Featured Local Designer: Interview with Sarah Liller

By Corinne Johnson

Sarah Liller is a local San Francisco designer who has the potential to rise to success! She is currently preparing to launch her second line, consisting of dresses made out of vintage tablecloths; titled Romantic Repurposing! Her sense of style is truly unique, as well as timeless, and can appeal to women of various age groups. This is one designer whose name we should keep an eye out for in the future!

Be sure to check out some of the questions and extensive answers below.
Her website (which will be launched later this month) can be found here as well as her facebook page.

Interview with Sarah
Q: When did you realize you wanted to become a fashion designer?

Sarah: I’ve always designed ever since I was a little girl. I would sketch a lot, my mom taught me how to sew when I was thirteen, and I just sort of fell in love with making my own things, exactly the way I wanted to. But I think I came to the realization that I wanted to be a designer as an adult. Probably when I was about 22. My parents wanted me to do something practical with my life, but I was in college and really not happy, and I thought “You know what, I just really need to do this.” So I went to Parsons, and it was the best decision ever!

Q: Where did you get your education?

Sarah: Parsons in New York! It is a school for all different arts, but it’s known as a fashion school.Project runway has filmed there, and it’s sort of like the Mecca (laughing).

Q: What was the first article of clothing you ever designed?

Sarah: In school for one of my final projects in pattern making we had to go to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and find an art piece and take inspiration from it, and I kind of took that pretty literally! So I took Trafalgar Square, the painting with all the primary colors. Vicente Laurent did dresses in the sixties where he took that painting and literally interpreted it into a dress, so I did kind of like a modern “re-do.” So it was one-shoulder, really short, and all out of silk. That was my first time making the pattern, and doing everything 100% myself.

Q: How long does it usually take you to construct a piece?

Sarah: It takes a while if you do it the right way! I always have this gripe that Project Runway has made it seem so easy, and it is if you don’t worry about making patterns that you can reproduce, and making something that can actually be sewn, and sewing it well. So I think if I were to work from 9-5, it would probably take me about a week to make a dress from draping it, to the pattern, to checking it and adjusting it and making sure it’s perfect, and then to sewing.

Q: How many lines have you designed?

Sarah: Two at this point. I have my line from last summer, and I am just now launching this line of dresses that are made from vintage tablecloths! So everything is repurposed. I am really excited about this project! I am relaunching my website at the end of the month, and I will be doing the THREAD show in November, and then I am also going to start getting into boutiques in the beginning of December. So I will be in Loft 1513!

Q: Whats the name of your most recent line?

Sarah: Everything has my name on it, but the newest line of dresses is called Romantic Repurposing! My spring/summer line from last year is called Sarah Liller San Francisco.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration for your current line?

Sarah: My current line of dresses is I think for a little bit older customer and a little more older of an aesthetic. I go to flea markets I pick up these vintage embroidered linens, and seeing all the work that went into that and imagining that there was a woman like sixty years ago that was sitting in the evenings embroidering that is such an inspiration to craft something out of that.

Q: What age group does your current line/all lines pertain to?

Sarah: I think that the Romantic Repurposing stuff can be for a fashion forward girl in her early twenties, who can make it her own. But I definitely thing that women up to their early forties can wear most of it. My old line I definitely think is a lot younger. I think age eighteen to thirty-five is appropriate.

Q: What overall qualities do you possess as a fashion designer that you believe sets you apart from other designers?

Sarah: I think I’m scrappy! I have invested maybe three thousand dollars in my business and I am doing pretty well. I think understanding that that’s my limitation and working with it, as opposed to having that hold me back is something I have really been working on for the past year. I think also being down to earth and not being afraid to work hard! I think a lot of people go in to fashion thinking it is really glamorous, and that you just get to do fashion shows and dress models, and it’s not like that at all. There are nights that I am up until three in the morning sewing but you have to do those things, and you have to love it!

Q: What is the best/favorite part about being a designer?

Sarah: Being able to manifest something from your mind to being right in front of you is really cool! Not many people can do that, I don’t think. Being able to work with my hands on a daily basis is really rewarding! It’s like a visual reward!

Q: What is the biggest show/accomplishment your designs have been featured in?

Sarah: I was in the Define Beauty Fashion Show which was really well done! That was probably the biggest event I have done so far.

Q: How would you define your personal style?

Sarah: I love vintage, but I feel like you need to dress in vintage in a way that doesn’t make you look like you are going to a costume party. So I think mixing modern elements with really beautiful one of a kind vintage pieces, most of which I have never paid more than one hundred dollars for, is kind of the key to personal style for me. For jewelry, I only use my mom’s vintage stuff or I buy local designers. Then I think the key is having really good basics, like a good pair of jeans and good t-shirts. That’s what you can build upon, and I really feel the most stylish people probably pick one or two really interesting things and put them together in an interesting way, and that’s what makes them stylish. Not necessarily having expensive clothes.

Q: Who are some of your favorite designers?

Sarah: I always love Ralph Lauren. His runway shows make me cry, they are so pretty! I have a lot of respect for Nanette Lepore in New York. I interned for her for a very brief time over my winter break in school. She does everything in New York. The designs, the fabric sourcing, the sewing, everything is done in New York! She has done so well with her company and I think she started on like ten thousand dollars, and that is just a sign of a good business woman. I think her stuff is cute, and she obviously has a really good point of view, so I really respect her! I can say the same thing about Betsy Johnson. She has a very defined esthetic, and it’s funny because she has kept it for like forty years and people still buy it! She just knows her customers so well and it really works for her!

Q: What trends do you see being big for 2012?

Sarah: I think lace is going to keep being big, even though it has been for the last two seasons. I think the hemlines are going to continue to drop. I think people want something more comforting and timeless. For colors, I think colors are going to come back. In the past spring seasons, there have been so many nudes and neutrals, and I really think colors are going to be big this spring. Probably bright pastels, but with a punch. I am so bored of black and pale colors!

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring fashion designers?

Sarah: Network! Knowing people to get a job is probably 80% of the battle. If you want to start a line, keep draping, keep designing, keep doing it because once you stop you are going to forget how. Don’t stop! I think people stop and they get complacent, and you really can’t do that. You are never going to be more hungry than you are when you get out of school!