I first crossed paths with CEO and Editor-in-Chief Mona Chammas and COO and Editor-at-Large Irene Kim when writer Paul Aguirre-Livingston featured me in his piece “Taking Blogging to the Bank” for their online design and fashion magazine, The Genteel.
Less than a year old, The Genteel has over 30 writers from around the world on staff who, as Mona puts it, “tell stories that are not normally found in traditional magazines and tend to focus on stories that are quite niche and in-depth.” And though you won’t find your average celebrity style or seasonal trend pieces on The Genteel, that doesn’t mean Irene and Mona don’t have a few guilty pleasures of their own.
The Backseat Stylers: What’s your earliest fashion-related memory?
Irene: I remember probably being 8, 10 years old and being obsessed with Fashion Television. I had to watch it every Sunday. At that age, I was already reading Vogue. I wasn’t gravitating towards teenage magazines. At a very young age, I became very enamoured and accustomed to looking at couture and high fashion, which is just something I loved.
Mona: In the eighties, I used to watch my mother dress for dinner parties in couture. I didn’t understand the context of it all, the fact that she was wearing couture and what that meant in society. All I remember feeling was awestruck at the clothes. It felt innocent, not jaded, pure. I loved fashion for fashion, without understanding that she was wearing Valentino or Hermès or anything like that. She was my portal into loving fashion and it’s really interesting because I’m very much the same way now. I love fashion, but I love label-less fashion.
How did you meet and how was The Genteel born?
Mona: I used to be a street style blogger. I was on a mission, and I saw Irene. She was well dressed and I wanted to take her photo – that’s how we met.
Irene: “Can I take your picture?” [imitating Mona]. She was bobbing.
Mona: I was not bobbing!
Irene: Yes, you were. I’m reliving it right now in my head.
Mona: I came to Irene first with the idea of partnering from a legal perspective [since she's a lawyer], but then there was so much more that Irene wanted to and could bring to the table, so we grew the partnership even further. We both have a passion in fashion and it was just a matter of converging. We were both doing fashion on the periphery, and we both knew we wanted to do something more. And here we are!
What’s the best part of your job?
Irene: We’ve built really good relationships with our writers and we want that to develop. Same thing for our interns; they’re in or just finishing journalism school. Seeing our writers and interns progress -
Mona: – and knowing that we had a hand in that.
For me, I get really excited reading the stories that come in. I just get excited at the quality of the content that lands in our inbox, because it means that whatever we’re cultivating as a brand actually means something. We feel validated as a brand and as a publication every single day with the work that comes in through our readers and through the feedback we get from our readers. That is really, really rewarding, because that means we’re doing something right.
If you were throwing a fashionable dance party, who would your three guests-of-honour be?
Irene: Sofia Coppola; Lost in Translation is one of my favourite movies. [Her style is] effortless, understated chic. [Actor] Bill Nighy is brilliantly funny and the man knows how to rock a suit. [Estée Lauder executive and heiress] Aerin Lauder is a natural beauty with immaculate taste.
Mona: Tyler Brûlé, the editor-in-chief of Monocle Magazine, which is my bible, and he is my idol. Hamish Bowles. And my mom (circa the 80′s).
How would you describe your style?
Irene: Hermès hippie. Classical with a little bit of free spirit.
Mona: I have a very masculine inspired style, but bordering on dandy and country. There’s a bit of the rough and refined.
Tell us about a fashion faux pas you’ve committed.
Irene: I used to dress with my clothes too tight. I think I was in a permanent state of sucking in my stomach, for all of high school.
Mona: Through the majority of my high school years, I was in hip hop, baggy, really low waist pants. That was really bad. That was for a really long time – all of high school! I was swimming in my pants and Irene was suffocating in hers.
What’s one item in your closet you can’t live without?
Mona: My black Prada brogues. They have that elegant masculinity to them. They’re very versatile, but they’re very chic at the same time.
Where are your favourite places to shop?
Irene: I love Barneys. Barneys is like a museum, you just go and pet the clothes. I like Opening Ceremony and their mix of high and low fashion.
Mona: J.Crew, as one of my no-fail stores. I go there and I always find something I like. There’s a vintage design store that I discovered in Toronto and I pretty much furnished 90% of my home with their stuff. They’re called Love The Design, and they’re based in Leslieville.
What are your guiltiest pleasures?
Mona: Gossip Girl is one of my guiltiest pleasures. I’m watching through and through. [My favourite character is] Chuck Bass. First and foremost for his impeccable and versatile style sense. I love his coats, his colorful shirts and his bow ties.
Irene: I could eat all day long. Ice cream, chocolate…Ben & Jerry’s red velvet cake ice cream!
Image Credit: Melissa Sung