Sarah Staudinger is deciding what you wear. Whether or not you're familiar with the New York-based designer, what she's creating now at namesake brand Staud, and previously at Reformation, is captivating the style set, and thus trickling down to the high street. Inspiring directional must-have accessories and separates across the industry, her Midas touch is influencing everything from our Instagram feeds to our wardrobes.
Having cut her teeth as fashion director at the wildly influential Reformation, in 2015 she went her own way, founding Staud along with partner George Augusto. Based in her hometown of LA, the brand – which now has a cool 117k Instagram following – is inspired by vintage cuts and styles, and seamlessly slots into the contemporary woman's wardrobe. Now stocked at Net-A-Porter and Browns, think cult-worthy microbags, wide-legged trousers paired with buttoned-up crop tops, eyelet detailed jumpsuits and hyper-feminine dresses.
We caught up with Sarah to see what a typical day in the Staud office looks like, what advice she'd give to fashion students looking to break into the industry, and where she gets her sartorial inspiration.
How did you first get into fashion?
There was never really another plan. Since I can remember, I just knew that was my future in one way or another.
Did you study?
I did, in New York City at the New School University.
Did you go on to do any internships in fashion?
I interned with various stylists as well as at Condé Nast. Being in the city and working on shoots was definitely one of the best learning experiences. You know that you really love doing something if you still want to do it after carrying 10 garment bags in a snowstorm, all while being really undressed.
What does your typical morning look like before arriving at the office?
I use a lot of apps because I need hand-holding in the morning. If all goes to plan and I've had enough sleep and not a 4am call time or a flight, right when I wake up I do a breathing exercise. I use an apnoea [suspension of breathing] training app – my form of meditation – for about 10-15 minutes. I make a Bulletproof coffee, but I use cacao butter instead of real butter. Then I try and do the 7 Minute Workout app. This has been great for me because it's only 7 minutes and I haven’t got the excuse that I don't have enough time to work out.
Then I shower, put on clothes, pour another coffee (which I probably should not do) and try and do a Five Minute Journal session. This has been really helpful in getting my day started off right and keeps me sort of centred throughout the day. You can use the app or just do it in a notebook. If I have enough time I’ll do my journalling while I'm wearing a sheet mask. I love a hydrating or brightening mask, and use J.One Jelly a lot. By the time you come to put on makeup you need less, and that’s the goal, because you have to keep that stuff on your skin all day.
During working days, are you usually office-based or out at meetings?
I try to have most meetings at the office in LA or in our New York showroom, but we shoot a lot and I love being on set. My average work day consists of design, business and operational meetings.
What kind of environment and atmosphere do you like working in?
I like working in an atmosphere that is aesthetically pleasing with LOTS of movable inspirational boards and white walls. White walls are good for creativity; they help cleanse the artistic palate and the boards have to be movable because sometimes you have to switch gears, and a topless picture of Charlotte Rampling smoking a cigarette can be distracting.
Staud has gone from strength to strength since you founded it in 2015 – what do you think is the reason for its success when the industry is so oversaturated right now?
The competitiveness actually helps. It forces you to work incredibly hard and be very focused with your designs. We've also had amazing support from influencers that has been very consistent since we launched.
You've got a pretty impressive track record, aged 28 – what's your work ethos like?
I am still figuring it all out. Every day is a lesson. Because it’s been such a wild couple years, there’s really very little routine in the workplace. As a team we are constantly facing new, often exciting, challenges. Initially it was definitely a challenge to find balance within myself but I have come to a place where you can pretty much throw anything at me and I’m sure I'll figure it out. I have really come to understand the way I like to work, think and my process. At first it was a struggle, trying to operate the way people think you should in a ‘traditional’ company. It took me a while but I realised that just wasn't for me. I have been able to create a business etiquette that works for me and doesn't impose on my ability to be creative. Basically, there are rules like meetings and emails and conference calls and all the things... but you can rig it in a way that’s best for you – and at the end of the day that’s best for your business too.
What are your thoughts on fast fashion and 'see now, buy now' culture?
Honestly we don't think about it that much. It takes all our focus and energy to develop beautiful product that's the best fit and quality at the best price. Not to mention all the content we have to create to promote it!
For you, what are the benefits of an e-commerce business over having a physical presence?
The key for us is a balance of both. We started as direct-to-customer for the first year and a half so we could understand our customer and have a direct relationship with them. It also helped us understand which stores we wanted to be in.
What's your view as a brand owner on social media in today's industry?
It's incredible as long as you have a vision of what you're trying to express.
Staud encompasses a vintage feel – which decades and figures from the past inspire you the most?
I get inspiration from all decades. People from the past that inspire me are Jackie Onassis, Cher, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, and Slim Keith.
Is there a piece you're most proud of?
The Moreau bag is the piece I am most proud of. It is a really unique design and it feels so different from anything out there. It’s amazing to see the different ways people style it.
Who is the Staud girl?
The Staud girl is me; she is the girl that wants to look chic and not have to spend a fortune.
What are the biggest lessons you've learned since founding Staud?
Listen to your gut, but know when it's time to pivot away from an idea when it's not working.
What does the future look like for Staud?
Since we're only two and a half years old, it's about perfecting our product right now. We're always searching for better quality materials, improving fit, and building a team with a singular vision.
Do you have any advice for young women wanting to start out in fashion?
You can't be too much of a realist or a naysayer – or even too practical. It never stops, and at every level it’s about making crazy ideas happen with no time at all. It’s the most fun, gratifying and exhausting. If you’re not in it all the way then I would pursue something else. But it’s the best job there is.