We had the good fortune of connecting with Max Gengos and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Max, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
“When will you start your own business again?” That was a question that stayed with me when I moved to Los Angeles from New York in 2016. Friends and family constantly would ask me that same question, and my reply was always the same. “When I think of something that addresses a white space and something that can do good.” The fashion market is already so oversaturated, I did not want to make something that is already out there and create more waste. So when I started my swim collection, Scylla, it was paramount that every single part of my process be sustainable, ethical, and responsible. Every element of my designs (from thread to packaging) is uncompromisingly sustainable: the fabrics I use are made from Upcycled Marine Plastics, the trims I source are cultivated via a regenerative process that eliminates the need for deforestation, and my labels and packaging are all recycled. Beyond the product, I made sure to partner with an atelier that pays fair wages and promotes ethical labor practices- essentially, one that treats people as humans and not as cogs in an assembly line. I believe that if we want a healthy future, we have to go about creating on that is ethical, sustainable, and responsible. Yes, it is a little more difficult to find all the elements to make that future possible, but with patience and conviction, it can all come together.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Growing up I was the kid who could draw before I could read and write, who would rather have played with mermaids than a baseball. I was lucky in that my parents listened when I, at 13 years old, told them I wanted to spend my treasured teenage weekends studying fashion design. They let me immerse myself in it all. Somehow I knew even then was going to be a lot of work and not the glamourous “red carpet” life that usually comes to mind with the word “fashion.” I worked very hard to develop myself as a designer, did countless internships (with Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, and Anna Sui, among other New York fashion houses), studied fashion design at Cornell University, graduated early, and landed my first job at Calvin Klein before my peers finished their senior year. I was itching to get out and be a part of the world I had been waiting to join my whole life. Of course, not all of my path has been easy, but I have found that any challenges I face can be overcome by patience and kindness. Yes, I have worked very hard to get to where I am today, but the most important thing I want to be able to share is joy. At the end of the day, everything I do and create is done in an effort to my joy with others, and hope it brings them joy as well.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well, thanks to the pandemic, right now I would be taking them from my living room couch to my dining room- but in my ideal, healthy world, we would start our day on a morning hike with my three dogs through the hills in Brentwood to get a true 360 degree view of LA. Then we would grab a bite and coffee from the Butcher, Baker, Cappuccino Maker, followed by a good workout with my personal trainer Chelsea Badoo. After caffeinating and working out I’d take us shopping to my favorite LA boutiques- Maxfield, Just One Eye, and the Webster, and then over to the Optimist in Culver City. We would end the day with sunset drinks on the roof at the Edition in West Hollywood, and then treat ourselves to some pasta at Viale Dei Romani. Can COVID please disappear now?!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
It really takes a village. I would be nowhere without my parents who fostered my creativity and enabled me to cultivate my talent and skill over the course of my youth- they listened to their little boy who wanted to draw rather than play sports, and I am immensely grateful for that. My best friend, Holly Croft, who is my muse, model, and croquis come to life (particularly so for my namesake collection when I lived in New York.) And of course, my fiancé, Scott, who believes in me more than I do myself at times, and who has shown me unconditional love and support in ways that fill my soul with immense gratitude every single day. Thank you.
Portrait by Danielle Czirmer; All other photos courtesy MAX GENGOS, LLC.