Q&A: Sarah Harris

I know you're all excited about Seattle Fashion Week! Tomorrow is the Emerging and Independent Designer show at WAMU Theater. I can't wait to see all the local talent showcasing their best work! One of the designers who will be showing tomorrow is Sarah Harris. Her line is called Cocoa Couture. She has a great aesthetic and unique perspective on fashion. Sarah is truly a breath of fresh air, and I had a wonderful time getting to know her as a designer.

Darrah: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Sarah: Sure – I am from Long Island, New York. I combined an Art degree with Archaeology, and Computer Applications at the State University of New York in Cortland. I started out as an archaeological illustrator. It’s a nomadic lifestyle and decided after a couple years it wasn’t what I wanted in the long run if I was to have a relationship, etc. I moved here afterwards and have lived here since. I am 31 now.

Darrah: What made you want to become a designer?

Sarah: I came to a crossroads shortly after moving here, and a friend asked me, “What can’t you live without?...then check off the list.” Making clothes and drawing were my top two. It was then that I realized my passion for fashion, drawing, and all the elements behind the process of designing a garment and later a line. I had been sewing my own clothes since I was five. I walk into a fabric store and feel as you can imagine Audrey Hepburn’s character at Tiffany’s in “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”. I started out making bridal wear for friends which eventually evolved into Cocoa Couture: more day-to-night dresses and special occasion.

Darrah: Your website mentions something about bridging the gap between fashion and art. What makes your collection stand out as art, and how do you define "art"?

Sarah: Hhhmmm, I think trying to define art is like defining what water is. It can be defined by stating it’s basic chemical properties; however, it doesn’t describe the frothy white caps on the ocean waves, the placid reflection it gives off a mountain lake, or that it sustains life. Art is personal and creates a mood. It is what the viewer brings to it, and is the reflection of a creative process. I like to design garments that inspire, create a mood, and are personal to the woman wearing them. I think the artistic approach transforms a garment from a fashion item to something personal and therefore, more enjoyable to wear.

Darrah: I noticed that your collection is all sewn by hand. Why that route?

Sarah: Haha, because I lack the financial means to have them produced otherwise.

Darrah: What's your opinion on eco-friendly fabrics?

Sarah: I have worked with eco-friendly fabrics over the years, bamboo being my favorite. I don’t choose to use it as a selling point because I don’t only use eco-friendly. I am excited to see the growth of the technological development behind these fabrics transition into different blends with more sophisticated qualities (such as drape, etc.) in the near future.

Darrah: How do you create those beautiful appliqués on some of your outfits?

Sarah: The appliqués are cut out from a fabric and has been re-appliquéd in an alternative way.

Darrah: Why did you want to show at Seattle Fashion Week?

Sarah: I am thankful for the opportunity to show at Seattle Fashion Week. It is and has been a fantastic experience so far and I am learning a great deal. I hope to get my work out to the public eye, facilitate possibilities to sell, and potentially be picked up as designer for a larger company if the opportunity presents itself.

Darrah: Who is your favorite designer?

Sarah: Oh, there are so many and it would be a dream come true to work with any one of them…a few are:John Galliano, Kate and Laura Mulleavy (from RADARTE), Zowie Broach and Brian Kirkby (from Boudicca), House of Balenciaga, Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino, the late Alexander McQueen…

Darrah: If you had to make something out of newspaper what would it be?

Sarah: Well, does paper Mache count? Last year, the Seattle Art Museum sponsored a challenge for designers to create up to five masquerade costumes inspired by specific artwork in the museum. I made two costumes - one was partially inspired by a plaster sculpture by Jean Arp. I created a paper Mache sculpture that fit around a model. It was flexible enough that she could get in and out of it like a regular garment. It was my first time doing this process and was so inspired that I diffidently want to do it again - it has so much potential.

You can check out more of Sarah's work on her website Cocoa Couture. She will be showing in Seattle Fashion Week's Emerging and Independent Designer show on Thursday at the WAMU Theater.

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