Shop Talk: Lisa & Sophie of Vena Cava

BY Khira Jordan | Fri. April 29, 2011 | 12:00 AM | In The Studio
"Shop Talk" is a series of atelier tell-alls (or, you know, studio visits) where we sit and chat with some of today's best designers--who also happen to be our neighbors! In our first installment, we're welcomed into the world of California girls, Lisa Mayock & Sophie Buhai of Vena Cava.

On a busy, off-Broadway street in SoHo, up a charmingly dim flight of stairs is the Vena Cava studio--a decidedly opposite environment of calm, (relative) quiet, and great, great light. It's a space where you'd be hard-pressed to find even an inch of austerity--whether a resplendent cluster of gems on the showroom floor, an independent feather nestled among pens, or a 30-foot tall Native American presiding at stage center, the New York world of both California-bred girls feels delightfully lived-in.

Fresh from an early morning trip to their shipping headquarters, Lisa and Sophie were kind enough to give us a peek into a day-in-the-life at Vena Cava. Check out our pictures and interview--and for even more VC vibes, be sure to visit their wonderful, recently launched blog.

If your name were an acronym, what would it stand for?
LISA: Lady In big Silver Accessories
SOPHIE: Some Old Person Hiding In Estonia

What is it like designing with a friend? Is it a finish-each-other's-sentences sort of relationship or more of a yin-and-yang thing?
LISA: It's both! We balance each other by having an extra set of eyes and two opinions on every sketch. And we definitely each have our own taste. But we also finish each other's thoughts in a free-associative way that baffles most casual observers. It tends to come out more when we're extra sleep-deprived. Here is a fake sample conversation:

     Me: This button is so Versace meets Alanis
     Morissette, but early Alanis Morissette
     when she was on You Can't Do that On

  Sophie: Yeah, but it's also kind of Venice
     Beach in the late 80s.

  Me: Totally.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?
LISA: Though there was a brief period where I was fascinated by the idea of designing prosthetic limbs, I have always wanted to make clothes.
SOPHIE: I wanted to be an artist, a Shakespearean actor (thespian phase), a fashion designer, and a bowling alley proprietor (family business).

How do you think Vena Cava would change if you had begun your collection in SoCal, rather than in NYC?
SOPHIE: More Cruise, Brews, Jacuzz... just kidding, kind of. There would definitely be less black and "edge." From a design standpoint, I think the clothes would have a lighter, more spontaneous spirit--there is something about dressing in New York that feels more formal and studied. In LA, there is a freedom to dressing because people don't follow "fashion" as much. And you can be in a car all day, so you don't have to worry about dressing for practical purposes. We designed our last Spring 11 collection in LA, and you can really see the ease and color in the collection.

Describe a typical day in the VC studio.
SOPHIE: It's usually a mix of a bunch of stuff. It's a lot of computer time and meetings. We design maybe 10% of the time; the rest of it's managing the company, figuring out ways to expand the business, developing special projects, and brainstorming new ideas. Some days we can be at the library all day, other days may be filled with power business meetings, and then there are the less glamorous days of all: e-mails. It's always a mixed bag.

What secrets can you reveal about SS12?
LISA: One of our prints prominently features a certain illegal substance.
SOPHIE: We designed the whole collection while traveling in Vietnam! We did most of the sketches in a bungalow on the beach. It was sort of our fashion honeymoon!

What was the first show you ever went to?
LISA: My dad took me to see NKOTB (that's New Kids On The Block), who I definitely wasn't into. But it was pretty awesome of Mike Mayock for being such a great dad and taking 6 kids under the age of 10 to Dodger Stadium to see them.
SOPHIE: Bob Dylan at The El Rey when I was 14. My Dad's friend took me and my brother. There were only 150 people in the was very memorable.

What about the first tape/LP/CD you ever owned?
LISA: My first CD was the Portishead album Dummy when I was 13.
SOPHIE: Motown Hits, a tape I got at the car wash. 'Til this day, I think it's the perfect tape.