Sylvana Ward Durrett and Luisana Mendoza
This month, we're excited to share a conversation with the friends-turned-co-founders behind the magical world of Maisonette, a one-stop digital boutique for discovering unique, special children’s clothing, furniture, toys, and more. Founded in 2017 by Sylvana Ward Durrett and Luisana Mendoza Roccia, the duo met while working together at Vogue and were struck by the lack of options for discovering distinctive children’s clothing in the US. Enter Maisonette, a platform that feels equal parts refined resource and whimsical escape, a retreat to the wide-eyed wonders of childhood. We’re so inspired by the creative collaboration of Sylvana and Luisana — as intrepid entrepreneurs, mothers, friends, and highly creative women. Read on for a glimpse into their worlds.
Maisonette is a family-focused business; children – and their families - are top of mind in most everything we do. This allows us to live in their world much of the time.
Where did you grow up? What are your best memories of childhood — or perhaps some sensory details that stand out in your memory?
SD: I grew up in Santa Monica, CA. It was a totally magical childhood, riding bikes at dusk with my gang of friends, feeling totally free and carefree.
LM: I spent my early childhood in Venezuela, which was where all of my early memories were formed: trips to the Amazon, weekends at the ranch, camping in the Tepuyes – basically lots of very active, adventurous excursions that were made all the more fun by the fact that I have 3 siblings – and we’re all very close in age. I moved to NY when I was 12, which was an adventure as well – just a totally different kind!
You both have had such interesting careers — what has been an unexpected milestone for you, either personally or professionally?
SD: The biggest milestone by far is launching Maisonette. It was a culmination of all my prior work and life experience, and such an incredible sense of accomplishment.
LM: Agreed. Although we’ve both always had that entrepreneurial spirit, I do find that when I slow down enough to get some perspective, I’m always amazed by what we’ve been able to accomplish.
You’ve created such a beautiful world with Maisonette — what has creating a world intended for children taught you about allowing room for play or wonder?
SD: Maisonette is a family-focused business; children – and their families - are top of mind in most everything we do. This allows us to live in their world much of the time. Our product assortment, our editorial, our IRL events…they’re all there to keep that sense of wonder and magic intact.
LM: It’s a daily reminder to have fun and enjoy whatever you are doing – personally or professionally. It has reinforced the importance of creativity both in our children’s lives, and also in ours… The Maisonette team is highly creative, always imagining and re-imagining – and it’s as important for us as innovators and creators as it is for our children to keep the magic alive.
How do you spend the first 20 minutes of your day?
SD: Trying to get my children to eat breakfast.
LM: My goal is meditation. My reality is chasing my three girls around until they get dressed.
When was the last time you did something for the first time?
SD: Starting this business.
LM: Life with kids is a series of firsts. I recently took the girls to the circus for the first time, and seeing the wonder and joy in their eyes made me feel like a kid again.
What's one thing that you do that people think is crazy and why do you do it?
SD: I have a terrible fear of flying and as I board any flight, I insist on speaking with the captain. It doesn’t make me feel better, but I do it anyway.
LM: I have traveled with my kids since they were 2 months old. I can remember a couple of trips in particular where I had three of them under the age of three! I realize it may look crazy (and it can be!) but traveling is one of my greatest joys, and I’ve always wanted to be sure my children share in it.
What was the last great book you read?
SD: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
LM: El Sari Rojo, by Javier Moro
Can you share a favorite quotation or personal mantra?
SD: God created 2 days: a good day and a bad day. And one doesn’t exist without the other.
LM: Life begins where fear ends.
What is your favorite place to go on vacation (or perhaps that you’re daydreaming about traveling to next…?)
SD: Every July 4th, we rent a house in Nantucket. It’s become a tradition, and the kids look forward to it all year. They relish the freedom they have to ride bikes and go to the beach and eat ice cream – and my husband and I love the slow pace and the simple, happy moments we share together as a family.
LM: Our latest family tradition with the girls is our summer holiday in Italy: the food, the pace, the kindness and openness of the people… our girls feel so at home there. But my forever happy place is our family home in the Dominican Republic. I have been going there since I was a baby; and now all of my siblings have their own babies, and it’s even better than ever – there really is nothing as special as being all together.
What do you never travel without? Anything unexpected?
SD: A gallon-sized ziplock bag – it’s a lifesaver on a long flight or car rides. Everything from dirty diapers to snack wrappers to used hand wipes find their way into the portable bin – and it saves my poor handbag from total destruction.
LM: I can’t travel without several books. Kindle has changed my life. Books used to make up for half of my bag! And somewhat unexpected is the amount of food I travel with. I have a degree of food anxiety, ie the fear that I will go hungry in the event of some kind of travel mishap; a delayed flight, layover etc… I can’t imagine what I must look like to other passengers when they see me shoving a week’s worth of food under the seat in front of me.
What’s a favorite recent discovery (in any genre — art, film, place, person, food….anything you’re loving!)?
SD: Popina in Red Hook. It’s a restaurant serving the most delicious southern Italian food – and has an incredible wine list.
LM: I recently discovered the artist Hilma af Klint after seeing her show at Guggenheim. She has become one of my favorite artists, not just because of her work, but her incredible life story and motivation.
How do you style your Mi Golondrina?
SD: With my new Saint Laurent leather slides, gold hoops and a straw hat.
LM: With anything! A flat sandal and jean shorts, or tucked into an ankle-grazing skirt. It’s easy and beautiful – goes with everything!