Sunja Link is a Canadian-based designer whose functional designs speak volumes to her approachable and sophisticated aesthetic. Sunja, who's very familiar with the importance of functionality, took a brief hiatus a few years ago to realign her focus and pursue another venture: motherhood.
Fast forward to 2017, and she's back with new materials and designs, but with the same mission: to create wearable pieces with high quality fabrics that take you through your day, from start to finish, without a hitch.
On selecting fabrics/materials:
I have to be honest, I find my fabrics through different fabric reps all over the country who represent fabric mills from all over the world.
So, it's not very interesting. There are a lot of meetings and a lot of touching millions of different fabrics, until something feels right, both literally and figuratively.
On inspiration and challenges:
The challenge is not getting caught up in the noise. With the internet, it's easy to be influenced by all you see.
Keeping things relevant but also authentically myself is the real job. And everything influences me, everything around me.
On motherhood, relaunching a line, and a changing perspective:
The relaunch of my brand occurred after a five year hiatus, so my kids were and are still pretty young, but in school now.
I don't think it's having kids that changed my perspective, I think it's getting older and more confident that changed things for me.
I decided to listen to other people's opinions but follow my gut first and am still trying to always stand my ground. And most importantly take everything in stride.
On your favorite outfit:
I love a good tee shirt. The joke is that hunt is always on. And I've spent way to much on tee shirts.
So, I did my own this upcoming season. I'm kind of excited about that. And the other thing I try for is the perfect casual, fashionable, easy, and flattering dress. That's a challenge: to create dresses that don't make people feel overdressed but also not too casual. I love to wear that dress.
My pastimes are pretty limited having my own business and two young kids. My husband is awesome, though, so he gives me time for things like book club and ladies meals. Spending time with likeminded women is important to me and it's also inspiring.
Logo photo courtesy of Sunja Link
Saint Cloud team member Sanaa Sahi recently sat down with the founders of Mirth Caftans, sisters Katie McClure and Erin Breen. Read her conversation below, and get ready to be as inspired as we were.
Sanaa: I'm interested in how you started Mirth Caftans. How did you come up with the idea and what was the impetus behind it?
Katie: The start of MIRTH wasn’t so simple. I came up with the general idea of making caftans with special fabrics when I traveling by myself in Bali. Life had just gotten thrown up in the air and turned upside down, so I was forced to be searching for what to do next. I also never had a job where I was using all my skills or that I was passionate about, so I was looking for that. I think traveling by yourself is one of those things that you need to do to get clarity. While traveling, I was looking for caftans but couldn't find one. Then I found this really amazing handmade batik fabric out of a hidden little workshop in Ubud and the idea just came to me. I wanted to make caftans and keep it simple – create a great product with the right structure and fit that was comfortable and made well. But also give back in some way - that was really important to me to. I tabled the idea but I kept coming back to it. Years later, I was volunteering in Nepal and at that time, I realized this idea was just not going to go away. My sister was also at a point in her life where she wanted to try something new. She had just closed her business – a clinic for kids with autism - and was looking for something different. After meeting up in India and falling into some serendipitous meetings and experiences, she agreed and things seemed to fall into place. We thought maybe this might not be so unattainable and we might be able to do this. Two years later we launched.
Sanaa: I think a lot of ideas come from those types of moments where you don’t know what you’re doing and are at a crossroads. And you find yourself saying am I actually really going to do this? And then it all just works out.
Erin: Exactly, things fall into place. We weren't forcing it. It all organically happened and it’s been like that since we started. That’s not to say it’s been easy, because it is the hardest thing we’ve ever done, but we try to do it all keeping the big picture in mind.
Katie: I think getting out of your comfort zone is crucial. If we had been working our “soulless” jobs day to day, it wouldn't have happened. And I think that's one of the great things about traveling. It let's your mind wander. It’s kind of difficult in our mundane daily life for that kind of thought enter your mind. Sometimes having bad things happen are really key and awesome.
Erin: Those things lead to other better things. You learn and move on to even better things.
Sanaa: I think so too. I had that when I finished my masters and was trying to decide what to do next. I was going to comment on you traveling alone. It’s something I have always wanted to do.
Katie: It’s now my favorite way to travel. It’s scary at first but then it becomes a much more rich experience. You’re really seeing things and finding new things. I did it because I was living in Europe at the time and it was really easy for me to hop onto a train. You don’t worry about eating alone. If you want to eat at a 5 star Michelin restaurant you do it, and learn it isn't so intimidating to do so alone and end up having this amazing dinner with the person next to you.
Sanaa: Having dinner alone is still something I haven’t conquered. Lunch at a fancy place? Yes.
Erin: Baby steps.
Sanaa: Did you know what you wanted to do when you grew up? Did you have something in mind? Is this something different than what you had in mind?
Katie: I wanted to join the circus. I wrote my college essay on joining the circus.
Erin: Katie is like “I’m serious”.
Katie: I majored in textiles and didn't do anything with it. And now I’m back to it and actually using what I learned.
Erin: I worked with kids my whole entire life. This is nothing like what I expected to be doing - having a business with my sister. I never thought Katie and I would be working together.
Sanaa: How is that? Working with your sister?
Erin: It’s good. We have very different personalities and that works to our advantage. We will have our moments but we work it out very quickly. And it’s so fun and we are so comfortable with each other. Plus, we get to travel together. I love traveling with Katie because she always has a plan and I like to just go with the flow.
Katie: I agree. We are aware that we have different roles so we keep that in mind. We don't have to communicate. We just look at each other and know what the other is thinking.
Erin: We very rarely disagree on aesthetics.
Sanaa: I think typically it’s difficult to articulate your ideas and vision and it’s nice to have shorthand with your business partner. What has been the most difficult part of starting your own business?
