Wet t-shirt, MONOGRAM
It seems very simple. The basic, casual, comfortable, familiar t-shirt. But when you choose to shop mindfully for the right tee, it gets complicated. Because I think it is in the most elementary of clothing pieces that quality does show. Not only do you want it to look and feel good, but you want it to look like it belongs to you too from the moment you first put it on. Like a trusted friend you’ve been known for a lifetime who gets only the best out of you. Lisa Mayock (formerly co-founder of Vena Cava) and Jeff Halmos (formerly of Trovata and Shipley & Halmos) created their brand MONOGRAM envisioning that very perfect tee, “that vintage t-shirt you’ve had in your closet for years – it’s delicate to the touch after years of wear”. A classic, clean cut that meets an art-based design sensibility. I believe therein lies the beauty of MONOGRAM. You know it is your personality that makes a statement, first and foremost, but it feels nothing short of liberating to have this great and simple wardrobe item that can back it up.
I recently had the opportunity to interview the CFDA award-winning designers on what sparked the concept and the name of their newly launched line, on the creative styling power of their t-shirts and sweatshirts, and on starting a fashion business as husband and wife.
Deep Red sleeveless top, MONOGRAM
Lisa, Jeff, why t-shirts? Why not something else? Why is MONOGRAM different than all the t-shirt brands on the market?
Lisa Mayock: There’s really nothing else like it out there! MONOGRAM was born out of our shared love of vintage, and a huge gap we noticed in the market. A perfect vintage t-shirt can be hard to come by (and often pricey), and when we started looking around and doing research we noticed it was really difficult to find shirts that were new but still hit that same vintage sensibility – we couldn’t find anything original or artfully-inspired. So we decided to create our own!
What are the core tenets on which the idea behind MONOGRAM is based?
Jeff Halmos: We started MONOGRAM as a destination for well-designed, art-based graphic t-shirts and sweatshirts in the vein of your favorite vintage pieces.
What makes a perfect t-shirt? Why is it so daunting to find that perfect-fitting tee? How are you addressing this at MONOGRAM?
Lisa: Every one has a different idea of their perfect t-shirt, but for us, we envision that vintage t-shirt you’ve had in your closet for years – it’s delicate to the touch after years of wear. We spent a lot of time perfecting the fabric and washes so every MONOGRAM t-shirt for extremely soft and loved without looking overly thrashed.
Tunnel Vision t-shirt, MONOGRAM
Why and how should one shop mindfully when it comes to t-shirts? What details prove that your t-shirts are well crafted and what are the factors one should always consider?
Jeff: For us, we lead with the fabric and the right wash, as Lisa mentioned above.
A symbol of timeless, effortless American style and California cool, is the t-shirt one of the essential pieces every woman should own, and why?
Lisa: Just as you would have a different wardrobe of shoes or jackets, I think having a wardrobe of t-shirts is just as important, especially when styled in a way that feels like a foil to an outfit that might be too precious otherwise.
Who do you design for?
Jeff: MONOGRAM’s original graphics are meant to make a personal statement. They’re witty, colorful, subversive, upbeat and fun. We design for every woman (for now!) and hope our graphics inspire wearers to let their individuality and personality shine through.
left: Torn Paper Eye t-shirt / right: Painted Eye sleeveless top, MONOGRAM
I like how style-driven your brand is. I couldn’t help but noticing the styling in the lookbook. I don’t think you have used a pair of jeans even once. It felt refreshing (and this comes from someone who loves jeans, and t-shirts, both apart and together). Your t-shirts simply stand apart. Was it intentional?
Lisa: Yes, we had a lot of fun styling our t-shirts! While we think that a customer is going to look great wearing these t-shirts with jeans, there are a lot of other really unique, nontraditional ways to style t-shirts and sweatshirts. That was really important for us to capture the way of dressing that we see out on the street that really didn’t see anywhere at retail.
How did you choose the name of the brand? And how do you decide the graphics and slogans that go on your t-shirts?
Jeff: What we love about MONOGRAM is that it feels like the company could be in publishing, advertising, fashion, or music. It’s easily identifiable yet somewhat vague in nature at the same time.
What drew you to the fashion business in the first place?
Lisa: It’s been my dream since I was really little, like 5 years old. I remember getting up early and watching Style with Elsa Klensch. It’s what I looked forward to for the entire week.
Lisa Mayock and Jeff Halmos, co-founders of MONOGRAM
You are married and have two children. What made you want to also work together and start a business?
Jeff: We actually resisted the idea of working together, at first. But the more time we spent on researching the market and talking about the idea, we both felt super excited and jumped right in!
How difficult is it to make a fashion business partnership work? What is the secret to a good partnership?
Lisa: Making sure that you both have the same work ethic is key. Also, understanding what you both bring to the table, and that you both respect each other’s skill set is extremely important.
How much talent, how much hard work and how much luck would you say that is involved in a successful fashion brand?
Lisa: I’d say that it’s 70% luck (including good timing), 20% hard work, and 10% talent.
Your products are manufactured locally in Los Angeles and you sell straight to consumers. Do you see your company as socially conscious? What are the perks and challenges of a socially conscious brand?
Jeff: What we like about the direct-to-consumer model is that it personalizes the experience – we’re excited to directly connect with our customers. We both have backgrounds in wholesale through previous brands and felt like we were constantly playing a game of telephone with the stores to find out what the customer liked or didn’t like. We wanted to sell direct-to-consumers with MONOGRAM in order to receive direct feedback and inspiration from the community.
Solid Tan t-shirt, MONOGRAM
Do you collect clothes?
Lisa: I think the room serving as a closet filled with all of my clothes and accessories would point to yes. I may have a problem!
The best piece of advice you have been given, career-wise.
Lisa: Dress for the job you want, not necessarily the one you have.
What does style mean to you?
Jeff: Wearing clothes that are true to yourself and not trying to be someone you’re not.
Solid Washed Grey t-shirt, MONOGRAM
Where would we find you when not working?
Jeff: On vacation somewhere tropical.
One thing you can’t start your day without:
Lisa: Kisses from my kids.
What is your one favourite thing to do in New York City and which you would miss if you lived anywhere else in the world?
Jeff: If we were to leave NYC, it would likely be for LA, which is where we do all of our production (and where Lisa grew up). I wouldn’t miss the freezing cold winter days, that’s for sure, but I would definitely miss the ability to walk to so many great bars, restaurants, and parks. It’s one of my favorite things about NYC – just being out and about in the neighbourhood.
The latest film you’ve seen.
Lisa: Straight Outta Compton.
Solid White t-shirt, MONOGRAM
photos: courtesy of MONOGRAM Studio