Rhiannon D’Averc sat down with Sarah Regensburger, a designer whose pieces stood out to us at the recent Hackney Fashion Wick show (Issue 31). Here, she tells us all about the pineapple leather she uses to make her vegan-friendly range, her background as a designer, and her plans for the future of her brand, The Savage. Photography throughout by Martin David Edwards
Could you introduce who are and what you do?
I’m Sarah, 27 years old. I was born and grew up in Germany, in a smaller town – not small, but smaller. I studied in Munich in an international school and also did an exchange to Beijing, which was quite cool. I always love to travel, which is still a main inspiration for me. Then, actually, I worked for Adidas for four years as a designer. At one point, I was like, okay, you know what? I want to make my dreams come true before it’s too late. Because, I’m 27, but then what if you’re like, I’m 30, 35, and then you want to have kids, whatever – you need to do it now. So I quit my job and moved to London, which was quite a thing! And of course my dream is to have my own label. I participated in some fashion shows in Germany, as well. Then here, I participated in Hackney, which was pretty cool! I just moved to London in September, so it’s quite new. I just decided to do my own thing. It went quite well. So now I did Hackney Fashion Wick, and there are more things to come – I’m really excited! [laughs]
Personally, I have to say, I used fur and leather before, because I always felt that it looks quite nice. But then one year ago I started being vegetarian, and now I’m trying to be vegan. Let’s say I’m 80% vegan now! [laughs] But I just felt like, my clothes, I can’t use leather and fur just because I don’t want to support that anymore. So, I decided to do a vegan collection. It’s quite new still but I really feel that it’s the future of fashion, and I personally stand behind that lifestyle, so I just personally feel that it’s the right thing to do. I found some options, like leather made out of pineapple. I think that’s really cool, because it’s not plastic, which is also not really environmentally-friendly. So, yeah, I think it’s quite cool. I just changed completely to vegan fashion now.
Amazing – so how did you even find out about the possibility of using pineapple leather?
As simple as it sounds, I Googled it! I looked for plant-based leather. I mean, it wasn’t that easy, because there are a lot of options. But they’re not developed so far. I kind of liked the pineapple, so when I saw it, I knew I wanted to use it. I contacted them, and they also have an office in London. I just met them, and ordered some material, and I’m really happy with it because it looks quite like leather. If you asked someone, is this leather? They would think it’s leather. They would never get that it’s made out of pineapple. When did you first realise that you wanted to be a designer? I liked to draw a lot in the past, but I wouldn’t say I knew I was drawing to be a designer. But then when I was growing up I was always into fashion – my mum, she had a shop with kids and womenswear clothes. She always took me to fashion agencies to order, and so I was always into fashion. Then when I was 12 or something, when you kind of have a different vision for life, I was like, I want to be a designer. There was no other way for me – I didn’t want to do anything else. My dad was quite against it! But I still did it. I studied. You kind of know whether you’re good at it or not, and I feel that if you’re not
good at it, maybe you should do something else. But I felt it was the right thing. I felt immediately it was the right thing. My dad now likes it as well! [laughs]
What was it like working with Adidas?
It was good. I learned a lot of things. I feel like in uni, you don’t really learn the business side of fashion. It’s quite a business. Even if you do couture, it’s still a business. I learned a lot about production, and how it works in a big company, so it was quite interesting. I just feel like I learned a lot in my time there. I started in womenswear and then did kidswear, which was kind of cool because you see how it works in kidswear – it’s much more complicated.
Yeah, it’s kid safety, manuals that are 100 pages long! I felt like I learned a lot about materials, printing techniques, which helps you if you know those things. Even if you do high fashion, it still helps you to have this knowledge, which I gained at Adidas.
Why did you call your brand ‘The Savage’?
Actually, it was such a weird thing! [laughs] When I did my final collection…. I’ve always been a lot into tribes and nature, my inspiration is coming from nature, tribes, culture, and humans. In my first collection I did at uni, I called it ‘the urban tribe’. I was just thinking, okay, what can I call my brand? Because I’ve still always been inspired by brands. So then there was ‘The Savage’, which is kind of a white tribe. We use it a lot these days, also for music and so on. But at that time I just saw it meant white tribes. So that’s why I ended up with this name. I feel like it’s kind of a wide name, fitting my whole collection.
What kind of person do you think would wear your collection?
I would personally think it’s more for stars. The more complicated pieces – it’s for Rihanna, Lady Gaga, someone with fancy style. It’s quite difficult to reach them! But I see my clothes more at the red carpet, when you just don’t want to wear a classic dress. Maybe it’s a catsuit, or, you know, something like that. Or, of course, people who are super into high fashion and would just style it however they want – more crazy!
Is there one particular person you’d love to dress?
I think it would be Rihanna. I like her style. She’s very into this provocative stuff. My things, if you style them in a specific way, could be the same.
What attracted you to being vegetarian and now vegan?
It started when my dad read a book. He said it’s not good to eat meat, and so he stopped. I was like, okay, cool, maybe I should try this as well? Literally, it was that reason! But now, since I started, I really feel that it’s more healthy for myself, as well as I think it’s better of course for the environment and for the animals. I just started like this, and then I just felt comfortable. I want to keep that.
