Until a month ago, Massachusetts-based designer Sarah Aphrodite hadn’t released a new collection in over two years, and that’s exactly how she likes it. Despite running her own brand since she graduated from ArtEZ in 2006, she only started publicizing it in 2015. Before that, insecurities held her back: “What if nobody liked it?” After five years of trying to make the brand work as her main source of income, Sarah has come to the realisation that the fashion system is broken, at least for small brands who are trying to do the right thing by people and planet. She considers the lockdown a welcome break, and is trying to “lean into it”, spending more time with her son and rethinking her brand strategy. “There have been no requests for editorials or stage outfits for musicians, since everything has stopped,” she says. “To be honest, I am loving it. I am planning to make face masks for the hospitals that need them most – that seems to be the best way for me to be useful.” Caught in the midst of recalibrating her entire brand, Sarah is questioning everything, from the true meaning of sustainability to the commercial crux of fashion education.
Could you describe your new collection?
I never have a theme or anything, I just make pieces and hope they come together in the end, so styling is very important. For the new collection, Haley Wollens styled it and Brianna Capozzi shot it. Chloë Sevigny (who is currently pregnant) modelled a few looks, which was incredible.
How did working with a pregnant model change your perception of the clothes?
It challenged me to think about the wearability for different body shapes. We found a stretchy dress, which was perfect, because you can see her whole belly. There was also a dress with an empire waist — I wanted to change the waist before it went into production, but I was too late. On Chloë, it looked perfect. My main forte is accessories, which are much more versatile. I really struggle with clothes.
“A conceptual shoot where the models were mostly naked looked great, but it didn’t help to sell the products.”
If you struggle with clothes, why do you continue to make them?
I studied fashion design, so accessories were always seen as less than. Even though I’ve been making accessories since the beginning of college, I didn’t really focus on them until I was pregnant myself. I had this epiphany, that my whole brand should be focused on belts. When we did the lookbook photoshoot for that collection, I realised we needed clothes so that people could imagine themselves wearing the belts in their own lives. A conceptual shoot where the models were mostly naked looked great, but it didn’t help to sell the products. So, I tried to make clothes which would act as a backdrop for the accessories. Those tangents happen in the process of designing things, because you play around with your creations and new questions or problems pop up that you have to solve.