Sam Sisakhti’s Stuff
by Kara Baskin
| August 25, 2012
Photo: MICHAEL DISKIN
As any aspiring designer will tell you, breaking into the fashion industry can seem like an impossible feat (one tougher than the wackiest Project Runway challenge). Sam Sisakhti wants to change that. In 2008, the Lexington-bred, Brandeis-schooled innovator launched UsTrendy, an online fashion marketplace that helps independent designers connect with buyers and garner funding. It was risky. At the height of the recession, he fled a secure job in finance to follow his dream. Now, he runs his own office by day and spends his evenings holding court at Bond and Empire. He paused to chat about his style, Boston’s swagger, and his prized possession — a humble chair.
Okay, tell us about this chair. Growing up, my dad was my role model. He still is. About 10 years ago, he started his own company, sitting in this chair. When I graduated from Brandeis, I had a job lined up in finance. I thought I should play it safe. My dad gave me his chair and told me to follow my heart and pursue my dreams. That’s really what put me over the edge; I knew I had to follow my heart. He engraved it: it says, “Sam Sisakhti, UsTrendy Founder.”
Is it comfortable? [Laughs] No, it’s just a wooden chair. No cushion.
Why did you leave a secure job for the unknown? Well, I had done a summer internship, and the company offered me a job going into my last year of college. I knew I was in a fortunate position. Then I showed up at work, and everyone seemed really miserable. I remember looking at some of the guys who were older and thinking, “This could be me one day.” One month turns into a year, then five, then 10. I could see myself settling. I knew I had to get out after just a week. My dad saw me and talked to me, which led me to resign. They thought I was kidding until I didn’t show up again.
Why did you start a fashion company? I always wanted to start a company, but I didn’t know what it would be. I wanted to focus on the Internet, though, because it could grow quickly. Fashion interested me, and I felt it was important that I should market products to my generation. My goal is to build up as many independent designers as I can. One of my biggest goals is to change the opinion of indie fashion. The word “indie” has a stigma. But indie fashion’s quality is exceptionally high. Now, one of the most frequent comments [on the site’s designs] is, “I would actually wear that.”
You started out in California. Why move back to Boston? I did move to California, and I was there for a year and a half. I realized it didn’t matter where I was sitting at the end of the day, though, working with 14,000 designers from 100 countries. I needed to feel comfortable. Being around the support of my friends and family made me feel better. In fact, when I moved back here, I actually got funding.
Which entrepreneur do you most admire? I admire Steve Jobs because he kept rebounding and came back — initially at Apple when things didn’t work out and they kicked him out, he went on and did other successful projects. He experienced the highest highs and lowest lows. I can relate. One month is awesome, and the next month you hit adversity.
Where can we find you when you’re not at the office? I live near the North End by the Boston Harbor area, and when I’m not working I love to play basketball a couple of times a week. My favorite place right now is Emerald. I like Bond, I like the Liberty Hotel, and I really like the Seaport area, especially Legal Harborside.
As a fashion entrepreneur, you probably look spiffy when you’re out on the town, right? I wear a collared shirt and Seven jeans or True Religions. And I like to wear vests and skinny ties.
What do you think of Boston’s style? Well, there are the people who rock out with the baseball cap. I’m telling you, when I get on a plane in different states, I can tell who’s from Boston. They just have that swagger. There’s also the sophisticated after-work style at places like Middlesex Lounge. There’s a hipster scene out in Cambridge. You see a lot of black in New York, but out here it’s broad, a wide range.