“I’ve always identified myself as a fashion designer but since I’ve stopped doing regular collections at London Fashion Week, I don’t really know what to call myself,” says Sadie when trying to pinpoint one name to her multidisciplinary artistry. It’s tricky to keep track of labels, especially if you belong to the industry that put people in boxes in a blink of an eye. Sometimes it’s healthier, for one’s inner peace and environment’s sake to escape them altogether. Since graduating from CSM MA Fashion Course, Sadie’s colour-driven work with textiles, patterns and animation and her innovative techniques have attracted international interest.
We meet the designer to share with us the secret routes and a word of advice on how to organise the big fashion rescue plan. Like her minimalist designs, Sadie seems a neat and sleek on the first encounter but make no mistake, she carries a rebellious spirit. After all, she went sustainable in 2018 before it became trendy. “I did eight collections on schedule for Fashion Week. It’s something I fell into because I was invited to the Newgen panel, a sponsorship scheme for young designers in London. I found myself doing that but after eight seasons my heart wasn’t really in that. I was questioning more and more if I need to put myself under that pressure to design a whole collection every six months and then work out how to sell it. It was becoming not only unsustainable for my own sanity and life but also quite unsustainable for the environment,” Sadie shares on her awakening.
When the whole world is subjected to certain practices, like fashion weeks’ relentless tempo, it’s easy to ride the wave if it’s an obvious way to success. It takes bravery and the ability to put your action in perspective to go against the current. “I was becoming more aware of bringing the sustainable practice to my work and using more upcycling and recycling,” Sadie says. “At the moment, I’m trying to use what I’ve got. You go through accumulating so much as a creator anyway. Sometimes it’s good to take a step back. Pandemic and lockdowns have helped with that a lot. Take what you’ve already achieved and what you’ve got to work with. Be a lot more resourceful.”
Today, more designers have started to catch up with eco-friendly practices and alternative ways of creating that are actually desirable to customers. “A lot of my friends that are designers are integrating more sustainable practices in their own individual ways,” Sadie says. With the technological revolution over the last 20 years, patterns of consuming fashion have changed so the industry has too as well. “People are more in control of their own image just through their own phones now. There’s definitely a shift from old school things like ‘let’s do a huge presentation and catwalk and use so many resources, time, energy for just one-time event,’” the designer explains.
Sadie Williams’ upcycling-focused philosophy of creating translates directly into the clothes’ aesthetics. She looks into her past to source the best bits of it for the future. “My designer identity is quite true to my personal style. I’ve grown up going to Portobello and buy vintage so I love mixing old stuff with new clothes. I love sportswear, old school sportswear. Quite tomboyish too. It is always a graphic, sporty, minimal element that I like to bring to my work. Find that balance,” she says.
The art of balancing it out is crucial both in the designing process and on the daily basis. Sadie took quarantine as an opportunity to analyse her practice and discover new methods to perfect on a wider, personal level. “I was thinking about things I love most and my strengths. A lot of it has always been about the pattern, colour and texture,” she explains. Finally finding time for a bit of experimentation, Sadie has picked up painting again, incorporating it into garments and running a separate artwork series that she sold on Instagram. “It was really nice to take control over my own creative practice again. People responded to it and were interested in it. That was really encouraging to keep going. I had a shift in opening up my practice”. Encouraged by positive reactions and growing enthusiasm, Sadie took one more step out of her comfort zone and set up a website to manage her business and engage with customers directly. “I feel more sense of community. I talk that people that are buying my clothes, buying my paintings. I get instant feedback from people and start having these relationships that aren’t in real life”.
“Take what you’ve already achieved and what you’ve got to work with. Be a lot more resourceful.”
Sadie agrees that the virtual aspect doesn’t make them any less valid. It actually lifts some pressure of designer’s overworked shoulders: “You can go and do something in person at London Fashion Week but you can’t speak to everyone that’s in the audience. You’re so tired in that moment anyway, after throwing in everything to make this big event happen. It’s nice to work at a slower pace.” A moment to catch a breather is important, especially if you dabble in more than one creative ground like Sadie does.
Inspired by the peaceful skyline observed from wildlife areas in West London, Sadie collaborated on a new project promoting the local culture initiative, Unlock Your City. “I wanted to incorporate that mix of a bit of nature and a bit of urban. A bit of escape and a bit of business that’s around us all the time,” she says.
Sadie Williams shows us that the only way forward is through compromise. We need to learn how to reconcile with nature while operating our modern lives and how to communicate new ideas in an approachable way: “You can actually be really creative out of having these kinds of boundaries and things to work with.” The matter’s serious but it doesn’t mean that we have to be.
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