The faster fashion gets, the more it feels like the only constant in style is change—rapid, highly personalizable change. After all, if you can spot the latest runway looks at your local mall for under $100 almost immediately after reading about the show online, the only way for the industry to keep consumers happy is by continuing to churn out new things faster, allowing for people to compete with each other for individuality within the trends. It's pretty much the norm. So, when a brand launches with a mission to do things almost completely opposite from what everyone else is doing, it's worth noting. Enter STAUD, which launched today and was founded by Sarah Staudinger, the former fashion director of Reformation.
L.A.-based STAUD was founded with the idea that women should be able to customize their own clothes rather than waiting for a brand to do it for them, but it's a slow-fashion model that takes classic pieces and allows you to select trendy add-ons, with a made-to-order, 2.5-week turnaround time. It's not exactly a trip to Zara to find some of-the-moment culottes, but Staudinger and her business partner George Augusto think that's why it'll be successful. We caught up with Staudinger to pick her brain about why customizable fashion is necessary, and what sorts of exciting things customers can look forward to. (And click through the gallery to see the designs you can choose from—we'll take one of each, please.)
How did the idea for a customizable, fashion-forward line come to be?
I first came up with the idea while I was in college at the New School. I was frustrated with online shopping, not being able to find something that fit well but also expressed my personal style. At the time, I remember only wanting mini-dresses with long sleeves, hating my arms but wanting to show off my legs. It seemed like because newer brands constantly take cues from the same fashion houses and trend forecasters, it was hard to get the right mix of authentic vintage in clean, modern designs. I started pursuing this idea of an e-commerce site where you could customize an existing design to match your physical and stylistic preferences. Everyone thought I was crazy, especially since the only truly successful online markets were either fast fashion or luxury brands.
Since social media didn’t play nearly the same role in consumer attitudes as they do today, I put STAUD on hold and took a job as fashion director at Reformation. After the growth that happened there because of social media platforms like Instagram, I was also seeing that more personalized online markets started popping up, and “everyday tech” finally seemed ready for the concept behind STAUD. At that point, I decided to pick this back up again, because there is no better moment for this brand.
How does this business model serve the needs of consumers? What is it about this moment in time that makes it relevant?
Being fashionable today comes at a real price because designs are so disposable. You buy something super trend-driven and give it away, or maybe resell it if it’s worth it. There’s a sense of urgency in the marketplace that’s not that fun anymore because it’s not authentic. Fast fashion requires a hyperactive buying mentality and no commitment, so even though we drool over trend-driven products, they are being delivered to the market with the intention of becoming obsolete.
Also, styling in fashion is a really prominent form of self-expression right now. People are curating their online personas by way of a wide variety of influences and lots of different looks are going viral simultaneously. We’re also seeing a huge increase in consumers picking moments from their favorite decades but also watching trends carefully, whether they know it or not. The broad spectrum of influence that exists on the Internet is resulting in the welcomed tendency to mix and match. And because so many people experience that moment when they find something they love, but just wish they could tailor it a little bit—we wanted to give our customers the option to take it one step further. You not only get to style it how you want, but you get to be involved in the design process.
Did you bring any environmentally friendly practices with you from your time at Reformation?
We’re looking at the green market differently. First, in direct opposition to wasteful fast fashion, we’re encouraging our customers to buy pieces that they will connect with for a long time. Having a connection to a garment and knowing it was tailored to suit you gives that piece longevity.
Second, we will be primarily using dead-stock fabrics, so we aren’t going to be buying new, environmentally damaging materials or sending them overseas at low manufacturing costs. Everything will be made in house at our production studio in Los Angeles, at fair wages. There will be minimal yardage waste because we make to order, and this is a strategic and informed low-impact production process. It reduces waste while creating a stronger local manufacturing platform, all central to sustainable fashion practices.
What are the classic shapes being updated?
George always says I design the way I make a playlist. There’ll be a Smiths song followed by Nate Dogg, or something. He’s like, “You cant do that!” but then he realizes it works. That’s this collection. We pulled our favorite elements from our favorite decades, and somehow made them fit to create these classic silhouettes.
For this collection, there is definitely a lot of '70s influence in our hardware and fabrics, but then you’ll see those same pieces will have a '50s pant leg, or a '60s collar shape. And because we’re heavily influenced by creative icons, we have pieces like the Asawa dress, named after wire-sculptor Ruth Asawa, and the Judd jumper; after minimalist artist Donald Judd, and the list goes on. We have also had the pleasure of collaborating with Ana Kras. She created an amazing print that is worked into the designs and we love the result.