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Studio Visit: How Sali Christeson and Eleanor Turner Are Building Argent Across Two Cities

STORY BY RACHEL SCHWARTZMANN – Shop Argent– PHOTOS BY BRIDGET BADORE (NY) AND MELISSA DE MATA (SF) FOR THE STYLE LINE

“When we first started

talking about Argent and what it was going to be, I knew I didn’t want it to be just another line of work clothing,” Eleanor Turner, Argent’s Chief Creative Officer expressed in our interview below. “I talked extensively with working women, from lawyers to tech leaders to creatives, and brought my own personal experience to address similar pain points. I realized that a big problem was a lack of functionality.”

Until now.

Blending function and fashion seamlessly, Argent’s growing collection of timeless essentials makes it anything but your typical work-wear brand. Aside from its use of vivid colors, prints, and textures, the brand is also catering to the everyday needs women face when trying to (literally) balance it all, by including additional media and stylus pockets which provide easy access to one’s phone and other small items. As a result, Argent is setting a new standard when it comes to the role work-wear essentials play both on and off duty.

More to the point, Eleanor and her co-founder/Argent’s CEO Sali Christeson truly embody the brand’s modern ethos, as they are building Argent across two of the most dynamic cities in the United States. Working from New York and San Francisco respectively, Eleanor and Sali have been able to call upon their prior experience in design and business to tap into each market. In doing so, the duo has cultivated a growing community of real women who are looking for sartorial staples that empower them in both life and style. As Sali mentioned in our interview, “Remaining in our respective cities has allowed us to realize the needs of women all across the country and incorporate that feedback into our products.”

Speaking more to that idea, we found ourselves brimming with questions for Eleanor and Sali who kindly shared their plans to expand Argent beyond its coastal roots. From building a contemporary fashion brand to how they come together across time zones, we’re honored to share a glimpse into both Eleanor and Sali’s day-in-the-life. Discover our conversations with them below and take a virtual tour of Argent’s gorgeous San Francisco showroom and New York City factory (featuring exclusive photos from our time together captured by Bridget Badore and Melissa de Mata for The Style Line).

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Argent’s San Francisco Showroom

“Building a brand across two cities really works for us. Remaining in our respective cities has allowed us to realize the needs of women all across the country and incorporate that feedback into our products.”

– Sali Christeson

I’m Sali Christeson and I’m

the CEO of Argent. I was born and raised on a farm in South Carolina and spent summers with family in Turkey, a bit of an odd combination, but it sparked my passion for language, travel and international relations. I love business. When I was young, I would go to work with my dad and dream about the day I would have my own stapler, typewriter and fax machine, in that order – and yes, I know this dates me. I started selling lemonade, piggy banks, horseshoe picture frames and launched a baking company at a very young age.

No surprise, fast forward a bit, I studied and worked in various aspects of business – including finance, supply chain and most recently in tech at Cisco Systems. At my core, I believe in gender parity, and in early 2015 quit my job to start working full-time on building an apparel brand, Argent, to shake up the long-neglected women’s workwear category with the knowledge that 1) what you wear matters and no one has made it easy, and 2) we derive confidence from our clothing. Outside of Argent, I live for hiking, reading, and family.

Give us a refresher on the inception of Argent. What about your design process and ethos do you think makes Argent’s workwear “smart” and who would you say is the Argent woman?

Argent was founded in 2016 by El and I with three goals in mind: solve the gap we saw in the workwear space with a differentiated product, create community and initiate change. My background spans across different industries, from banking to tech, and I experienced firsthand the frustration of shopping for workwear, a problem that extended across all industries.

Towards the end of my tenure in the corporate world, national studies confirmed a depressing truth – women in the workplace are judged by what they wear, and a woman’s appearance affects both her career trajectory and bottom line. El and I saw an opportunity to solve a real problem with our products and the chance to give women functionality and confidence through our product and brand.

The fact that each of you works from two of the most dynamic cities in the U.S. speaks a lot to the idea of the modern woman and her work schedule. Talk to us about what it has been like to build a brand between two cities.

Building a brand across two cities really works for us. It certainly presents its own set of challenges, but it was a strategic decision for me to remain in SF and El to remain in NYC, the cities we both have extensive career experience in. Remaining in our respective cities has allowed us to realize the needs of women all across the country and incorporate that feedback into our products.

What is one question you wish people asked you more often?

