Enky Bayarsaikhan, Catherine Carnevale, and Pamela Mayer know a thing or two about setting up shop. The fashion designers all took a sizable risk moving to their respective corners of the Catskills and luckily it’s paid off. Each of these three ambitious women have their own flourishing brick-and-mortar stores that far exceed the run-of-the-mill shopping experience. Their unique collections may be what draw people in, but it’s their dedication to community, desire to create common spaces and forward-thinking attitudes that set them apart.
Most people knock our exceedingly tech-reliant world, but Enky Bayarsaikhan begs to differ. Born and raised in Mongolia, the self-taught designer learned her trade three ways: Youtube, Google, and her seamstress grandmother, Linda. “As a kid, I would be next to my grandma making my dolls’ clothing with her scraps. And then eventually, I started tailoring my clothes to fit better and started studying how clothes were made by cutting them up. The internet and my grandmother are my schools,” she says.
When her family moved to Indiana as a teen, Bayarsaikhan was always on the hunt for unique gems in Midwest thrift stores. That collection followed her to Manhattan and became Bayarsaikhan’s first official batch of inventory. Soon after, she set up shop at Basilica Farm & Flea Market and dipped her toes in the Hudson community. “It was then that I began to embrace that having my own business was in the cards for me,” she says.
As fate would have it, five years ago Enky moved to Hudson and was on the hunt for a storefront. Her friend Elise McMahon, happened to be looking, too. That’s how ENKYU LIKEMINDEDOBJECTS SHOP, a collaborative shop showcasing Bayarsaikhan’s handmade designs and McMahon’s furniture design was born. Sitting in a vibrantly designed brick-and-mortar on Warren Street, the eye-candy shop functions as a retail space and showroom for the community; but it’s also so much more than that. “ We hold classes, film screenings, performances, pop-ups with other designers/artist, and just general social hangouts like game nights, drinking wine talking over ideas. It’s been really great,” she says.
Bayarsaikhan has always been attracted to well-made items, so creating clothing from sustainable materials was a no-brainer. “Looking back, I can see my practice has developed in response to the fast fashion industry and how quality, timeless clothing is less and less accessible.” She even offers some tips on how to start shopping for quality and to resist the impulse to buy fast fashion. “ I recommend shopping at your local thrift or vintage shops. I personally always go for more natural fibers like cotton, linen & silk, they feel good on the skin and last longer than most synthetics. And when you do find a designer/label you’d like to buy from, save up for it. It’s a nice feeling knowing who, where and how your clothes are made.”
It’s only natural given Catherine Carnevale’s upbringing that she gravitated towards creating knitted objects. Raised in England, the clothing designer learned to knit from her mother and grandmother and went on to study Fashion Textiles at Central Saint Martins and Knitwear at the University of Brighton. Combining contemporary design with traditional Andean knitting techniques, her brand Eleven Six is a knitwear line made with alpaca sourced from South America and handmade by a women’s cooperative of artisans in Peru and Bolivia. Her line, sold everywhere from Saks to Bloomingdales and smaller boutiques, is chic, sumptuous, and lauded for tightly ribbed stitching and alpaca-soft textures.
The Brooklyn-based fashion designer was three-months pregnant and hiking in Peru when she felt that rare moment of pure clarity. “The epiphany happened while staring out into the mountains. I wanted to embrace the change that was about to happen with us starting a family and also wanted to challenge myself with a new entrepreneurial way of working,” she says. It was always a dream of Carnevale’s to helm her own knitwear line; so she took the leap, quit her job as Senior Women’s Designer at Club Monaco, and started planning to launch her brand, Eleven Six.
With a budding business and a new baby on the way, Carnevale and her husband purchased a home in Stone Ridge in Ulster County initially as a weekend getaway house. After their second child was born in 2017, they decided to settle year-round. “Since moving upstate I have been beyond blessed with the connections I have made with so many incredible like-minded people — so many creatives, makers and entrepreneurs of all types. The network is so inspirational and supportive — I often pinch myself that I have landed amongst it!” she says.
“The epiphany happened while staring out into the mountains. I wanted to embrace the change that was about to happen with us starting a family and also wanted to challenge myself with a new entrepreneurial way of working.”
Being surrounded by a network of ambitious creatives in Kingston’s Fullerton Building is a new experience for the designer. “This is the first time as a business owner I have truly had a work-space with a network-community around me. I’m excited for the possibilities of the future community in the fuller-building where our studio is located,” she says. And she’s already getting the ball rolling with events catered to the upstate female community. “I hosted my first Summer Sale event in our space with three other women-owned brands from the building: Lake & Skye (A fragrance brand and my direct studio neighbor), Found My Animal (Pet accessories that raise awareness of animal adoption) and River Mint Refinery (A women’s boutique opening in Kingston in the Fall and founder of Candle brand: Night Space). We’d love to start producing more events for women in the community.” And indeed, she will.
If you’ve ever found yourself on Main Street in Narrowsburg, chances are you’ve run into Pamela Mayer. Her namesake store has been situated on that thoroughfare since 2006, way before Narrowsburg became the small-town destination it is today. It appears far from a coincidence, then, that the hamlet’s revitalization dovetailed with Mayer opening up her fashion boutique, MayerWasner. Her ethically-minded and sustainably-driven boutique is just the first of Mayer’s many pursuits as a player in the local community.
Mayer’s connection with Sullivan County began when the designer landed a coveted internship with conceptual artist and clothing designer J. Morgan Puett. It was there that Pamela learned the fundamentals of fashion design and production: sourcing materials, dying textiles, pattern-making, and tailoring. Upon graduation, she was hired as a pattern maker and worked under the tutelage of Gary Graham, a designer whose pieces can be found hanging in her boutique today. J. Morgan Puett eventually established an artist colony upstate, saying goodbye to her New York City studio. Mayer quickly followed suit.
“My husband Karl and I rented our first studio in Narrowsburg in 1999 and we fell in love with the water and the crew of people who inhabited Narrowsburg. I found my fellow creatives here. There is a real sense of beauty and pride in this town.” Her interest in uplifting the local community culminated in another enduring venture: IndieMart, an independent artisans’ market each December that’s become a Sullivan County holiday shopping staple. With a focus on celebrating local makers, Mayer worked alongside Madame Fortuna proprietor Alison Ward to cultivate an array of booths to showcase items from regional makers, designers, artists, farmers, and entrepreneurs in upstate NY. “We both all moved to this area and struggled in the beginning with how to move forward as makers and designers, with this thought process we evolved IndieMart into a haven for the many talented people in our area,” she says.
There’s no denying that Mayer has invested deeply in the community. “We all thrive together so my community spirit comes from finding a place where I belong and love the life that I live and want to keep improving upon that upward motion. The best part of being in this community is the sense of belonging, of finding my home,” she says. As a board member of the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (DVAA), Mayer recently worked alongside her husband, architect Karl Wasner, to redesign the Alliance’s storefront gift shop in Narrowsburg. Again, the designer focused on curating a rotating selection of locally-made items.
Her next venture is far from the likes of civic responsibilities or design; it’s actually jam — another thing Mayer enjoys the process of making. “I am a secret jam maker of Pam’s Slow Jams. I can’t say where it will end up but I am working on growing this very small hobby into something else. I love the journey of getting there!”