Interview with EFWA Upcycling Designer Sara Armstrong

Share about the journey that led you to fashion design.

I was always into “design," but never really expected to be a “fashion designer”. I was in university for a bachelor of fine arts, I began my degree in painting, then moved my focus to sculpture and new media. I was doing woodworking, welding, trying all mediums and making public sculpture. Our school didn’t have a textiles department so once I finished I thought my next journey would be into textiles.  I went to a fashion design school which also didn’t really focus on creating textiles.... so out of class time, I took all the workshops I could find on felting, spinning, dyeing, screen printing etc. 

Image by Diana Klonek
I ended up really enjoying pattern drafting and draping. It has such strong parallels to my previous interests and education. Fashion design stuck: the materials are easily available and people often can “understand” its purpose so I felt it was more accessible for me to create an audience. Once I finished my design diploma I did go back into carpentry for a few years, while building my label on the side. I believe construction is construction and if we can understand the way something is built, anything is possible. I may not make “clothes” forever but I will always be in the world of design.

I know you trained at Blanche Macdonald. Talk about the highs and lows of studying fashion design. What did you find easy? What was a challenge?

Having just finished a Bachelors in Fine Arts less than a year before my move into fashion school, the transition was seamless. I had the knowledge and skill in forming full concepts and executing them in a variety of different mediums. The challenge I faced was in becoming a master in accuracy for just one medium – textiles. I found this restricting at first.

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand? Etc.? Do you offer a new line each season, create custom work or both?

I design concept collections as well as non-seasonal, gender inclusive separates. My aesthetic is often changing, but I think the themes I bring forward are in the large shapes I often am gravitate toward. I do wholesale in small batches, but I often prefer custom, because I know the piece is going to a wearer immediately.

From left to right - images by Marchel Creative, Megan Toriglia, Peter Jensen & From Website

I am so thrilled to have you a part of the EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R Wilson. Have you ever upcycled used garments before?  If so, how?

When I first began design, I only upcycled and had a strong eco-focus for many seasons. My graduate collection was all made of recycled wedding dresses, and the shoes were made from repurposed furniture. I often re-use fabrics and make them my own. I do have an eco-focus in the fabrics I choose and that the pieces can withstand wear and become transformable for the wearer’s lifestyle, making longevity a key moral of my design brand.

Images Left by @lizDunate -Image Centre by Matthew Burditt -  Image Right by Diana Klonek
Please share a little about your approach/inspiration for creating your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

I have made a menswear look with a twist on the feminine form. I have recycled some of my own past pieces to create the shorts. 

Links -