Savage designs from nature
PUBLISHED: 11:38 12 July 2013 | UPDATED: 12:03 12 July 2013
FOR as long as she can remember, Sabina Savage has wanted to work in fashion and has had a life-long love of the countryside.
Now at the age of 24 she has found a way to combine the two and is well on the road to becoming an established designer.
Following the launch of her second collection of luxury scarves, each retailing at £250, the winner of Best New Product at the PULSE design trade show has the likes of Paul Smith and Alexander McQueen to thank for getting so far so young.
But it is her love of Somerset and of nature that are the true inspirations for Sabina’s work.
“I grew up in Nyland, a hamlet between Cheddar and Wedmore, and was surrounded by animals – dogs, cows, chickens and ponies,” recalls Sabina.
“Everything I like to draw is in nature; I love natural organic shapes, and I can only think that stems from growing up in the country. Somerset has been my inspiration.”
After A-levels in art, textiles, English literature and French, thinking the latter might help her in the world of fashion, Sabina took an art foundation course for a year at Clifton School of Art.
“On a whim, when applying for university, I found this course at ESMOD fashion school in Paris and it looked really good so I just sent an application form.
“The deadline had passed but they emailed me back the next day and I did an email interview. “If I had gone for an actual interview they would have realised I didn’t speak French – they thought my level of French was better than it was. Within a few days they emailed back and I had a month before I had to move there.
“My parents were amazing and really got behind me and I couldn’t have done it without them being so supportive.’
But it wasn’t all plain sailing and with only a rudimentary grasp of French, Sabina found the lectures hard-going and had to ask fellow students to summarise what some of them had been about.
“The whole of my first year was a blur. “Uni was 8am to 8pm five days a week and I had no idea what was going on and had to ask someone to explain it to me at the end of the lecture,” adds Sabina.
“After that I picked it up quickly because I didn’t really have a choice.”
During her three years in Paris, Sabina did internships in the print departments at Paul Smith and Alexander McQueen and still works as a styling assistant for Alexander McQueen at Paris Fashion Week twice a year.
When it came to preparing her own couture collection at the end of her third year, everything had to be done by hand, no sewing machines allowed.
‘I wove all my own fabric by hand and then made the outfit by hand,’ she says. ‘We had to set up a show of all our work and it was judged by influential people in the industry like the likes of Chanel and Christian Dior.
After graduating from Paris as Valedictorian, with an overall grade of 97 per cent and the Nouvelle Couture Award, Sabina worked in London with young designer Gareth Pugh for six months, before heading home to Somerset to decide her next step.
“My idea had always been to start my own business but I thought it would be a lot later on than it was. I didn’t really know where to start so I just started doing some drawings and got really good feedback from everyone.”
After finding a company to print her designs onto fabric, Sabina then cut the scarves herself and hand-finished them.
Through Facebook, she started to sell to family and friends and was then approached by Wolf & Badger, which specialises in selling fashions and accessories by independent designers, and her Summer 2013 collection is now stocked by them.
A chance encounter with the managing director of department store Heals led to them commissioning an exclusive botanical range of scarves and matching cushions which will be stocked from September.
“There will be a Sabina Savage section in the store alongside tables for designers like Jean Paul Gaultier and William Morris,” Sabina enthuses.
“That will be really weird; I can’t believe I will have a table there too.”
Sabina’s designs come purely from nature. For her first collection, winter 2012, all the wool and silk mix scarves were bird designs while her latest, Summer 2013, collection are silk scarves featuring fish.
“The bird and fish collections have been really easy to choose. Birds are so beautiful, there is so much detail in them and I have always liked looking at them.
“With fish I like the variation, movement and the pattern on the skin. I like drawing detailed animals.
“The summer collection is all printed in Como, Italy. They are all woven, printed and hand edged in Italy in the same place that McQueen uses.
“I want my scarves to be timeless, rather than being on trend. I want people to see them as unique pieces.”
So what next for the young designer?
“I chose scarves because when I was working for Alexander McQueen it was the most intense part of my journey so far.
“It was all about drawing by hand and I had never been so into drawing before then, but there is something about making things by hand. Scarves are versatile and I can do them to a luxury level.
“I have been asked to do some for men so I will look at doing a more masculine collection.
“I will stick with scarves for now but maybe in the future I will look at doing clothing but it would be a long way down the line. I want to stay here for the time being although may move to London in a couple of years. Even if I do though, my heart will always be in Somerset.
“I am pleased with where I have come, hard work does pay off. My parents are so proud and I honestly don’t think I could have done it without them."n