Presage Magazine: We’ve loved doing so many collaborations with your brand, By Sarasty, Camila! What originally got you into sewing, creativity and designing?
Camila Sarasty: Everything started when I was a kid back in Colombia. My mom used to do all my costumes, for halloween or for a personal event. We had a tailor that would let me glue on fabrics and choose which designs I wanted. I was always asking for little pieces of scrap fabric and I made outfits for my barbies. When you’re 7 years old, you don’t know that being a designer is a profession you could choose in the future. I was doing draping and didn’t know how to sew. I wanted to know how to make a jacket or a skirt, so from the beginning it was a mystery that I wanted to figure out. When I graduated from high school I decided to study international business where I failed one class. My mother and I had a conversation where she told me to study fashion design. I couldn’t believe that my parents were supporting me so I started university and I pursued marketing and fashion design. I moved to New York shortly after I graduated from Arturo Tejada Cano, ATC, the most famous fashion college in Colombia. That’s when this beautiful journey of By Sarasty started. I was able to express my gifts using my hands and I was able to show what I can do.
PM: When did you officially launch your brand?
CS: Launching a brand was my goal from the beginning when I was at ATC. As part of my program at my university, in the last semester, we were asked to create an entire brand. It was just a project, but for me it was actually something I really wanted to do. I didn’t make a collection but I created my brand. I officially launched my brand 4 years ago. A year after I graduated from ATC, in 2018, I decided to move to New York and started a swimwear line. But it failed. Selling women’s swimwear is really hard, you need to make sure the fit is perfect and if you’re buying a swimsuit online you’re not able to really see how it hangs on you. For me it was more important to have loyal customers than customers that purchased once. Here in the US we have seasons so I was selling mostly in the spring and summer and less in the winter so I pivoted.
PM: Can you tell us about the journey of building a collection aesthetically after creating a brand?
CS: After the swimwear line ended, I started with accessories and my first collection was a line of bandanas in 2019. Back then everything was about accessories and I was looking for brands like that here in NYC but I didn’t feel like the patterns and fabrics were what I wanted to wear. I didn’t like what I was seeing, so I designed something I wanted. My friends were asking me for a lot of the pieces and had really good feedback about the fabric. Then everyone was switching between using the pieces as bandanas and tops and I had clients that wanted to wear them as tops too, so I changed my mindset and started thinking about multipurpose clothing. I decided I wanted to try something bigger than a square. I spent a lot of time choosing the right fabric and I wanted everyone to feel comfortable in my clothes, so I started to play with sizes to make the brand more inclusive. My second project, which is the collection you know, started with the fabric. I wanted to make clothes that were adjustable and versatile, something you can wear to a dinner or at the beach. I was inspired by gemstones. The fabric is a polyester recycled fabric and each design has a special meaning because I wanted By Sarasty to connect with clients physically and emotionally. That was the collection where I met Max.
How did you and Max from Presage initially get connected and what was it like working together?
It’s really hard being in the fashion industry and trying to find the right connections where you can show your talents and share the same passions with collaborators, especially in New York. I found a facebook group that connected photographers, models and designers in NYC and I found one of Max’s posts saying he wanted to collaborate with a fashion designer in a studio. I contacted him and sent him some of the photos I already had of the collection and asked him to pick a pattern he liked and start from there. He loved the collection and had all these great ideas and excitement for it and it was a beautiful energy from the beginning. On our first photoshoot together, we worked with a really talented model who’s really good at what she does and we did a collaboration with an artist based here in NYC, Miljan Suknovic, who has his art up in JFK airport. We tried to match his art with my garments to keep the equilibrium between the two mediums for the shoot and keep the attention on both By Sarasty and Miljan’s work. We had a good connection, we were working well together and we felt like friends from the very beginning. He’s a beautiful photographer.
PM: Can you share a bit about the process of finding a fabric to support the color and flexibility you wanted to create with your collections?
