Young, fabulous and entrepreneurial, the Simmons sisters and the Sachika twins are redefining what it means to be fashion forward.

Words & Interview: Kristie Bertucci
Images: Tom Medvedich
Styling: Rae Holliday
Makeup: Tai Lotson
Hair: Erik Hinczak

While Vanessa and Angela Simmons may have a famous last name, they’ve built their Pastry line all on their own. For the past five years, they’ve evolved the company from four sneaker designs to now encompassing apparel, accessories and a vast variety of footwear. Twins sisters To-Tam and To-Nya Sachika are following suit. Already known in the Big Apple as celebrity designers, the twins are now building their boutique brand into a fashion empire to rival the competition in the big league.

How did you become interested in fashion?

Vanessa: Coming from the family I come from and seeing fashion empires being built right in front of my face made it something natural within me. When Angela and I started Pastry, that’s when I got more into it fashion to the point where it’s become my passion.

Angela: I definitely became interested in it when I was 9 years old. I ended up going to a fashion high school where I learned the basics of sewing, drawing and pattern-making. From there, I went on to design school and that’s when I knew I wanted to make it a full-time career.

To-Nya: When I was a little girl I was already sketching, designing and drawing; already envisioning being a world-renowned fashion designer. We come from a very traditional Vietnamese family where we had to be either dentists or doctors. But inside I always wanted to do fashion. So I had to keep it to myself for a while. It wasn’t until I went out and took fashion classes, took out a loan and did everything on my own for our parents to finally back us up. I had to show them my passion for it first.

So what are your roles in your respective companies, Pastry and Sachika?

Vanessa: Angela and I have the same role. We each bring different things to the table. Even though I didn’t go to school for design, I still draw up designs and things like that.

Angela: I’m involved with Pastry the whole way around, so I don’t really have a title. We’re pretty hands-on with a little of everything in terms of the entire business of Pastry.

To-Tam: It overlaps sometimes, but we do like to keep it separate. I went to school for communications and journalism, while To-Nya went for fashion. So I handle more of the business aspects and she does the designing. It allows us to delegate better, but I do get involved with the design ideas.

Being family, especially sisters [read: rivalry], is it harder to work with one another?

To-Tam: Being twin sisters definitely has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of working together. We know each other so well that we don’t have to communicate things and can skip a lot of steps most partners can’t. We also have high expectations of each other and can have our disagreements, which is why we came up with handling our own departments. The final word on business matters comes from me, while To-Nya has the last say on design matters. We’re both feisty, but it’s definitely a blessing to be able to work with each other.

Angela: It can be a challenge at times. Of course we’re going to have our little arguments here and there, where it’s like, “I like this.” ‘Well, I like this though.’ But at the end of the day, it’s your sister. Really, for the most part, it’s a great thing to work with family. It’s way better then working with someone you don’t know. Vanessa knows my work style and I already know hers.

Let’s talk business. There’s a lot of competition in fashion and pressure to be fresh and new every season, which can’t be easy. What have you learned in the process?

Angela: It’s a tough industry; it’s no joke. The semesters I did in college were no joke either. I would cry because it was so hard and challenging. You never really know how much effort actually goes into it until you’re fully immersed in it. A fashion designer isn’t just somebody who walks around, doing only cool stuff. There’s more to it like measuring things, sewing things, pattern making—it’s really technical actually. It’s really hard, but I love it.

Vanessa: It’s natural for things to be tough in everything and anything you do. It’s what you make of it that matters. It’s fun for me, so it’s worth enduring those hard times.

To-Tam: The most important thing, first and foremost, is to have a very clear vision of the type of clothing you want to create. With so many designers out there, you have to be able to make yourself stand out. Follow your heart and your instinct on what you want to do and you’ll succeed.

To-Nya: Yeah, you have to really think outside of the box and on ways to better expand and create things. The fashion business is tough, so expect obstacles. But just being able to keep your head high and be strong will get you through anything. Even [in] those times when it doesn’t feel as if anything is going your way or working out, as long as you keep a smile on your face, everything will end up fine.

What’s the best part about your job?

Vanessa: The best part is getting to see the actual product that you’ve worked on so long become a reality. It’s a beautiful feeling. And to see people actually wearing my product makes me feel that I contribute to the world, even just a little bit.

Angela: Being creative and exploring your options is awesome!

To-Nya: It’s not a job to me because I love what I do. If I did anything else, it would be a job. Seeing your vision come to life is priceless.

While you are career driven, young, pretty, fashionable and on the scene, some might say that you have it easy, especially after watching some other sisters try to take on the fashion and entertainment world…

Angela: I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot of work and [it] definitely isn’t easy. You often get people that aren’t sure that you know what you’re talking about because you’re younger, so most of the time you have older people talking and putting your opinions down. You have to earn your respect, and I think Pastry has built that already with all that we do and continue doing.

Vanessa: I just enjoy being daring with fashion and having fun with it. It’s fun to know that people think I’m fashionable. It only makes me want to be a better fashion icon for fans!

To-Tam: It’s not as glamorous as you may think it is. It’s a tough job to have and life is always hectic with us. A lot of sleepless nights go into being fashion-forward CEOs, but it’s something we love doing. When we go out, we have to carry the brand around and then when we get home, it’s back to work. It’s a non-stop lifestyle.

To-Nya: Even though we are young and know what we really want, we’ve sacrificed a lot to get to where we are. We don’t have much of a social life as people think we do. We’re determined to make Sachika a household name. It’s work 24/7. We always have to be stylish and put smiles on, even if we’re having bad days. But I can’t complain because I’m living my dream.

Images by Tom Medvedich.

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