We have gotten an unbelievable amount of support from our network and I honestly can’t think of a single thing people aren’t asking. Women from our community are offering to host events in our space, asking how they can do more to support our growth, investors are asking how they can help, our team is asking how they can do more. Honestly, the response is overwhelming and we’re so appreciative to everyone who is helping us along this insane journey.

Take us through your day-to-day. What have you come to love about your particular role in making Argent a reality and what piece from Argent’s assortment do you think best embodies each city’s style?

As a start-up, El and I wear many hats, but I love that what we are doing and that what we believe in has translated to real women. I love hearing feedback from our community, “I save Argent for big presentations,” “I always get compliments when I wear Argent,” “I feel so confident in my Argent,” etc.

And I still get a rush when I’m in one of our pop-ups and a woman comes in who has heard about us from colleagues or friends. It makes the stress of it all totally worth it.

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A distinctive quality in Argent’s design process is rooted in functionality. Here are a few detail shots of some of our favorite pieces that lend themselves to the modern woman’s life and style.

I’m Eleanor Turner and I’m

the Chief Creative Officer of Argent. After spending my seven-year-old summer drawing people and what they were wearing during a vacation up the east coast, I decided I was going to be a fashion designer. I have been living and breathing fashion ever since and graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design with a B.A. in Fashion Design.

After 8 years in corporate fashion working for Tory Burch and most recently, J.Crew, I shifted gears to tackle women’s work apparel and startup life. Entrepreneurial challenges are energizing and sometimes exhausting, but there’s never a dull moment. I wake up every day really excited to creative direct for Argent and to design workwear that changes the game for women. Outside of Argent, you can find me on a horse, on a beach or practicing yoga. 

What about your design process and ethos do you think makes Argent’s workwear “smart” and who would you say is the Argent woman?

When we first started talking about Argent and what it was going to be, I knew I didn’t want it to be just another line of work clothing.

I talked extensively with working women, from lawyers to tech leaders to creatives, and brought my own personal experience to address similar pain points. I realized that a big problem was a lack of functionality. After all, functionality is the birthplace of American style (sportswear anyone?). And women’s clothing is behind. I knew we could engineer functionality into fun design to create a completely new category. You can see the engineering across the collection in pieces like the reversible suits, media and stylus pockets, microfiber pocket bags (for cleaning glasses and iPhone screens), and moisture-wicking material… and we’re just getting started!

Take us through your day-to-day. What have you come to love about your particular role in making Argent a reality and what piece from Argent’s assortment do you think best embodies each city’s style?

It’s the ultimate creative outlet for me. Being able to lead the entire creative process from product to branding to conceptualizing campaign shoots to solving problems with good design and then improving it through customer feedback, is really amazing. When we receive positive feedback on the clothes and brand, I know we’re on the right track and it’s rewarding.

I would say that our Crossover Blazer is an awesome piece for each city because they style it differently. The west coast wears it with jeans and a tee, the east coast wears it with the suit trousers. It’s a new kind of fabric for this category – cotton blends aren’t typical for suiting. I chose it because it offers structured stretch, is breathable, and still looks polished. It can be styled casually or formally.

What is one question you wish people asked you more often?

It’s the same question I ask women almost every day and it’s the question that I wasn’t often asked.  A simple, “What do you need?” We get busy and rushed and forget to address what we really need to be successful in our jobs, our relationships, in almost everything. Asking women across industries about what they need has helped us create a brand that wasn’t just for women, but works with women.

How do you think creativity contributes to some of the world’s bigger conversations and how do you hope Argent plays a role in this?

Creativity is everywhere and in my experience, the most creative people are those who are truly comfortable in their own skin, are comfortable to speak their mind and step out of their comfort zone. We hope that we become a tool in a woman’s arsenal that allows her to feel confident enough to take on everyday challenges.

How would you advise the next generation of designers to leave an imprint in the world simply by doing what they love?

I hope that the next generation of designers thinks beyond trends. I saw and felt that the modern working women didn’t have clothing options that were stylish, comfortable and functional at the same time, so I aimed to fix that. I think the best way to leave an imprint is to be in touch with your own experience, realize a need and go all in on fixing the problem.

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Argent’s New York City Factory

“Creativity is everywhere and in my experience, the most creative people are those who are truly comfortable in their own skin. We hope that we become a tool in a woman’s arsenal that allows her to feel confident enough to take on everyday challenges.”

– Eleanor Turner