It’s hard to believe it but spring and summer weddings will be upon us sooner than you think! As brides make final fashion decisions, and bridesmaids plan their outfits for the big day, it’s tough to find dresses that are beautiful, unique and cost effective. Samantha Sleeper, Designer at Samantha Sleeper Bridal and Founder of SWAN Bridesmaid has us all covered though! Her well-known designs, and latest collections, offer flexibility and ease of availability to brides and their maids all over, and she’s sharing her secrets to success…
HOW DID YOU START OFF IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY?
Beyond making clothing for my dolls to mine and my best friend’s prom dresses…in a more structured sense, I interned while attending Parsons the New School for Design with a vast range of companies from super small intimate studios producing in New York, to mid size brands manufacturing abroad. I interned in design, production, PR and even for minor commitment tenures dressing models backstage at New York Fashion Week. My first show dressing was for Rodarte when I was a freshman in college, and it only added to my love and commitment to fashion.
WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO BRANCH OUT ON YOUR OWN?
I worked extremely hard in college, putting longer days in the studio and at my home sewing machine back at my Brooklyn apartment than was probably healthy. My senior thesis landed me an interview in London with Alexander McQueen, and while abroad I was offered a job as creative director for a startup brand.
I learned difficult lessons the hard way, but I left with the knowledge of running a small team, how to outsource production, grading (sizing) for commercial marketing vs. fashion models and the basics of running a business. My heart was committed to making beautiful clothing, and I left with the intention of branching out on my own. I worked multiple jobs while hand sewing my first collection, did the photo shoot in my apartment, and went store to store collecting the first season orders. I reinvested sales every season back into the brand and grew it organically.
HOW DID YOU BEGIN CONCEPTING YOUR FIRST LINE?
I had a vision of a girl, half formed by (German art school) Bauhaus mantra’s of “form follows function.” I was inspired by clean lines and slick surfaces juxtaposed with that same girl as an ephemeral being, with out thought to utility or purpose but pleased by beauty for the sake of beauty. I created mood boards and poems, scripts and sketches of who she was, as well as her life and her needs, and then I designed for the life she led, which required extremes of minimal basics and texture oriented statement pieces.
HOW HAS YOUR DESIGN PROCESS CHANGED OVER TIME?
Pre-motherhood there was a more subversive undertone to my work. Post-baby, some of the edge has faded and allowed the collection too bloom and rest into a more ethereal, romantic aesthetic. I don’t have the same time for research and concept as I once did, and as my business has grown, I’ve found my self pulled between creating in the studio and investing time into the structure of running a profitable work place.
Those things innately change the process. But I am constantly, constantly designing. Ideas line napkins, corners of my calendar, business cards, and I never get rid of sketchbooks or images that spark an idea. There is a growing library of ideas since college, and sometimes I’ll revisit the same foundation of inspiration and see it from a vastly different perspective now that time has passed.
TELL US ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY ASPECT OF YOUR LINE.
(The launch of SWAN bridesmaid) is a true answer to the needs of so many of my bridal clients who are looking for gowns that are high quality, fashion forward and at an accessible price point.
SWAN’s custom-developed social shopping technology offers a revolutionary way for wedding parties to collaborate. Brides create a custom collection by choosing from a palate of silhouettes and colors, are given a digital visual of how their chosen styles look together and than save them to their own wedding page. This allows them to play designer, and choose the color or colors that best match their vision, along with the styles to fit each bridesmaids body type. […]
Swan was founded on the idea that whether you are in, or attending a ceremony, you should have closet investment options that reflect your values and aesthetics ( not necessarily your current bank account balance). If you are going to be investing in any garment that goes into your closet, considering the longevity of the piece should play a part in the decision making process- because an inexpensive dress you only wear once, in my opinion, is an expensive investment.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BRANCH OUT INTO A WEB APP?
In 2013 I started working for an app, and it sparked a flood of ideas around the future of user experience in retail both in person and online. For bridesmaids, the party tends to live in a variety of locations, so one of the opportunities was to design an online portal showroom to bring them together to shop and create custom pieces with out having to live in New York where my studio is based played a role, along with the overall possibilities of what can happen with an online store that never closes.
HOW HAS TECHNOLOGY CHANGED THE WAY PEOPLE SHOP?
It has enabled people to have exposure to all levels of products from design identity to quality to exclusivity. What used to only be available at a single boutique half way across the country is now able to be found and shipped to you with a few clicks. The rise of e-commerce is the largest change, taking people out of the brick and mortar experience.
TO WHAT DO YOU CREDIT YOUR SUCCESS IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY?
Clarity of vision, a relentless work ethic and a genuine love for the craft and people that help me achieve my goals. That and never being too important for any role that needs to get done, weather it’s cleaning the bathroom before a bridal party comes into our showroom or meeting with clients one on one, success is committing to the entire cycle of what your business needs. Not just the high level elements.
WHAT IS THE BEST PART ABOUT YOUR JOB?
Probably the people that it brings into my life. From the seamstress’ and production managers at our factory, to my clients, to the three incredible, bad ass assistants I’ve had- there are extra special people that my line of work bring into my life: from those working in the studio pursuing a dream, to our clients who we are working to bring a dream to life for- its just a romantic way to live your days.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A BRIDAL STYLIST?
Understand your clients love story. Get behind how she want’s to be seen on her wedding day on an emotional level to inform the aesthetic direction you take her look in.
AND TO A BRIDE ON HER WEDDING DAY?
That a marriage is more than a wedding, and to not get caught up in the party planning to lose sight of the love that got her to that place- And also to carve out time during the reception to create a memory, if even for a brief moment- that is just for her and her partner.