You already know Lisa Mayok and Sophie Buhai for their award-winning brand Vena Cava. They met at age 17 in California, prior to attending Parsons School of Design in New York. Three weeks after graduating from Parsons in 2003, they started the first Vena Cava collection on their living room floor. They debuted their line in Spring 2004 and hit the road to find prospective buyers to keep the business afloat. What started as a whisper quickly became a roar in the fashion community, receiving praise for their fresh, versatile aesthetic and unique, hand-crafted details. Not only have the girls been able to keep the business running, but they’ve taken the brand to the next level of exposure, teaming up with mass-media retailer the Gap on a wallet-friendly line earlier this year and collaborating with Italian shoe giant Via Spiga on a capsule footwear collection. So, what’s next? “We have plans to make rad organic printed t-shirts that cost less,” say the girls. “Or Vena Cava sweat suits, anyone?”
What you may not know about Lisa and Sophie is that their ability to consistently deliver inspiring collections and land exciting collaborations has much to do with their genuine passion for discovering the unknown. For example, rather than look to trends to influence designs for a new collection, they explore history. “Vena Cava hearts the public library in a major way,” they say, “We go there separately at the beginning of every season and always leave very inspired with armfuls of amazing photocopies.” You might see some of these photocopies posted on their own blog, Viva Vena Cava, where they document just about anything that sparks their interest, from avant-garde artwork, to oddly fascinating films, to bizarre blogs they manage to dig up on the internet. “Obscure niche blogs by anonymous people makes us love the internet,” they say. Check out a few of their current favorites, with commentary: Weird Friends (“This one has amazing textiles, animal pictures, and occult imagery”); Acknowledged Classic (“This is my friend Billy’s music blog. He’s deep into music no one has ever heard of. I find out about a lot of things from him … like Popol Vuh, Bobby Beausoleil, and other new age sounding beats”); Unchanging Window (“This is our friend Mary’s blog. She takes the most beautiful snap shots of everyday details, and her friends. This one is always visually dreamlike and inspiring”). Judging their proven ability to discover the unknown cool of the internet, I asked them to share a few of their current favorite purchases for fellow explorers and Vena Cava fans alike.
1. Unearthen – Large Silver Watch – “We love Gia Bahm of Unearthen’s pyramid watches. They’re half thrift store, half Hermes — in the most beautiful way. Plus, she’s awesome.”
2. Etten Eller – Jewelry – “Amazing jewelry made from old watch parts. Delicate, unusual, and handmade.”
3. Etsy – Childbirth Education Doll Pattern – “One of our very own VC team members just had a baby six weeks ago! Love the idea of making this crochet mom and baby doll to remind everyone of the miracle of childbirth. Just tie it on to your fannypack and sport it around town.”