CELEBRITY STYLIST SARAH SLUTSKY TALKS FASHION WEEK AND SUSTAINABILITY

What exactly is your role during fashion week?

Sarah: So as a stylist, I have a few separate roles at New York Fashion Week. The first, I guess that is easiest to explain, is an attendee of shows. I go to the shows and then I try to really take into consideration the jobs that I know are coming up, the jobs that might be. I really use this as an opportunity to start thinking and really planning ahead, and if something really strikes me I’ll reach out to brands and designers way in advance of a job to ask them to keep a client, or me, in mind for jobs that might come up for looks for the runway. And then another role, that I have at fashion week is that sometimes I have clients that will be attending shows, so I’ll style them for events and get them ready to go to shows themselves or for the after parties. And then finally, sometimes I’m working with designers to help them come up with their looks that are for presentations or shows.


I had an interesting conversation with one of our interns earlier today about fashion week, and she genuinely thought that the shows were basically just big parties and photo ops for influencers. She didn’t realize the show had a practical element, I guess because it’s represented across social media as somewhere that influencers and actresses hang out. So, as someone who’s been going to shows for a while, can you feel a difference? Because shows do have a practical goal, to show the collection, how do you…

S: So, what you’re about to ask me I think, is actually a part of why I was really excited to connect with the two of you and talk about fashion week. I’m super young in the industry and I’m new, and well I’ve been working in fashion myself as an intern for a decade now, which is sometimes crazy to think about, but I think that my career started as fashion week was shifting in general to include not just industry participants. It was originally buyers, stylists and editors who would go and it would be their preparation for the season to come. I do think the fact that there is this element of the spectator (now) bringing a lot of hype and attention because in the last ten years social media has become so relevant and a part of the way that brands are able to monetize. But, it really has changed the pressure for those inside and outside the industry as they’re going to shows. Now I think a lot of my career in fashion has involved what’s known as street style. But, when I was working with some of my mentors they really expressed and told me about their evolution and their experience going from "the ladies in black", the people who work in fashion to, the sometimes really inspiring, sometimes really stressful street style scene outside the shows and before the shows.

So as someone who is photographed for street style how do you prepare for a week like fashion week?

S: So, I think, you know I certainly have noticed in myself over the last few years little tricks and things that I’m doing that make me feel like I can be conserving more energy. I guess would you say not just conserving energy, but feeling like I’m going to shows and I’m able to fully participate and enjoy, and relieve whatever stress is possible. I think this year in particular I was feeling like I really want to wear the clothes that are in my wardrobe, and I really want to be feeling that I am myself and I’m not doing or feeling any different than I would on a normal day. So, to be honest and to be quite open about it, fashion week does become an opportunity to  play with what’s in your wardrobe and put together outfits that maybe with my best girl friends, they might say “okay Sarah you’re going a little crazy this time”. So, I sat down with my assistant and said “let’s look at my wardrobe”, and I put together an outfit that I’m pretty proud of myself. I didn’t buy anything new, I made use of the things that I was super excited about last fashion week to pre-order and things that I’ve had in my closet for a really long time. On one day I believe I wore a jacket that I got in high school. Another day I rolled out in my pajamas and I think that was the day that I saw you you both out.

Oh yeah, you looked adorable!

S:
And then I definitely wore a lot of my vintage pieces and made use of layering. It was so hot this season too so it was kind of fun to keep wearing my summer dresses that I love the most and pairing them with jackets that take me from the day time to the night time where the fall breeze kind of starts to come in.

Basically the way that you’re describing the preparation for fashion week for street style stars and influencers is another form of fashion editorial or a fashion billboard. Which can be beautiful, inspiring and fun. But, I also think that there’s a possibility that every day young women who aren’t in the industry don’t realize it’s being approached in that way and believe that this is how everyone in fashion dresses all of the time. That there is a need to have an expensive and flamboyant wardrobe.

S: What I love so much about fashion in general, and I think what has always excited me about fashion week is that clothes have the ability to empower individuals, and fashion week really, in it’s most true form is setting the stage for inspiration. Countless creative minds go into (creating) the right soundtracks, the right lighting, what the runway itself looks like, is there a backdrop etc. I think it’s only natural that the people who participate in the fashion industry also want to use it as a platform and a canvas. To get together and wear their favorite outfits. But, I do think it’s really important that as we’re doing this and as we are delivering these fashion messages, remember that ultimately clothes should make you feel like you can do and be your best self and I think that comes in a lot of forms. You should always feel when you’re doing your job that your clothes aren’t getting in the way, and you should also feel that when you’re purchasing clothes and when you’re looking through your wardrobe, the things that you have in it are things that you love and you want to last a really long time. I think sometimes fashion week can paint this sensibility that you need more, and that you have to change it up, and that you can’t wear something that you wore last season or last week, and if anything I would really want to be a part of those voices saying that’s not true.  I think the most beautiful clothes are the clothes that we are proud of and can’t wait to wear again and again and again. The access to clothes early for editors and stylists sometimes creates this sense of urgency that I think that if we could address it and really slow down this wave of newness and look at our wardrobes to see how we could just refresh what we have inside. That would be the one message that I would hope to kind of push forward, you know.

