Tempest + Bentley

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Neither Shakespeare nor luxury vehicle, Tempest + Bentley bodes the future of fine wool garments conceived out of refreshingly conscious, sustainable production. Upon discovering San Francisco’s marine layer necessitated pulling on that quintessential, chunky sweater but discouraged with what existed on the market, Marissa Thieriot rolled up her sleeves and set out to create Tempest + Bentley, putting to use a lengthy and impressive professional background—with stints at Gap, Esprit and even Google, to name a few.

The name, Tempest + Bentley, is charmingly derived from Thieriot’s grandmothers’ middle names. Even more charming and classically rooted than its namesakes are her delectably chunky creations. These modern renditions of the quintessential cable-knit pullover are reminiscent of the past, while whole-heartedly embracing high sustainability of the future—From the dyehouse, selected for its certification in Global Organic Textile Standards, to high-grade wool coming from a historic ranch in the Pacific Northwest.

With no detail overlooked, a superior knit product now exists through the efforts of one very impressive designer.

How did you transition through your professional endeavors with major brands and corporations?

While taking a break from designing for apparel brands in Sand Francisco, I was offered an opportunity to interview for a fashion startup. I eventually ended up at Google working on their Shopping e-commerce team. I was very content at Google, but always knew I would return to design, in some way. If I hadn’t spent the time I did being challenged in Silicon Valley, I know I wouldn’t have had the confidence and knowledge needed to start Tempest + Bentley.

What are the highlights of what you absorbed during your professional history?

I started at a small high-end cashmere company. To this day, it’s still the company that best prepared me for running my own knitwear business. At the larger corporate apparel brands I developed an understanding of big business strategy as well as design development, production and marketing, on a large scale. It was important to learn how to communicate well and excel in an environment where there were many personal agendas to appease and corporate barriers to navigate. The most fun and educational part was traveling to factories in many parts of the world.

Google allowed me to test my skills in a multitude of areas, from marketing, website development and trend analytics, to fashion and set styling. It’s amazing the range of products and concepts Google is working on at any given time. My biggest take from Google is the confidence I built in my abilities to persevere through challenging projects.

Can you describe what “heritage-inspired” means in the context of your brand?

I’ve always been drawn to the stitches and classic styling of vintage sweaters and sweaters that look like they could have been hand knit by your grandmother. Traditional Aran knits inspire the general aesthetic of Tempest + Bentley, however, I design the stitches and shapes to have more modern appeal. I also work with natural yarns that are softer than the scratchy wool traditionally used.

How feasible is it to alter our standards for sustainable garment production?

It’s much easier and much less expensive to produce garments without a concern for the social, economic and environmental impact they have. It took a lot of extra time to find ethical resources, get to know my suppliers and manufacturers, and ensure that I’m making garments in the most responsible way I can. The sustainable manufacturing and supplier community in the U.S. is growing though. As there is more and more demand, it will become easier to find responsible partners in the U.S. that are priced reasonably and can compete with quality and technique.

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Text by Jennifer Richardson
Photography by Janice Mao & Beatrice D’Amico

THE OBSESSION ISSUE

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