An Inside Look: Becoming M&J
Inspiration for Montie & Joie came from Co-Founder, Sydney Sherman Arenas. It wasn’t her first fashion business idea, but the path that led her to it was quite the adventurous journey! The initial spark was a collaborative effort, started in 2013 with a college friend. The concept was a dress company that fit real body types with the option to choose a different size for the bottom and top. While initiating this project, Sydney was working in Los Angeles for the summer and found fabric discarded by major brands, giving her the ability to buy second hand to add sustainability to the mix. Her friend decided to pursue other passions leaving Sydney with four completed designs, not necessarily based on the original vision. As she didn't have the resources to build alone, she began working with her mother, Terrell Sherman, who had been a designer for nearly her entire career in clothing and interior design.
They took several years off as Sydney built another business (Admin Boutique), traveled the world, and went back for her MBA, while Terrell focused her efforts on giving back to the community through volunteer work and sitting on boards of local non-profits. In late 2017, Sydney began working on The Etho, where Terrell & Sydney found themselves joining forces again. Through The Etho, Montie & Joie was reborn this time with a different concept altogether.
After traveling to over 40 countries and starting a business that focused only on selling items that produced their products by paying a fair wage, Sydney and Terrell decided to continue with second hand clothing as the base while starting a collective in Guatemala that supported the local women with not only fair wages but by also providing significantly improved work environments.
This is where Montie & Joie’s true mission was born--to create beautiful products that not only benefit the environment, but benefit the women who live within it. It started with one woman, Ana Maria, who then began to teach the craft to friends and family. Before long, M&J had 6+ women sewing incredibly intricate designs into the second hand denim Sydney brought to San Pedro la Laguna 3 times per year. This was very rewarding. The women’s lives were being improved stitch by stitch.
Soon, Terrell found and began sourcing a line of ethical bags from Paris that were repurposed from a military warehouse from World War II. There she found housing fatigues and tents from Switzerland, France, and the United States. These were turned into unique tote bags with beautiful embroidered designs done by the women in Guatemala. This quickly expanded to partnering with a company at The Etho, Made Free, where M&J would have their Guatemalan artisans sew designs into their Made By Free Women bags. These bags were a big success because of the history and meaning behind each one.
In 2019 Sydney & Terrell took a trip with Kirsten Dickerson and her ethical travel company The Fernweh Studio to Kenya and decided to expand the business to support artisans in Kenya as well. After spending time in the production facility and headquarters of the business, both Sydney and Terrell knew they wanted these baskets from Kenya to be a part of M&J. The artisan’s home in rural Kenya not only gives them a stunning place to work from with education for their children included on site, but also is actually a wildlife conservation sanctuary that trains former poachers to protect animals instead of killing them. They truly are the real deal! Each basket has a unique design and bears its creator’s name. The designs are completely up to the artisans, which is unique and empowering as it is their own creation!
Every single product that M&J has sourced has a positive impact on the world. Not only by improving working environments and paying fair wages, but also by being environmentally conscious. You can support our cause and talent here!