What would be your top three tips to move toward a more sustainable way of dressing?

S: The very first thing I would say is anything that you’re bringing into your wardrobe make sure that you can wear it a lot and often. I’ve done something called the 30 wears challenge. Everything that you decide to have in your home, committing it to a lifespan of at least 30 wears and even beyond that. A tangible goal of something like 30 is a really good place to start. The next thing I would say is shop your wardrobe. Can you re-invent and recreate looks that you hadn’t of thought of  by layering a great button down blouse underneath a dress, or a t-shirt underneath a tank top. Little things that really update the current selection that you have and if not how are you keeping it a closed loop cycle? If there are things in your wardrobe that you don’t feel are ‘you’ anymore is there a great way to re-invent them? By either handing them along to your little sister or your cousin? My cousin has all of my old clothes. There’s also places like the Real Real, they’re really good at giving new life to clothes I love shopping from those kinds of places now because it really is keeping clothes out of landfill and continuing their use, And then the last, try and buy non-blended materials, things that are natural and not blended.  Generally, you can assume that the production is done in a way that is reducing harm to the environment and the workers.

Do you find that because of the career that you have and the brands and the people that you have access to that you’re able to have this conversation about sustainability and even change a few minds along the way?

S: Well I think that more that we have conversations about how clothes make us feel in general, then more likely we are to impact a bigger change. Some of my best friends are passionate with me, but their career path has taken them into different avenues and a lot of my other friends are not passionate at all. So, I have a very wide range of very close friends that I have the conversation with. It seems generally that the more we’re able to talk honestly about what we’re doing when we look at clothes and what we want them to make us feel like, we can really start to see the environment shift, the fashion environment. I love hearing about brands that have decided to implement new policies in their own workplaces or changing their manufacturing because of small conversations they’ve had on a day to day basis. I think the thing that’s still difficult is, sometimes I can’t wrap my head around, ethical or sustainable sometimes seems like a novelty. I think it should be the reverse.

We feel the same way! How is it that doing something done the right way is something we have to work hard to discover? This is why we love to talk to people liek you who are passionate about sustainability and very optimistic about fashion and styling and forging a new future. How do you see your career evolving over the next couple of years both as a stylist and as an advocate of sustainable fashion?

S: I’m really interested in so many elements and so many layers that range from the conception of an idea from the designer level, how these designers are reimbursed for their work and how they’re celebrated, all the way through to buttons and threads. I think that celebration of fashion and seeing people become proud and excited about what they wear, that’s something I’m really passionate about. I care about the entire process, but I think in particular one area that I really relate to is removing the pressure and getting back to the excitement of getting dressed. Really celebrating the power of a look and how it transports you. I fear that we’ve lost fashion and the pressure of the street-style crowd that might be seen from an outsider’s perspective has removed the feel good emotions that are associated with finding the perfect dress for a wedding or being able to go out on a Friday night feeling like your favorite jeans are still your favorite jeans. You don’t need a new pair. Does that make sense?

Yeah, absolutely. Which brings me to my next question as someone who is visible in the industry and photographed for your personal style, do you have any advice for girls who are in the process of finding their personal style?

S: I think it’s okay to play around. I’m going to be thirty next year, which I still can’t believe, but I think being a young person and starting in fashion, I started interning when I was 19 years old, to be able to play and experiment and reinvent your look and your feeling, that is something that I always love. I’m a super visual person and I kind of imagine my day based on the meetings I have and where I’m going. You can transform yourself by being able to really have fun. I’m kind of feeling that as I’m getting older, I really can identify with what works with my body and what really makes me feel like that person. It always comes back to just the things I’ve always loved, a great, really clean simple easy look. I feel like my grandmother was always such a sophisticated chic woman and she was always wearing amazing trousers and an amazing blouse. You know, I think when I get dressed these days, I’m kind of emulating her.

Sarah, is there anything that you would like to cover that we haven’t discussed?

S: Yeah, I think we kind of talked about it, but when I started this sort of mental prep for this fashion week I was really determined to just enjoy this one. After talking with the two of you I remember feeling like, you know what, this fashion week is going to be fun! And when people ask me how I’m feeling, even if I’m really tired from working on a job or going to 6 shows in one day, I’m going to remember that what I’m doing is super awesome and exciting. It’s inspiring, I’m seeing beautiful things and I actually feel really great after fashion week. We started this conversation off with saying ‘oh my god, I just slept 14 hours last night’, but, I think it’s a little bit like social jet lag, too much fun, doing too many things, and I think ultimately the reason I’m telling this to you is I really do believe that the wearers of clothes should feel wonderful and and they should be happy, and fashion should make you happy. You should feel like you’re only getting positive energy when you’ve been in the store, and when you put clothes on. Yeah, if there’s anything I could really do to contribute to this industry and this cycle is just helping people appeal to their better self.