In Bed with Vanessa Traina & The Line

The secrets to running a  business & remaining happy bedfellows

Last November, just in time for the launch, we met with Vanessa Traina and Kate and Morgan Wendelborn for a tour privé through their retail space, The Apartment. We asked a zillion questions about everything, including the amazing furniture, fixtures, artwork, as well as Kate’s womenswear line, Protagonist—read all about it here. But beyond this we wanted to know more about their team process, how they came together, and how they make things work. Part two with The Apartment is up!

One of the biggest draws to this story was the fact that you’re three strong women, doing what you love, together—props for that! How did this all happen?
Morgan: Well, as twins, Kate and I obviously knew each other, but for years we have thrown around the idea of doing something together. When we teamed up with Vanessa (as well as our other partner, Adam) everything kind of clicked! We all had this pared-back, contextual idealization: we wanted to tell a story and have a response to the overwhelming assortment of choice that the Internet offers, but tell it in a very elevated way.

Kate: I love how diverse our backgrounds are but we’re all from the same industry—I think that’s what really strengthens us. We’re able to bridge the gap between what we do but still stand strong in our convictions.

How does what you’ve done in the past inform what you’re doing with The Apartment?
Kate: I think it’s all interrelated, I mean especially with design or styling. It’s all about putting an image together and what influences you. That’s how we selected half the products for The Apartment—it’s just things that we like.

Morgan: I think we all came together under this set of values: parring back, anti-trend, and anti-trend trend, perhaps? We have conversations and every decision we make about the buy or the curating all kind of goes back to that same point. We’re making decisions that work for us, not just decisions that we think will work for other people.

Who brings what to the table?
Morgan and Vanessa have worked on the creative direction and really pulling the apartment together with the website. I work on the collection, Protagonist. It’s this weird kind of collective… I actually love that people are kind of confused by us!

Morgan: Because that then means we can’t be defined as something that’s already been done!I think we all play our own roles: I think of myself as the House Mom, I kind of pull together the coordination and production side of things; Vanessa has so many ideas and so many styling tricks up her sleeves—so many concepts she wants to do…

Vanessa: I love having conversations with them about the products that work in the context of The Apartment.

Morgan: When the three of us are involved in a creative discussion there’s never a debate, it’s more just feeding off each other and ideas keep growing and transforming…

Kate: We like the same things, even though our style is different. We always agree about what the most quintessential items are. In terms of executing, we’re all workhorses, so not one person does more work than the others. It’s like, “OK, an Excel chart needs to be done” and we’re all willing to work on it.

Vanessa: Well, maybe not me! My computer skills are questionable—I just learned how to use Dropbox! But I mean, in terms of working on a shoot, we are all willing to just make it work. We take on each other’s perspective as we all have different skills that compliment each other.

Describe The Apartment’s brainstorming sessions:
Vanessa: It all starts with a bottle of wine! For our first meeting, we just opened a bottle of wine and sat on the floor of this loft and just threw tears and sketches around.

Morgan: Ideas come up, even when we’re not brainstorming together, though—we’ll just randomly come up with things.

What’s an average morning for you guys? How many e-mails, texts, Skype chats e.t.c. are exchanged before 9 a.m.?
Vanessa: Usually, I’m in Paris and I’m waking up at 6 a.m. and am still talking to them while they’re going to bed. I think I’ve lost all sense of what is “normal.” I don’t think there is a “normal” here!

So being in this space together is an anomaly?
Vanessa: No, not really. Today is really nice because we don’t have any meetings or anything, but usually we meetings twice a week—our team as a whole.

Kate: Even with Vanessa being in Paris, I don’t think there’s ever a time when we can’t get a hold of each other. We’ll just text randomly or something and it’s a really good way of working things through. I remember when we did our first buy, it was actually a really great system!

How does the system work?
Kate: I would go in and do the edit and then our buyer Elizabeth would do another edit based on quantities and other things, and then we would re-edit together. It was a good process to push each other and question each other.

Photography Lianna Tarantin