A Passion for Fashion: Personal Style & The Creative Process
From Creating Comfort Clothing to Heirlooms
By Angela Wampler | February 23, 2009Describe your creative process. For example, do you always have a sketchbook with you to capture your creative thoughts?
STEWART: I work one-on-one with the bride to determine her basic likes and dislikes and try to work her personality into the gown. I make sketches of several styles to present for her approval. I also keep an "inspiration" book filled with ideas to draw from. Those ideas can come from anything — a waterfall, a leaf, a building, a sunset — the list is endless.
WALLS: My creative process on a daily basis is very unconventional, and each day poses a different set of creative thought processes and inspiration. I do carry a small sketchbook in my purse to capture those divine moments of artistic vision. I also carry a digital recorder with me everywhere because there is powerful inspiration in words and thought processes that cannot be captured in a simple, quick sketch, so it requires more meditation that eventually metamorphoses into a fashion drawing.
When you see a garment hanging on a rack, you probably do not realize what it took to get that item in the store. I sketch hundreds of fashion drawings, from those hundreds only a few are worth moving to the next step. I take that handful of designs and begin trying to find fabrics that would suit the design and its aesthetic appearance. Once I find the fabric, I start looking at the cost of the fabric, how much it will cost to sew that one garment, if any notions (like zippers, thread, and buttons) will be needed and how much each notion will cost. I then determine what the selling price will be. At this point, of that handful of designs, half will be dropped because they will simply cost too much to produce and consumers will not pay what the asking price would be. I take the garments that are moving forward in the process and start making patterns for each style. Once the patterns are made and the fabric arrives with all the notions, then the actual constructing of the garments can start. Eventually, after much work and thought, I have a finished product. Even after I find fabrics and sometimes as late as after the pattern is made, I realize that none of the designs would work on a retail level and I have to start back at square one with a sketchpad. Sometimes I realize the fit is not what is desired or that the fabric was wrong for the intended result. It is a long and involved process that takes lots of thought and planning. It is much easier said than done.
What do you most enjoy about designing clothes?
STEWART: That is hard to answer. Sort of asking why you like chocolate. I just love it. I love the fabric, the way it moves and can be manipulated. I love the look in the eyes of the bride when she first sees herself in that gown in the mirror. There is nothing like it, except when her father or her groom sees her — now that is really magic.
WALLS: What I enjoy most about designing clothes is the moment a client steps into a finished product. The elation that they have is priceless. It's like stepping into a wedding gown and knowing that that's the gown. I get such joy in providing a piece of clothing for a woman that meets her needs and fits her in the most perfect way. It is truly rewarding to help take them from a concept to the final product.
Does your work reflect your personal fashion taste? Can you describe your style?
STEWART: I must say my personal taste is a bit more flamboyant than Bristol could take. I love bright, flowing fabrics and always a bit of sparkle. They say you should be your own best advertisement, but I'm not. I dress casually, for the most part; but when I'm away teaching or at conferences, I dress a bit more to my personal liking.
WALLS: Yes, my clothing label "Sarah Jane" does somewhat reflect my personal taste in fashion. However, the custom, one-of-a-kind pieces that I design for clients are a reflection of the client I am designing for at the time.
Do you have a signature style?
STEWART: Not really, because I design for individual clients and it is more important to show their styles and their personalities rather than mine. I work to pick designs that will be the most flattering to the bride.
WALLS: If I had to describe my style, it would be modern classics. It is a very up-to-date approach and a very "city chic" look.
What kind of person do you imagine wearing your clothing?
STEWART: My client is a confident woman who wants to make a statement and has the funds to buy the best. My gowns are not inexpensive; they require extensive sourcing to find the right fabric and embellishments. They require exact fitting and impeccable styling. That takes a lot of time. My gowns require a minimum of 40 hours of work to complete, with the majority of that time being handwork. My gowns are heirlooms.
WALLS: My customer is a contemporary, fashion conscious person who has an individual style and doesn't want to be treated like she can fit into a mold. She does everything from maintaining an executive position at a large company to dropping her kids off at soccer practice to singing in the church choir to lobbying for a cause in Washington, D.C. She is a go-getter and an over-achiever but, at the end of the day, she is simply a woman. She does so much for others and, when it comes to fashion, she needs it to be as effortless as possible.
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Design by Sara Walls features a criss-cross of color on black.