We each have varying versions of ourselves which we slip in and out of, chameleon-like, according to the context: our work-selves, our Instagram-selves, our home-alone-selves… etc. Waiting For Saturday is a site interested in our weekend-selves—stripped back from what we need to be and more about who we truly are. The term off-duty sounds last season so I won’t say that, but Waiting For Saturday provides insight into what women wear and do for themselves when no-one is watching. Olivia Villanti (Marketing at Madewell) & Nicole Benuska (Merchandiser at Eileen Fisher) have forsaken their own Saturdays to capture those of others. Well, almost. As they’ve grown the site over the past year, the duo have discovered how sharing yourself on the internet is totally normal, how women manage to pursue interests outside of busy work schedules, and perhaps the most important: that possessions we hold close are often those that cost the least, and our most memorable moments are often those had in our most natural, most free states of being.
Olivia: “Waiting For Saturday was born from wanting to get to know people in their natural environment. That was the core concept, to capture people in elements that were very much them. When you dress up, sure that’s you, but more often the great moments in life are when you’re in sneakers, or you’re barefoot, you’re outdoors or in your home. Those personal experiences are usually more memorable and are what define you. We’ve also been working in fashion for a while, and would read these stories with people in the industry looking all glamorous—but in interviews they would claim to be a jeans & t-shirt girl. But you’d never see that. And that’s the part of fashion that I’m drawn to—the personal and often more casual pieces. We felt like that side of fashion wasn’t really being explored. Things have changed a bit now, this whole ‘off-duty’ thing that has pervaded style… everyone has stylish sweatpants. But when we started to visualize WFS it felt like there wasn’t really a home for it yet, and we wanted to create that place.”
Nicole: “Style is only a part of what we’re looking at, also—it’s more about an exploration of a moment when you’re doing something for yourself. There was that street-style pull which initially felt more natural, but it’s become very curated. You wonder, what are they really wearing and doing every day—
what does that other part of life look and feel like?
So sure it’s the clothes, but it’s also the story. It’s beyond just a picture of that specific moment, it’s an insight into that person and what they’re choosing to do with their time. We really wanted to explore real lives. We can paint ourselves in so many different ways, and everyone is very aware of this fact. People increasingly want to see past the pretty picture—they want to know what they’re looking at. Authentic content can be hard to come by.”
Olivia: “There is definitely an appetite for authenticity. Anything that feels too forced doesn’t feel right anymore. We’ve shifted. We want anecdotes, we want personal recommendations, we want behind the scenes. And all that stuff has become available to us through social media, everyone’s sharing those things. That’s what people are hungry for. Maybe there’s going to be some backlash to that where everything is perfectly styled, and no-one will care about what you’re having for breakfast anymore! But right now there’s a real comfortability with being the voyeur, and a real comfortability with being the subject. Still, I am constantly surprised (and grateful) at how open people are around us—photographing them, following them around and recording them. I think we’re so used to the internet exposing everyone, that you can share yourself and it doesn’t feel self-promotional or dirty like it might have felt some time ago, and it doesn’t feel embarrassing—it just feels like the way the world is. People are still self-aware of course, even in weekend mode. We used to joke that we’d show up for an interview and the person would be in their PJs, no makeup, fully hungover. But people are very aware when they’re being put in the public eye, of where things end up, and of the permanency of the internet. And we realize that—there’s only so far you can go. Also, out of sheer admiration for the people that we feature, we want them to feel like we’re showing them in their best, most relaxed light.”
Nicole: “There is always going to be self-awareness. Which in some ways is where it becomes interesting—because we’re not waiting for anyone to slip up and reveal something juicy—it’s really about getting to understand what they’re into and what they’re up to. But in a relaxed environment, the personal things tease out of it, and that’s where the authenticity and excitement comes from. You’ll share something you might not have expected to share, because you felt comfortable and the conversation flowed a certain way.”
Olivia: “We’re not in the business of exposing people. We’re getting the small talk, which is aligned with our mission of trying to keep things light, and makes it feel very Saturday. Saturday is not the time to be serious! And when those small, personal things come out in conversation, there’s something nice about giving importance to the mundane and ordinary. We’re all curious about those little things, and I think curiosity is where this all started.
People have always been inherently curious, but the beauty of right now is that people are more willing to share than ever before.
Getting to know these people in such personal ways, and creating relationships with them as a result, has been such an incredible reward. I think as women, too, there’s something about the verbal exchange of information that we’re into. I think men experience that exchange differently, where they’re more about going out and doing things together.”
Nicole: “It’s about community also—we want to meet and experience these moments together. We all live in our own bubbles here, and it’s nice to open up our worlds a bit and see into the worlds of others. Even with the subtlest of things, you find commonalities with people and it makes you feel connected. Simply by having natural moments and experiences with people, you learn things about them that you may not have assumed. Not that you don’t imagine people aren’t multifaceted, but finding out about an alternate passion or interest has been fascinating. These little things that we take away from people (like Emma’s smoothie recipe, or Bailey’s fishing tips) seem more accessible, too—because if this person isn’t a professional, then you don’t have to be a professional to appreciate or enjoy it, either.”
Olivia: “Particularly being in NY where we’re so career driven, I think I had a pre-conceived notion that people and their professions were one and the same—that it can be difficult to cultivate an alternate life in the city—especially because we’re all so busy. But I’ve been so surprised at how many interests these women have in addition to their careers.
They have these rich, interesting lives on the side of whatever they do for work, which almost gives their profession more weight.
This is especially relevant to Coco and I who both work full-time in addition to the site—seeing how other women balance their lives with interests and projects outside of their careers. I don’t think either of us realized how much time the site would consume, or how easily it could consume our friendship. It’s important for us to maintain our friendship outside of WFS, and it can be a practice of discipline to not talk about it all the time. If anything it’s forced us to be more honest with each other, because our working relationship depends on that.”
Nicole: “We’re also really lucky to have our husbands, who help keep us in check. If we’re all out together and Olivia and I go off on a WFS tangent, they’ll bring us back. In general, we’re always checking in with each other, make sure that the workload is ok. We try not to be too hard on ourselves.”
Olivia: “I’ve always been a morning person which works to my advantage for this project, so between 6/6.30 is my time to work. I get 2 solid hours on the site until 8.30, before I leave for work. If there’s one thing I could ask for it would be 5 extra hours in the day. But truthfully, I don’t know if having more time would resolve anything. There’s a certain point where you have to let it go. In some ways, because we have so few hours to work on the site, those hours are very productive. I do try to have one weekend day of no work. We both need that time with our families. Our relationships are the most important thing, and our values have always been aligned in that sense.”
Nicole: “As much as we work, we find time to be with the people we love. And in a lot of ways, WFS is feeding both my time off and my work in ways that I couldn’t have anticipated. I feel like a better person because of it.”
Olivia: “Before this project I felt like I was in a bit of a rut, but WFS has made my day job feel so much more inspired. This might be a very New York thing to say, but isn’t it funny how you can balance yourself with more work.”
As told to Amy Woodside, May 2014
Photographed by Amy Woodside