CS: The Tourmaline collection was made with recycled polyester because the fashion industry has a big problem with sustainability. Since fashion is my passion, I wanted to find a way to make By Sarasty a part of the solution and this is why I picked recycled fabric. The fabric I chose isn’t transparent, so you can use it with many different patterns and cuts. You can wear it as a skirt, as a dress, as top and still feel comfortable. I was doing sublimation printing on my fabrics for my Tourmaline and Renacimiento collections, which has to be 75-80% polyester to hold the dye best.
PM: It must be so hard to be a sole designer that has to think about the commercial, business side of the brand along with the artistic creative side of it as well.
CS: Eventually I will get a partner but right now, it’s not something I’m not willing to do. By Sarasty is a small business and I’m able to balance it pretty well but it is hard. I have to do everything from designing the patterns in photoshop, printing them on the fabric, sewing the patterns, packaging them, shipping all the garments, the marketing, the reels, the social media, lookbooks, everything–it’s all on me. Right now I’m able to handle it alone, but in the future I’ll need to hire a team to help me with client support, marketing and all that. It’s a lot of work but I’m enjoying all sides of it in different ways. I really enjoy the creative process and watching it unfold, how the fabrics come out and how the colors are printed. When you’re sublimating the fabric the color might change depending on the fabric you choose. This new collection, Renacimiento, is made with lycra so it came out more matte and Tourmaline was silkier which I loved. But the marketing and business side is another thing. It’s about what I’m showing and what people want to be seeing. I enjoy that and I love when people take time to give me feedback, especially if they’re been following me for a while. Getting the response from customers I’ve had for a while makes me feel grateful because I feel like I’m doing a really good job and I’m proud of myself.
We love that the world is giving you that response to your creations!
It’s beautiful and I appreciate it a lot. I’m doing something good that’s aligned with who I am and people are seeing that, but I’ve gone through difficult moments too. Back when I was working on my swimwear collection, I was embellishing garments that I was buying directly from suppliers and someone out there did a smear campaign on my brand. That person started to follow all my clients and it really hurt my business. I realized I didn’t need to deal with that. I know my worth and I knew that I needed to reimagine what By Sarasty was going to be. To this day, I have clients from that time in my life and they’ve seen the whole evolution. It’s nice to keep in touch with people from so long ago and to see their feedback through the ages.
That must have been so difficult to deal with but, in the end, a blessing in disguise?
Exactly! It forced me to rethink what I wanted to show people. The real By Sarasty. I wanted people to see who I really am and what I can really create. It also gave me an opportunity to go back to Colombia and find patterns from Colombia that I was then able to incorporate into my clothes. Through that experience I was able to refine my brand and amplify my culture in America too. That moment felt so frustrating, but it forced me to rethink everything.
What’s your creative direction now?
By Sarasty is a fashion transformation brand and my garments are especially unique. Tourmaline was a very important collection and I want to keep the same line, same sizes, the pashminas scarves and continue the idea of multipurpose clothing. It’s something I really love. I don’t like fast fashion and I don’t want to be contributing to the contamination it’s already creating in the world. By Sarasty is making clothes that can be a cover up for the beach or worn with heels for a party or with sandals for brunch. Each piece is meant to be worn on so many different occasions. I want to start to play more with different fabrics and inspirations but my line will stay multipurpose and, eventually, if I find a way to recreate a piece or have another fashion transforming garment, I will add it to my line. Inspiration is connected with my clients so I want to offer them handmade luxury pieces that connect to them in the moment, on a physical and personal level.
Love the focus on multipurpose, sustainable pieces. Let’s end with: Why fashion? Why clothes?
Because I think people like to feel good, admired, beautiful. Having the ability and opportunity to give that to people who are wearing By Sarasty to feel comfortable and happy when they have an important meeting or a date is the most beautiful thing. That’s my real gain from all this. One day when I was in Colombia, just before coming back to NYC, I went to dinner with a friend and I saw a woman sitting two tables from me wearing one of my bandanas and I couldn’t stop smiling. I kept thinking “I can’t believe this.” The universe put me in that restaurant, one day before going back to New York, just so I could see that specific woman wearing one of my pieces. That was powerful for me. So this is why clothes: to make people feel happy, comfortable, beautiful and powerful.