Interview: Zach Macklovitch of Saintwoods
Saintwoods' Zach Macklovitch on building a brand and doing what he loves
In our Good Living interview series, we ask our most interesting friends revealing questions about how they design their lives, navigate today’s complicated world and, well, live the good life – whatever that means for them.
How has Saintwoods evolved from its beginings?
Both Nathan and myself started throwing parties when we were kids. I became a partner in Saintwoods in my last year of university and our goal was to take our promotional company and bring it out of the university market. We always talked about doing bars and restaurants, having a line, working with other brands, I just don’t think either of us ever expected it to fall in to place the way it did.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? What caused your path evolve?
I wanted to be a lawyer, I had been saying it since I was five years old. Right before we opened Suwu both Nathan and myself were planning on moving to New York where I was going to study at NYU and Nate was going to focus on getting Saintwoods NY off the ground. Six months later we had two spots in Montreal and the decision to stay was kind of made for us.
What does your typical day look like?
It’s really hard to say, our company is malleable and our clients really vary. Some days I’ll be designing pop-up spaces, the next day I’ll be figuring out music programming or the identity for a music based campaign, and some days I’ll be conceptualizing a story I want to put together for one of the publications we work with. Only thing typical about our days is that they’re busy and normally pretty fun.
“When you go through serious highs and lows you stop questioning whether the struggle is worth it; we want a lot, and getting a lot is far from easy.”
You live on Saint Laurent and all of your businesses are also on the street. What drew you to The Main? How important is it that you stay close to this community? What do you like best about it?
Funnily enough my family has had its roots in the Plateau since we came over from the Old Country but that’s not really the reason why I like it here. I started working on the Main when I was 16 and fell in love with the neighborhood’s culture instantly. Similarly, Nate’s roots in Montreal started out of the McGill ghetto and I think both of us just really loved and understood the people who lived around us. I don’t think it’s a matter of really going out of our way to stay close to the community, instead it comes more naturally, this neighborhood is a part of us and we’re a part of it. The first place we had the opportunity to open was on the Main and so was the second, then we opened our offices close by and started working with the MURAL festival which is also on the street… it was far more organic than I think most people would expect.
You’ve got a lot on your plate – what guides your choices? How do you decide what to take on, what to focus on?
We’ve yet to reach a point where we can’t handle or accept a new clients so we really look at each opportunities challenges and realities and see if it’s something that we can affect. If we can, and the company is interesting to us, then we take the gig. We’re just not trying to get clients to get clients, they need to be exciting to us, something that we can really sink our teeth in to.
When it gets hectic, when it gets difficult – what are your guiding principles? What makes you say this is worth struggling for?
We’re lucky in the sense where our company has seen both very real success and very real failure early on. When you go through serious highs and lows you stop questioning whether the struggle is worth it; we want a lot, and getting a lot is far from easy. We know that and we do everything in our power to enjoy the struggles of the day and keep it moving… what other option is there?
What is your opinion on the current music landscape and club culture in Montreal (or even Canada) and how does it compare to cities in Europe or other places in the world?
I think the musical landscape would rival any city in the world, compare not only the quality of the music but also just the sheer number of artists in Montreal, what other city with our population is in that category? Now even the bigger cities? I can’t think of many that can rival us in music category. The club and overall hospitality offerings are pretty amazing as well. People in Montreal live to go out, we live for great food and nightlife experiences and thus the quality is real here… If you’re not authentic, if you’re not quality, you don’t survive in Montreal, yet we still have some of the highest rates of bars and restaurants compared to our population in all of North America, that should tell you something.
You recently threw your hat into politics. What did you learn from that experience?
The mayoral campaign was a great experience. I joined the race for the mayor at the time, and although we lost the election, I learned a ton about my city, my borough, and what that world is all about. I never thought it would be as much work as it was, or that the pressure of being in that part of the public eye would be as real as it was. Will I do it again? I don’t know if I’d ever do that to myself again, that gauntlet is unlike anything I had experienced before and even the best politicians are hated by about 30% of their city. I think I’ll be focusing on my current projects for the foreseeable future but who knows what I’ll be saying in 8 or 12 years.
Every music fan has a list of artists that are essential to who they are - what are five for you?
- The Rolling Stones
- Curtis Mayfield
- The Brothers Macklovitch
- Kanye West
- Blue Rodeo
I know that’s already seven but in all honesty there should be about another 20 names on that list. I listen to music all day every day and my tastes range from classic rock to modern soul to mumble rap; 5 artists is like me asking you what your 5 favorite food items are, it just all depends on context.
What gets you excited?
Thoughts of the future.
What’s your definition of the Good Life?
A happy family, close friends, good food and wine, beautiful spaces to hang out in, the luxury of travel, and success in a career you’re passionate about… if that isn’t the Good Life then at least that’s what I’m fighting for.
If you enjoyed this check out our other interviews.