Political statements have been at the forefront of fashion this year
Manchester, England-based Sarah Denise Studio provides relevant fashion design, graphics and technical assets for brands, suppliers and start-ups, without the need for agencies or the overheads of an in-house design team. Owner Sarah Denise Cordery discusses fashion design and sustainability.
Fibre2Fashion: What is your approach towards sustainable designing?
Sarah Denise Cordery:
I was brought up to always reuse resources where possible, and as a family, we have always recycled, so this has always been a focal point within my work. This is now seen in the wider world of fashion. However, I do think as customers, we should be aware of greenwashing and ask what the real impact of our actions is.
F2F: Where do you source wedding dresses for your upcycling projects?
I am currently setting up a brand, which upcycles wedding dressing into bridal nightwear, lingerie and other accessories. Many of my friends have kindly donated their wedding dresses. I also look in charity shops, thrift stores and auctions.
F2F: Where do you retail from?
I use an e-commerce platform to retail at present, but have plans for pop-up stores.
F2F: Where do you source fabric for your various lines?
Preferably from reused materials. When I cannot, I adore browsing all the fabric shops in Marche Saint Pierre, Paris, when I visit my grandma. I especially love the half-sized mannequins dressed in exquisite replica designer vintage outfits in Tissus Reine.
F2F: What kind of research do you do for trend forecasting? What is your trend forecast that will rule the upcoming seasons?
Political statements have been at the forefront of fashion this year. From Stormzy's Union Jack stab-proof vest worn at Glastonbury, drawing attention to knife crime and the vulnerability of the black community, to Ashish's 'Nasty Woman' sequin tee. There is a definite overtone of strong self-expression and awareness in fashion at the moment. In a nutshell-utility and messaging.
F2F: What surface patterns do you specialise in? Where did you learn the art from?
I have always had quite a vivid imagination. In school, I was usually found in the art department wearing paint overalls and creating some textured mural. I have drawn for as long as I can remember, even offering poolside portraits on summer holidays. These days, I enjoy bright, fun prints, especially swimwear and kids design, with plenty of personality and joy.
F2F: What kind of services does your studio offer? Do you have any recent work to share?
We offer the whole creative services package. This includes fashion design, branding, graphics and supporting technical specifications. Recently I worked on trend predication packages for Miss Pap (Boohoo group), kids wear designs for Tesco, and graphic design for the lovely Alice Lyons, founder of Mental Health and Wellbeing company, and Dark Coffee.
F2F: Which brands do you work with?
Some of the brands I have worked with include Miss Pap, the Monteverdi Opera, Poetic Gem, and Gaynor Marie. Prior to setting up my studio, I worked with brands like Ann Summers, Missguided, C&A and global supplier MAS-quite a diverse portfolio.
F2F: Which countries do you have clients from? Do you have any plans for expansion?
I have worked with clients in Europe, as well as the United Arab Emirates and Australia, giving insight into European trends. One of my goals is to work with like-minded creative females as a collective, producing ethical and innovative products with sustainable manufacturers.
F2F: From designing a concept to final production, what are the challenges you face?
The Opera, for example, had a two-month timeline from brief to opening night. This sort of timeframe required sound levels of organisation; however, having worked in the fashion industry for over a decade, I am used to the fast pace. In the heat of the moment, I loved seeing everything come together with thanks to the brilliant team at Monteverdi.
F2F: How long have you been into fashion design and how has your overall experience been?
I studied Contour Fashion (lingerie, swim and activewear design) in university because I wanted to help women feel great in their own skin. That sentiment still stands.
I have always loved dressing up. I have my mother to thank for this. She nurtured my creativity and taught me to sew from a very young age.
When I was around 8, I remember the World Book Day at school. In preparation, I altered my mother's favourite vintage 'hippie' skirt with her. I wore it to school with a tambourine to play as Esmerelda. Clothing gives the wearer the ability to transcend reality; to 'try on' alternate personalities, and has the power to transform mood, and how one is perceived. Clothing is expression.
F2F: How different does it feel to be self-employed compared to doing a regular job? Do you see more designers taking up freelancing nowadays?
I still see this as a regular job in the sense that I work Monday to Friday, and most Saturdays as well. The main difference is where I go to work and what I am doing changes day to day. Sometimes I work in-house, but mostly I work remotely, which is now easier than ever with great tech allowing such easy communication opportunities.
I have seen some of my peers turning to freelance in recent years, but this is due to many factors, one of which is a desire for more flexible working hours. I do not think it is for everyone.
F2F: Freelance fashion designers work longer hours and are under constant pressure to meet the deadlines. How true is this assumption?
For me, that is not true. I work long hours, but I choose to do this as a self-confessed workaholic with an endless list of passion projects alongside my client work. This, of course, is reliant on good time management skills to ensure meeting expected timelines.
F2F: How do you market your work and yourself being a freelance designer?
I have always enjoyed working around other people, so co-working spaces have been great for networking and meeting new people.
My top three tips would be:
* Be yourself.
* Find your talent (*magic power*).
* Know your worth.
One of my new year resolutions is to collaborate more with other artists, brands and makers.
F2F: Please throw some light on your recent costume design.
I was recently selected to design and dress the entire production of Cellini, by the world-renowned composer Sir John Elliot and his orchestra, The Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra. I was quite humbled to learn that the previous designer for the Monteverdi had been Vivienne Westwood herself, as she is a fan of their work.
A memorable moment includes taking a bow at the Royal Albert Hall during their European tour, and I really am thankful for that opportunity.
F2F: What is the Sarah Denise C specialty?
I make a great Ameretto chocolate cake. In terms of design? Lingerie is my first love!
F2F: What are your future plans? What different costumes you are planning to design?
I plan on doing more with the operas, alongside my growing client base in fashion.