Katie: Not having a boss. You have no idea if what you are doing is right or if you are going down a rabbit hole. If you need to get from point A to point B, you just somehow have to figure it out.
Erin: It’s 24/7 and it never goes away. It’s on your mind constantly.
Sanaa: I think that feeling of not knowing what you are doing never goes away. You just become more confident in making decisions. I’ve been talking to a lot of women entrepreneurs and it seems that once you finally feel safe there’s a new problem to tackle. You are just more confident at handling it. But, it’s nice to know that everyone is in the same boat.
Katie: That’s so true. Personal growth has been crazy in the last year. I feel like I’m almost a different person after doing this. You have to let go of perfectionism. You have to go to sleep at night knowing your life might be "over" the next day. Someone might say “What are you going to do, you have to do that before Friday!” My answer has to be, "I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out.” You always have to figure it out.
Sanaa: You have to live your life.
Katie: You have to be ok with knowing things might not be ok.
Sanaa: What is your typical day? Or do you not have typical days. What is work/life/balance like?
Erin: I’m a lot more part time. My priority is my family and my child. Going into this we talked about how it was going to work. For me, it’s finding the time to fit things in throughout the day. Right now I’m super flexible and get things done when I can. Nothing is very concrete.
Katie: And that’s where I come in. I do try to be consistent because having your own business is about time management and holding yourself accountable. I do try to wake up fairly early and I have to exercise everyday. I like commuting somewhere to work and be in a dedicated space. In the afternoons, I do more hands on work and have meetings with our pattern or sample maker. In the evenings and mornings we talk to our manufacturers in India due to the time difference.
Sanaa: Do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs?
Katie: The hardest part is starting and just doing it. Just start small. You don’t have to quit your day job. I encourage everybody to do creative things and just go for it. We had a lot of success with SCORE – a branch of the SBA (Small Business Associateion). You can make hour long appointments with retired executives (lawyers, accountants) and just ask questions that you may have. I also think having a sense of community is important. It’s huge to find other people doing the same thing – mentors or someone else starting out. I can’t tell you how much it pulls you up. You could attend
Sanaa: I think that's really valuable advice. What's been the most rewarding part so far?
Erin: I think just seeing it grow. I’ve said it before but things just fell into place without trying to control everything. That’s been really cool for me. It’s just crazy that it started with Katie having this idea. It’s still not even real to me. It’s weird.
Katie: This is going to be an odd answer but when a stranger buys a caftan – because surely that person is a long lost cousin somewhere. It’s like wow - someone actually wants one. When Saint Cloud placed an order – that was just like “are they just being nice?”. Just to have this feedback has been great.
Sanaa: Oh, I should tell you that I saw someone wearing one of your caftans. I saw her wearing it and I was like "I know who makes it!"
Katie: Haha. Which one was it?
Sanaa: It was the
Katie: Whether you are traveling or at home, it’s just a feeling of slowing down a little and feeling comfortable with yourself. Your mind is in a happy place and you are enjoying life.
Sanaa: Lastly, how do you pronounce lagniappe? It’s something that you use in your line, the little cloth bags each caftan comes with.
Katie: lan-yap. We always used it growing up. It means a little surprise or a little something extra.
Sanaa: I tried using it in a sentence and while the word was coming out I realized I don’t actually know how to say it!
All photos are taken from the Mirth Caftans
We're just going to come out and say it: we are OBSESSED with
Our exclusive product line with Blake will be available online starting December 16, and we are hosting a launch party at the store Tuesday December 15 from 6-9pm. Read on for our interview with Blake, and we promise, you will fall as hard for him as we have.
1. One thing you can't live without?
2. Most used phone app?
3. Guilty pleasure?
4. If you could chose what to come back as, what would it be?
5. What is your hidden talent?
6. Favorite pick up line?
"GET IN THE CAR..."
7. What is your biggest pet peeve?
8. Favorite artist(s)?
MURAKAMI, KAWS, SHRIGLEY, HARING, FINLAND
9. What would your last meal be?
10. Favorite emoji?
11. What superpower would you most like to have?
MANIFEST IDEAS INTO MATTER
12. Best advice?
DON'T TALK ABOUT WHAT YER GUNNA DO; TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU DID
We want to be Venessa Arizaga. With a jet setting life between New York and Puerto Rico, a pedigreed design sensibility from Parsons, and stints at Carolina Herrera and Zac Posen, she certainly knows her stuff. Venessa creates witty mixed media pieces that make you take a second look. Her bracelets and bags are all about being playful and capture the laid back island aesthetic that she grew up with. Friendship bracelets that say "pizza party" and perfectly encapsulate late night meals with your friend? Just Yes. We recently caught up with Venessa and asked her 12 questions. Here are her answers:
1. What bracelet from your collection do you most identify with right now ?
2. What inspires you?
Time at the library, searching through periodicals. During my free time, I like to research vintage clothes and references from the past hundred years.
3. Favorite place in the world?
Paradise in Puerto Rico. Who can resist the ocean, sunny days, and 80-degree weather?
4. One thing you can't live without?
A notebook - I need one at all times. I'm old school.
5. Most used phone app?
Instagram. It connects me to friends, and friends that I don't know.
6. Guilty Pleasure?
Spa Castle (look it up), Bad TV, Cooking Shows, Jeopardy
7. Style Icon?
Soul Train and Jackson 5. I love a good 70s reference.
8. Best Advice?
Always ask for advice.
9. Biggest Pet Peeve?
Rushing out the door before a task is done.
10. What phrases do you overuse?
"Write it on your notebook."
11. What is the most overrated virtue?
Good things come to those who wait, but I like to think that better things come to those who go get it.
12. What do you wish you had invented?
Eyeliner. I can't live without it.
You can shop Venessa's collection