Can you tell me about your process of designing?
Honestly, I’m inspired by everything. So the problem is, I can’t really tell where I got the specific inspiration from! But I get inspired, and then I have this idea. I always think about a catwalk when I design, or just how someone looks in my clothes. I experienced if I think too much, it will never come out the way I started. Sometimes, I’m sitting there thinking, how can I do that? Especially if I don’t have enough fabric. And then I’m sketching – I love to sketch, as well. But if I sketch and I do the garment afterwards, it always looks a bit different. So, naturally, for me it’s just sitting in front of the sewing machine or in front of my mannequin, draping something. Just to start doing something with my hands. That’s actually how I end up doing my clothes. I have the idea during the process. The process is the way, in my case!
What’s your aesthetic for your clothes?
It’s quite dark. I think it’s also very romantic. I still think it’s beautiful, but maybe different to what someone else would think is beautiful. I like to style it quite sexy, especially for the girls, but in a good way – still strong. I’m always inspired by strong women, so I want to show that as well in my aesthetic. I try to influence it from tribes in different areas.
In the future, where would you like to take the brand?
Of course, I want to be a bit more in stores and agencies. I just started, but this is now the next point. I would absolutely love for some stars to wear my stuff. I don’t know how I can do that, but let’s see! [laughs] And just to spread out a bit more. I love catwalks. I think my things don’t look as good on a hanger than on the catwalk. I feel like when it’s just hanging, it doesn’t look as good. So I would still keep the runway shows.
Do you have any shows coming up?
I think Hackney, they are still thinking about a next edition. I am participating at Expo, where they have something for independent designers. I don’t know how that will be, but let’s see. Pretty sure it will be cool. Then, if everything worked out with my package – which I’ve been really stressed about the last few days – there’s a vegan fashion week in LA. My stuff is in the US, but let’s see if it works out, and I’ll be there as well. It’s really exciting, because it’s the first vegan fashion week.
Hopefully we can have one over here soon as well!
So actually, what was it that attracted you to live in London?
Oh my god. When I was 12, I came with my dad to London for the first time. I don’t know why, but I had always wanted to go to London. I mean, I was 12 years old, so I started when I was 11 – ‘Dad, can we go to London?’ He was travelling a lot, and I think that’s why I have that as well. So, then, we came to London when I was 12 and I just fell in love with the city. Absolutely in love. I knew I wanted to live here. We did
some trips to London with Adidas, and I just didn’t want to go back. You know, when you feel you want to stay here? I don’t know why.
Have you noticed anything different now you live here – some realities kicking in, maybe?
Yeah… definitely! When you come here for a holiday, you have money! When you have to pay an extremely high rent, and then need to live, and still want to have your own label… but this is the only more negative side of London. You need money to have a good life in London. But everything starts a bit more hard, and hopefully, I’m going to sell my things.
The good side is, I feel like there is much more support on the fashion side. In my home town, there is nothing for fashion designers. I feel like, if people believe in you, they help each other out. It’s much more team bonding, and everybody wants it, and everybody does it, and I think that’s really cool. I experienced one more negative, one more positive thing!
Have you done any further local collaboration since Hackney Fashion Wick?
Not that much, because as I said, I just started. But I have a really close relationship with the guys from Hackney Wick. We work on things together. I’m living in Stratford, so it’s right next to Hackney Wick, so I could still join! [laughs] It’s just the other side of the park! I really loved it. I think that is so good, it’s just amazing.
Tell me about your love of travel and how that inspires your work.
My travel is quite important to me, for my collection. I travelled a lot these past years and I just love how people dress themselves. I feel like it’s in my brain and then I’m putting it into my collection. In a very different way, but still I have this influence in my mind. Because my first collection I did was African-inspired, by the Maasai. I was literally in Africa right before. I really like that approach, to get inspired by different cultures and to be influenced. For example, in my last collection I did houndstooth, which is a really traditional pattern. I didn’t use it very traditionally. I kind of like to get influenced by those things, but then use my own style. To mix it up and do whatever I feel like doing! My collection inspired by African culture, if you don’t know, probably you wouldn’t see it at first sight. But that’s what I like, it will keep you more curious. So I always have this influence. I grew up with two cultures as well, and now I’m in London, so there’s even more!
Do you have your eye on any cultures you might base a collection around soon?
Yeah, I’m quite into Scottish, dark fairy tales. I think the next collection will be quite romantic as well. Because my stuff is quite punkinspired, so I’m trying to get a twist that is very romantic and dark and traditional, and then punk.
That’s a very punk thing in the first place, isn’t it? Taking tradition and then ripping it up.
Yes, true. And then you can see classic patterns also in punk fashion. But I’m not so sure how I want to do this, this is my first idea. I have a couple! [laughs] But this is what I’m thinking. I’m still in the process. I know what garments I’m going to do, I just need to find the direction.
See more garments from The Savage and order your own from the collection at sarahregensburger.co.uk, or follow on Instagram @thesavage_fashion.