It's time for another Woman Crush Wednesday, and this week, I'm beyond honored to be chatting with Joanna McCartney of Pyne & Smith Clothiers. I've been a massive fan of Joanna's work and her business practices for a while now. She puts comfort and quality first with everything she designs, and women around the world have taken notice. With stylish silhouettes and beautiful materials, Joanna is proving that fashion can be practical and fun, and who doesn't love that? I asked her a few questions about her company, her inspiration, and a few other questions in between. Let's dive in!
Q: Hi Joanna! Thanks again for doing this, I’m so happy to be having this chat with you! The first question that comes to mind is this: what inspired you to start making dresses and apparel in the first place?
Joanna: I live in California, and the summer of 2014 was very hot. During this time, I noticed that clothes made from synthetic fabrics were hot and uncomfortable. After researching it further, I came across Linen. The problem I found was finding linen clothing that I liked, so I decided to try making my own. After a lot of trials and error, I came up with a dress style that I liked and wore often. Friends and strangers would ask where I bought it, and so began Pyne & Smith.
Q: Why Pyne & Smith? What made you decide on that name?
Joanna: My grandmother was Grandma Smith, and my great grandmother's last name was Pyne, so it's a bit of a nod to my family who taught me to sew. My Grandma Smith was a very kind, gentle and strong lady whom I love very much.
Q: Pyne & Smith is a fairly new brand. When did you decide to take your dressmaking to the next level and start your own business? Did you face any obstacles in the process?
Joanna: After many attempts at making a dress that I really loved wearing, I began making some dresses to sell at local markets. The business grew pretty naturally after that point.
Yes to many obstacles! I don't have a background in fashion design, so this was brand new to me. The switch from home sewing to garment sewing for fashion is a complete contrast, so I have had to learn on my feet.
Q: Besides the unique, timeless aesthetic of your garments, what strikes me most about Pyne & Smith is the emphasis on quality and ethics. Has this always been important to you or was there a specific experience that made you more aware of the importance of quality and ethical practices with fashion?
Joanna: During my research into sources of natural fiber fabrics, their qualities, how they are made and who makes them, I discovered that not all mills offer the same quality linen. Larger mills in Asia offered less expensive linen, but treated their products like a commodity and their customers according to their sales volume. By choosing to work with the higher quality mills in Europe, I also discovered that not only was the linen a better quality, but the workers at the mill are well paid. I've always preferred to work with people that care about their product more than the income it generates. I knew I wanted to create a dress that was well made, by people who are paid a fair liveable wage, so my dresses are made here, in California. I think that it's very important as a business owner to educate yourself about how a product is made, who is making it, and to be responsible with your choices.
Q: Your family is from England (so cool!), but you currently live in California! What led you to come to America?
Joanna: I came to California when I was 19 to travel and see the West Coast. My plans quickly changed when I fell in love with a surfer! After a couple of weeks we knew we wanted to get married and that was it. Eighteen years later I still live here in California, but spend part of the summer at my family home in the beautiful countryside in England.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about living somewhere warm and sunny like California?
Joanna: I love the light in the mornings! Sunshine and bare feet are a wonderful way to start the day.
Q: Okay, what are three beauty products you can’t live without and why?
Joanna: I'm low maintenance when it comes to beauty products. But...I can't live without Becca Undereye Brightening Corrector, black mascara, and Batiste dry shampoo.
Lipstick or Lip Gloss? Lipstick.
Netflix or Hulu? Netflix.
Night In or Night Out? Haha...I have kids so NIGHT OUT!
Tropical Vacation or Nordic Vacation? Nordic.
Wine or Cider? Umm, can I say beer? I love beer!
Tea or Coffee? Tea.
Window Seat or Aisle? Window.
Q: When your life gets busy and you need to unwind, what are your go-to methods for relaxing?
Joanna: If I am feeling really stressed, running helps me a lot. Alone time seems to help me re-charge mentally. A bath at the end of a long day is my cure all.
From left to right: Joanna's local beach in San Clemente, California and to the right, a view from Joanna's family home in England.
Q: What's your biggest inspiration at the moment, creatively or otherwise?
Joanna: I'm very inspired by beauty around me, it could be a row of old brick houses, or sitting outside on the grass watching the bumblebees, or a beautifully aged leather shoe! I don't know that people inspire me so much, but I love seeing other makers who care about their craft – potters, shoe makers, illustrators, etc.
Q: If you could have dinner with someone from and past or present, who would it be and why? And what would be on the menu?
Joanna: Mary Queen of Scots. I just listened to a podcast about her life, and she sounded like a very intelligent, interesting woman. I think a simple steak, salad, bread and wine would be delicious.
A few of Joanna's favorite designs from her collection.
Q: I think there’s something so powerful about designing beautiful clothing for women as a woman yourself. Thinking about where fashion started and the way that women were expected to dress (i.e. corsets, petticoats, layers, etc.), there’s something liberating about the silhouettes you design and emphasis on comfort. Has that always been the way you’ve designed? What helped you to hone in on your signature silhouettes?
Joanna: Thank you. I completely agree – many dresses in shops can be too complicated, non-functional, fussy and revealing. I wanted to make a dress that was beautiful, classic, contemporary, functional and comfortable. Cool enough to wear on a hot day, not too tight or awkward. To be able to pick up your kids in, walk the dog, and maybe though on a nice jacket to go out for a drink in if needed.
Q: If you could give any aspiring designer a piece of advice, what would it be?
Joanna: Find your own way – develop a style that you care about and love, it's a lot of work but so worth it if you care about it. Don't be afraid to look foolish and make mistakes.
Thanks again, Joanna! It was such a treat to talk with you.
To shop Joanna's designs, head to https://www.pyneandsmith.com/
And to follow along with her daily journeys, follow https://www.instagram.com/pyneandsmithclothiers/