, and are focusing on making sure every style is essential to the offering.

On inspiration:

Art, nature, landscapes and women with stories to tell all inspire us greatly. We also try to hit the road at least once throughout the year. Our most recent collection, Spring/Summer ’18, was inspired by a road trip we took to Marfa, TX and White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. Our travels definitely inform both fabrics and silhouettes each season. Mostly we’re try to explore what our woman wants to be wearing, what we discover at the intersection of style, comfort and function. We work closely with our artisans on fabric design. It begins with our vision of where print and pattern meets the weaving techniques and handiwork of our artisan partners. We then pitch our ideas to the artisan partner we think can best realize them, and let them run with it. There’s a lot of trial, error and adjustment, but the result is always original. Our customers know they’re getting one-of-a-kind product, from the fabric to the finished garment.

On challenges and triumphs:

The ultimate challenge has been recognizing that first and foremost we are running a business. We come from strict design backgrounds, so you can imagine that this came as a shock. It’s hard to specifically define, but it was great to recognize one day that our business plan was a functioning one—that we could design, develop, sample, sell, produce and market a collection. The highs and lows are real, but when you own it, your heart is in it every day. Not everyone gets the chance to say that about their careers. We’re grateful for that.

On free time:

Great question – we’re both outdoor enthusiasts and have never met a mountain we didn’t want to climb. We also are passionate about tacos and coffee. Time with family is also crucial to our sanity, we’re both so lucky to have their support. 

On advice when starting a business:

Prepare yourself for the highest of highs and the lowest of lows—it’ll be both the biggest challenge of your life and the most rewarding endeavor. Also, you can be sure you’ll never be “fully prepared”, so don’t spend more time than necessary planning. Diving in is the scariest part, but also one of the best lessons you’ll learn in entrepreneurship–go with your gut and don’t be afraid to pull the trigger.

On the “where Mountains Meet Woman," described in five words:

Conscious, Confident, Thoughtful, Inquisitive, Visionary

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