Fashion designer Sarah Sumfleth fuses on-trend sportswear influences with intricate lacework to create understatedly chic clothing. Currently sold in French and Belgian indie boutiques, as well as in America, Australia and Asia, Sumfleth’s designs are currently available in the UK from über-cool online retailer THEN AND NOW. Sumfleth shares the secret of that certain je ne sais quoi exclusively with Wonderland.
After working in the textile industry for 10 years, what drove you to start designing your own clothes?
After completing my degree in fashion design at Esmod Paris, I initially decided to work in the fashion and textiles industries so that I could gain enough experience and maturity to create my own brand. I was only 21 at the time, and, in my head, I’d set myself the target of launching my own line by 30. Working with textiles gave me a real insight into the importance of materials and fabrication, but it was at Solstiss (a French company renowned for its production of lace) where my obsession with lace, which is central in all my collections, began.
Who or what inspires your designs?
My main sources of inspiration come from street style, classical ballet, the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements, intricate lacework, and, of course, travelling. Above all though, I design clothes so that women can feel themselves in them; so that they feel both feminine and comfortable.
What sort of person do you aim your clothes at then?
Yes, the woman in my head is between 30 and 50, and not only appreciates fashion, but is willing to source out more exclusive pieces to mix in with her wardrobe staples. This woman could go crazy for a lace-infused sweater by me, for example, and then team it with a basic pair of trousers.
Which celebrity would you most like to see wearing one of your designs?
I’d love to dress a celebrity like Gwenyth Paltrow, Cate Blanchet, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Eva Green, Audrey Tautou or Aung San Suu Kyi.
So tell us about this season’s SS12 collection. What do you love about it?
This season’s collection is heavily based on Art Deco architecture. All the pieces from the collection are named after a building, designer or painter of the Art Deco style, such as the Chrysler top, which recreates the triangulation central to Art Deco designs.
And how important are sportswear influences to your designs?
It’s ballet that most inspires me, but I don’t feel that I’ve fully explored all it has to offer yet. I started dancing when I was 6 years old, and carried on until I was seven months pregnant. I haven’t danced since I gave birth, and I do miss it… I just love the elegance of principal ballet dancers: their capability and the movements and expressions they use to tell us the story they’re portraying. That’s what I want to recreate when I design, a story behind my clothes that the person who wears them takes on and can mould to themselves.
Who are your favourite designers at the moment?
I really love Jean Paul Gaultier – there’s always a definite focus to each of his collections. You either like it or you don’t, but I like that he never leaves people indifferent. Also, Alexander McQueen’s Haute Couture collections completely enthral me.
And what plans do you have for the future?
I’d like to expand the brand’s presence in department stores and indie boutiques. And then perhaps open my own store, and create a range of shoes and maybe a childrenswear line.
Words: Samantha Southern