Dream Job: King Sarah
Lately my job has felt much like a dream job. I go to work where I design new features for our apps and then I come home and work with clients on their websites and branding. Life is good.
In the spirit of dream jobs, I have another amazing person to share with you today. Her name is Sarah Baker but she goes by King Sarah now. Sarah and I went to the same art school way back when and now she’s living her dream in New York making custom fashion garments for women and men. The cool part? A lot of her clientele are in the music industry, and wear her creations on stage in front of their fans. How rad is that? After following along on Sarah’s instagram, I had to know how she managed to land her dream job in the fashion industry…
Can you tell us about yourself and what you do for a living? On top of your day job, do you have any side projects?
I am Sarah Baker and I am a fashion designer. I am a freelancer, so “day job” has a very liberal definition in my life, but when I freelance, it’s for the design team at John Varvatos. It would be more accurate to describe my working lifestyle as “project based.”The work that I do when not freelancing is making stage-wear for music artists. Particularly the ones in the rock genre. Most recently, I have made suits for two members of Cage the Elephant for the Grammys. Some of my other clients include Queens of the Stone Age, The Strokes, and MGMT.
What’s your background in? Did you get a degree or are you a self taught creative?
My family has always supported my sister and I in our pursuit of the arts, so my background growing up was fine art, though I almost always found a way to correlate art and clothing, and after a brief period of living in Japan and studying Japanese, I turned my focus to getting a BFA in fashion.
Creativity isn’t taught, it’s conditioned out of people through the harsh process of growing up; I was lucky enough to have parents that indulged my desire to know how things were made and applying my own aesthetic experimentation to the things I had learned. I finally got a formal education in fashion after 11 years of autodidactic sewing, so to answer your question; a little of both.
How did you come up with the name King Sarah?
It was a joke, which has a very long and unusual story behind it, but the short justification is that it just rolls off the tongue so easily and is just weird enough to be memorable. Suits by Queen Sarah sounds diva, and I couldn’t just use “Sarah Baker” for a whole bunch of reasons (the domain name was taken, there are already a bunch of popular clothing companies with “Baker” in the name, and also, it just doesn’t work for a mens rock clothing brand.)
So if it sounds weird to be Queen of rock ‘n’ roll MENSWEAR, why not be like Hatshepsut and just be a King? Anyway, we live in a era when third-wave feminism makes gender labels “so five-minutes ago.”
You moved to New York a while back. How has that helped your career?
New York is a place where high fashion and music meet. Particularly men’s designer brands and rock. When I moved to NY, I immediately found work in my degree, interned and eventually freelanced for my favorite brand, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was going to shows, meeting bands and making kind of clothing I would daydream about. Not to mention the fact that in NY, the arts are so celebrated, vast, and accessible that it’s easy to meet and collaborate with other creatives.
The very first band I made suits for when I moved to NY, DREAMERS (at the time called Motive), kind of opened my world up to making stage-wear and although I had made clothing for bands for photoshoots while in school (Pretty & Nice, Down down down), this was an entirely new approach, because with DREAMERS I had found my niche in stage-wear. DREAMERS supported my work by wearing the suits I had made to almost all their photoshoots, interviews, shows, and it helped that they all happened to be handsome and have more swagger than you could shake a stick at. Since one band trusted and supported me so fully, and took great photos that I would use as portfolio pieces, it wasn’t hard to show other bands my work and start generating interest, clients, and a solid network into the upper echelons of the music industry, which I am still traversing.
Could you in a simplified view talk about your process when working with a client?
Setting up the meetings are usually the hardest part because the more famous an artist, the more precious their time. Once the design meeting is set, I usually start sketching and finding fabrics. There are three types of clients and each process is slightly different:
1) The people who know exactly what they want. Usually the client shows me a design they love, and we’ll decide together if it’s appropriate for the event. Then, I’ll make something similar to it in a different fabric or with unique details not found on the original inspiration garment.
2) The people who know what they like and what they don’t like, but don’t quite know what they want. Often times the client has a style icon or fashion era they resonate with and I’ll take that information and whatever information I can gather from the client’s personality and create a set of designs and fabrics for them to choose from.
3) The people who have no idea. Usually with these clients, I will show them previous designs I’ve done and try to find their boundaries while trying to stay true to the presence they’re trying to invoke. Most of the time, for the clients who don’t yet know their fashion boundaries, I design with the rule: looks normal from 50ft away, but is totally unique from 10ft away.
My style of design is called “bench tailoring” which is a fancy way of saying I handle the entire process of clothing production. It’s a lot of work but if a client wants a fully tailored suit constructed entirely out of newspaper or a vintage blanket (both of which I have done), I make it happen.
Where do you find inspiration for your new looks?My inspiration comes from the desire to change mens minds about fashion and expression. I design for women as well, but women are free to wear what they please, so it’s not nearly as much of a challenge. When I seek inspiration, I look at artists, movies, current trends, textiles, art, and tailoring. Then I think of three things: What is the function of the clothing? What will the client wear comfortably? And how much can I convince that client to stand out?
Also when I hear music I imagine clothing, so that helps.
There are so many creatives that want to do what you do and let’s face it, not everyone makes it. Do you have any “nuggets of wisdom” on how to break into this business and make a name for yourself? (aside from being incredibly talented)
Be absolutely fearless when opportunities arise and put yourself in places where opportunities are either abundant or unexplored. If you’re passionate, dedicated, and focused to the point that you are a full-on nerd about your craft, the people who meet you will pick up on that and remember you for your passion.
Do you have any more advice for young creatives just starting out that want to be their own business owners?
Have a lot of capital, a lot of passion, and a lot of stamina. And maybe be a masochist when confronted with obstacles in the process of trying to achieve your goals. Art is hard, business is exhausting, and life becomes an endless series of deadlines. If you don’t thrive on pushing yourself to the limit, you’re better off keeping your creative endeavors as a hobby, and probably more sane for it.
Thanks so much to Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions.
You can check out all her work at King Sarah Clothing
Follow Sarah on instagram