IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
Emily Saunders is certainly no stranger to our community. Having featured the budding designer twice already we’ve loved following Emily’s progression in making her eponymous brand SAUNDER come to life. Built upon the pillars of storytelling, endless creativity, and ethics, Emily’s involvement in the emerging designer community is helping to set the tone and establish a new standard that fashion as a whole should take note of. Speaking more to this idea, we were thrilled to reconnect with Emily after nearly three years (and in partnership with BRAND ASSEMBLY) to find out what’s new in her world and where she hopes to take her lively brand next. Discover all of the details below (and catch up on our initial stories with Emily here and here) – also be sure to visit The Assemblist for a deeper look into Emily’s process and Long Island City studio.
My name is Emily Saunders,
I was born and raised in New York City but my parents are both originally from England. From Kindergarten through to twelfth grade I went to an international school. I have a B.A. in English Literature from Wellesley College, an A.A.S. in Fashion Design from Parsons and five years ago I started my line, SAUNDER. I love spending time with my friends, having some drinks and laughing – my two main sets of friends in New York are those that have known me since Kindergarten and those that I met right after college, so either way there’s a lot of history there. Loyalty, integrity, and kindness are essential to me in both personal as well as professional relationships. Music plays a huge part in my life; I have music playing all the time. I have a pretty wide range of musical tastes – but no matter how far I stray, I somehow always find myself back in the 70s. I’m trying to learn how to play the guitar, I bought a beautiful used Fender Telecaster that I call ‘Sweet Sister’…but I have a long way to go before I’m any good. I also love to dance with great abandon.
I balance my social time with plenty of alone time and time just chilling with my boo, cooking and watching movies. The cozy relaxing times are always good! The things that I value most in life are friends and family and continuing to do what I love for a living. As far as my personal life goes, not much has changed in the past two years, but things have definitely been shifting with my professional life. The past year has been an especially reflective and constructive year, in terms of me re-examining the direction I’m going in with SAUNDER. While it’s easier to simply barrel on, I’m really happy that I’ve taken pause to re-evaluate the company, I think it’s offered a lot of clarity on the best way forward, and in this industry, you have to constantly re-evaluate, and shift with the times. Also about a year ago, I started a styling company called ‘Saunders Style’, so I’ve been shooting lots of editorials which has been really fun and has allowed me to use a different part of my creative brain.
As advocates for sustainably-driven brands talk to us about how your relationship to the design process has evolved as you’ve become more experienced. Looking back on things, what has it been like to build SAUNDER in a city like NYC?
I think that in the current marketplace there is constant push to make things cheaper, cheaper, cheaper…but I’ve always stood my ground where ethical manufacturing is concerned and, in fact, my convictions of keeping SAUNDER a brand that promotes positive, sustainable manufacturing practices have only solidified over the years.
I had a really wonderful experience a few months ago: I was invited to participate in a tradeshow in Milan run by ‘Not Just A Label’ that put emerging designers together with artisans from Italy in order for us all to start building relationships with each other. This was really a great introduction to a new set of artisans, and manufacturers, many of whom are carrying on the tradition of their parents’ and grandparents’. For instance, I met a knitwear manufacturing company that is run by two brothers, whose family has been in the industry for over one hundred years, and a few years ago they decided to start using their handlooms again, after a few decades of them being unused in favor of knitting machines. So now they make the most beautiful hand-loomed fabrics. Supporting artisans like this is definitely something that I want to expand into more with SAUNDER.
The season I’m working on right now, I’m really excited about because it’s the first time that I’ll be working with some of the artisans I met on this trip and I think it will give the collection a fullness and richness we haven’t seen before.
Much of the collection will still be produced in New York as per usual. I think we will always manufacture in New York City, it’s my hometown and so supporting an industry that is integral to its history and basing my business here has always been important.
How do you celebrate personal style?
I started to develop a strong personal style when I was in high-school, I used each morning as a way to creatively express myself – and I used to wear some pretty far-out things. These days my style is a lot less outrageous but I still like to use the act of getting dressed as a means of expression and a creative act. My wardrobe is quite eclectic; a mix of pieces I’ve picked up from all over the world.
As a fashion designer do you ever feel conflicted about your own approach to personal style/is it different from your design aesthetic, etc.?
I think that there is a lot of overlap between my design aesthetic and my personal style. But I think over the past couple of years my personal style has matured faster than my design style, so recently there has been a little bit of a lag. But I feel that my designs have finally caught up, and with the coming seasons, you’ll see more things that I would wear as the woman I am today as opposed to the woman I was five years ago.
What is one question you wish people asked you more often?
Do you want to hear a story?
How do you think creativity plays a role in some of the world’s bigger conversations and what role is SAUNDER playing in this?
I think that from creativity comes storytelling and storytelling can be very instrumental in discussing and understanding some of the world’s biggest issues from a human standpoint. Whether it be the story of a Syrian teenager who lost her family in the bombings or the story of a Mexican factory worker who tried to organize a union and was beaten to within an inch of his life because of it. Stories are much harder to ignore than statistics.
SAUNDER is all about storytelling and with each season the goal is to create the world that you can step into, each story different from the last, but with the same morals, aesthetic and atmosphere. When I’m inspired by something I do my best to translate it into a collection of clothes that tell that story and it’s that that I hope resonates with people the most and transports them just for a minute somewhere else.