Despite the saying that family and business don't mix, Lisa Mayock and Jeff Halmos has proven it can actually be a recipe for success. The CFDA award-winning designers come from a background of designing their own clothing lines. Lisa created her own line, Vena Cava, right after graduating from Parsons, and Jeff launched Shipley & Halmos with Sam Shipley who he met in college. So with an extensive background in design and their shared love of vintage t-shirts, in June of 2016, the married duo teamed up to create their first collaborative line, MONOGRAM, which allows women to sport graphics in unique ways while still feeling as if their wearing their favorite worn-in tee. Lisa has mastered the ideals of a businesswoman and fashion designer, all while growing her family and raising two young children. Read on as Lisa sheds some light on her career and shop her fall collection + limited edition election tee that just launched yesterday - personally I'm obsessed!
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career as a designer?
It’s been my dream since I was really little, like 5 years old. I remember getting up early on the weekends and watching Style with Elsa Klensch. It’s what I looked forward to for the entire week.
How did you get your unique start in the fashion industry?
I graduated from Parsons School of Design in 2003. During our senior year, each student worked on a thesis collection, and ten collections were chosen to be shown at the end of the year fashion show. My collection wasn't picked, and neither was my friend Sophie's. We decided to have our own lo-fi fashion show together, maybe in someone's backyard or something. A friend of ours convinced us that it would be more fitting to show during fashion week in September, and the whole thing snowballed from there. We used those three months to make a completely new collection together, and sewed and pattern made a lot of it in my living room. We came up with a name for our project - Vena Cava - and silkscreened our own invitations. We delivered them by hand because postage was too expensive, inviting some major editors- some of whom actually came!- and got a great response, so we just ran with it.
Where was your first internship and what was the most valuable thing you learned?
My first internship with with a swimwear brand called James. It was my first look at how a small business ran. The owners, Laura and Patricia, did everything themselves, wore a lot of different hats, and had a great time doing it. I loved the idea that you could create your own job, answer to yourself, and be successful doing it. It really wasn't in my field of vision to do that up until that point.
Who have been your biggest mentors in this industry and what is the best advice they have ever given you?
One of my first mentors was Stella Ishii, from the News Showroom. We started working with the News during our third season, and a season after that we went from selling in 15 stores to selling in over 80. Stella has a very unique knack for bringing out what each brand does best, and helping them understand what they bring to the fashion landscape as a whole. Stella really helped me understand that there are no rules. Our collection was merchandised in a completely different way than any other collection that I saw, and it perfectly fit what we were making. It's something that I always come back to and is almost a personal mantra at this point: "Why Not?"
What was the first job you landed out of college?
I founded Vena Cava with my friend Sophie Buhai three weeks after we graduated from Parsons. Even though I had several other jobs at the same time to make money (catering, restaurant work, babysitting, and teaching at Parsons on the weekends) creating the brand was my first real career move.
Go to interview outfit?
I love a graphic t-shirt under a suit. I recently scored an amazing '80s Jaeger pinstripe version on Etsy.
What advice do you give women who are looking to enter the fashion industry?
Meet with everyone you can, you never know where it'll lead. Spend a lot of time researching what's already out there, and understand who is going to buy your product.
What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?
I feel fortunate to have experience creating two fashion brands, one before the social media boom and one after, and seeing first hand the impact it has had on the industry. We've seen through MONOGRAM that social media enables us to build a unique relationship with our customers and have a two-way dialogue about the brand. Instagram lends itself beautifully to the graphic world of MONOGRAM, as it's such a visual platform and what we're doing is, too.
Where do you go for inspiration when working on a new design?
I'm a big public library fan. I love the tangential quality of looking at a bunch of books, and discovering entire topics that you had no idea were there. Even though I do a lot of research online, the public library is still my favorite place to get in the zone.
What is your favorite part about being a designer?
The best part about being a designer is that you get to obsess over something new constantly. One week I'm collecting every image I can from Wet magazine, the next week I can't get enough of the Antonio Lopez show at the Museo del Barrio, and I'm rewatching the movie Tenebrae. It's a great occupation for people like me with a short attention span.
What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out?
During the production of our first season at Vena Cava we didn't realize we needed to provide the factory with size tags - total rookie move on our part. It wasn't until we got the production back to my house to ship them out that we realized that nothing was labelled! We measured and tried on every single piece to figure out what size it was and ironed in size tags before shipping them all out. Nightmare.
Where do you hope to see your brand in the future?
Our immediate plan with MONOGRAM is to offer iconic graphic t-shirts and sweatshirts with an artful point of view, and change the way women think t-shirts should be styled. We’re looking forward to introducing new graphics and silhouettes down the line and maybe even venture into different product categories. Stay tuned!
Have a question or just want to say hey? Shoot me an email.