Emily Saunders On Assembling Something You Can Be Proud Of



Designer Emily Saunders has a knack for detail. The inspiration behind her emerging namesake brand SAUNDER is a culmination of her extensive travel background, eclectic tastes and careful attention to craftsmanship.

From her debut collection in Spring 2012, Emily has designed and produced her brand from start to finish in New York's celebrated Garment District - which has given her the ability to maintain a high level of quality each season. As a native New Yorker Emily also attributes credit to the city's bustling downtown scene whose wild and creative spirit is present in the heart of Emily's inspired pieces.

With her consistently fresh point of view we were interested to learn more from Emily with regard to how she's fueled the business side of her brand, what she's learned about manufacturing in New York City and what she plans to assemble daily in the new year. Find out more in our interview below and also enjoy a second part of our chat over on The Style Line.


Please introduce yourself!

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.

Who is the SAUNDER woman and how has she matured since the brand's inception?

The SAUNDER woman is someone who takes joy in looking and being different; a woman with a sense of humor who celebrates herself, and life in general. Over the past five years, the SAUNDER woman has pretty much stayed the same – styles have developed and evolved, but she hasn’t much. I think that the SAUNDER woman’s core values will always remain intact, even as we evolve as a brand.

With the next season, FW17, you will see a lot of changes, as we shift into making the collection more thoughtful and mature. However, it’s our intention to always keep the clothes optimistic to continue to appeal to the SAUNDER woman.

Talk to us about being in the NYDesigns program. How has it benefited you and do you believe going through a program like this is essential for all emerging designers? 

NYDesigns is a program that supports small creative business, there is a broad array of business that fall under that category and so we have everything from a 3D print studio to a robotics company under our roof. I think the real benefit of being in the program is that you’re given a space to run your business independently but if you run into trouble or need a support team, there is one already built in and ready to help.

I don't know if being in a program like this is essential to an emerging designer, but I believe being a member of some kind of larger creative entrepreneurial community can be very helpful. Starting your own business is very stressful and often very lonely, and the perils and pitfalls of running a small business are not often understood by non-entrepreneurs. So being able to have a community of other people who are in a similar boat to you and being able to help one another out can make a huge difference.

Tell us more about how you’ve developed SAUNDER’s brand story - has it been challenging? How do you keep elements consistent within the collections while still maintaining a fresh point of view/offering to your customer?

For me part of the pleasure of designing is having a new story to tell each season, and my collections are very story driven; whether it’s a collection based on the life of Henry VIII, or the Space Race, or a Miami Honeymoon. Even though the stories change each season there is still a set of core values and an aesthetic that is underlying throughout. Our brand story has always been about embracing the creative and the different and looking at fashion through an optimistic lens – and trying to take our customers somewhere a little different every season.


How would you define contemporary fashion and what excites you the most about being in this market?

Contemporary fashion is really a pretty broad category, which is one of the reasons I like it, because it encompasses many different styles and price points that allow you a freedom to express yourself as a designer.

What has been inspiring you in terms of the design process lately and do you have any design-centric resolutions as the new year draws closer?

The follow-up design trip that I took to Italy two weeks ago was very inspiring. I went to a number of different factories and studios between Milan and Venice and met with a lot of artisans whose passion for what they do was invigorating.

I think rather than any new resolutions, I just have a renewed resolve to keep running this company the way that I believe it should be run, which means keeping true to ethical manufacturing and maintaining a level of respect for both the folks who help us make our clothes as well as those that buy them.

How did you first connect with Brand Assembly and what has been the most rewarding aspect of being part of the designer community?

Hillary France from Brand Assembly saw my line at Parlor Showroom (my showroom at the time) a few years ago and decided to pick it up, which I am so grateful for!  It’s so rare to find an organization that is excited about working with new designers and is supportive of new voices in design. Being one of the designers in the BA family has given my brand the opportunity to reach a lot more people as well as be featured among so many other talented young designers!

What do you assemble daily?

I’m assembling a company that gives a damn. A company that I can be proud of.