The Alpaca Coat Every Fashionista Needs This Fall

Each October fashion designers from around the world meet in Arizona for Phoenix Fashion Week.  During the 3-day event, designers come together to share their designs with retailers, boutiques, and fashionistas alike.  With 8 fashion shows a night, music, food, drinks and shopping the event is a fashion-forward party. But long before the doors open and the models take the runway, Phoenix Fashion Week is committed to using fashion to build a strong community and provide education and opportunity to entrepreneurs. 

This year Phoenix Fashion Week is taking its mission to use fashion for good a step further and embracing a growing and important part of the industry: sustainable fashion.  For the first time ever Friday, October 4th, will be dedicated to sustainability. In partnership with Goodwill of Arizona, they will announce winners of the Little Black Dress Upcycling Challenge, host a panel discussion with sustainability experts, and have two sustainable fashion designers gracing the runway.

I was lucky enough to meet Sarah Christie at a Phoenix Fashion Week event back in July, and I knew the moment I tried on one of her Alpaca coats that I had to learn everything I could about this talented, emerging designer.  So, my dear friend and sustainable fashion advocate, Laura Madden, reached out for an interview. To say we had fun interviewing and playing dress-up with Sarah Christie is an understatement, but there is something about her clothes that make you feel bold, confident, and simply…happy. 

Beautiful women posing back to back in bright Sarah Christie alpaca coats

The afternoon of our interview Sarah joined us remote from La Paz, Bolivia where her family is from and where her designs are produced.  She was there putting the finishing touches on her new line, which will debut this October 4th

Sarah Christie, Designer

Did you always want to be a Designer?

When I was younger I wanted to be a veterinarian.  But, when I was 16, I watched Project Runway. I watched all the seasons!  As I watched the designers buying fabrics and create their designs, I thought, “This is really interesting.  I can actually see myself doing this.” And then, Senior Year, I told my family, I want to be a fashion designer”

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

For what I’m presenting at Phoenix Fashion week I definitely got inspired by the 1950s.  But mostly I get inspired by my culture and the Alpaca wool. Also, in my accessories, there’s this weaving wool from sheep, called Aguayo, which the natives use every day. I got so inspired by using it in my accessories that I used it to add detail to one of my blazers. What’s really interesting about Aguayo is that each one has a story. You will find one is knitted with the sun and it represents the Pachamama, and Pachamama means mother nature.  A lot of the natives actually pray to the Pachamama. Another example is the Condor, which is Bolivia’s national bird and represents strength. That’s mostly what I get inspired by. 

Beautiful brunette standing while another pretty women sits both dressed in 1950 inspired alpaca coats

Alpaca – The Sustainable Wool

How is Alpaca wool sustainable?

Alpaca wool is warmer, stronger, and softer than sheep wool.  What’s really interesting is that it’s water-resistant and absorbs humidity.  I wear my pieces out during the cold winter months in DC and don’t feel the cold.  The pieces are timeless and versatile.

The sustainability benefit of Alpaca ended up being an added bonus for your brand. Tell us about how this has become so important to you now.

I knew I wanted to use Alpaca wool because of my culture, but I didn’t know it was sustainable right away.  Now I’m even more proud that I’m using Alpaca wool because it’s not just about the fabric. It contributes to the livelihood of the people who work on Alpaca farms.  Also, caring for the Alpacas and learning how to weave the wool are skills that have been passed down generation after generation. What’s really important to me and my brand is animal safety.  I make sure that none of the Alpaca’s are harmed when shearing their wool. I want people to be able to wear a coat they can be confident knowing the animal was not harmed. 

What are other ways your brand supports sustainability? 

No chemicals are used in making the wool or on the farms with the animals.  Everything is naturally dyed. For example, I have a white Alpaca coat, which is made from 90% baby Alpaca, and it hasn’t been dyed at all, which is another benefit to using Alpaca wool.  I don’t have to use artificial dyes to get the colors I want. 

Beautiful picture of white alpaca coat

And you mainly only sell made to order.  Is that correct?

Yes, definitely.  I love that one on one with my clients and the personal connection with the customer. 

Bolivia, Culture & Design

Why is sustainability important to you?

Because it has benefits beyond fashion.  It’s about nature and what God gave us. I’m also very against animal cruelty so animal rights are the number one factor for me.  And right now, what’s happening in Bolivia, with the Amazon wildfires, it’s sad. There are little things that each of us can do to help fight global warming, like eating organic and recycling.  This pushes me to be more sustainable and find more ways to incorporate sustainability into my designs. 

Also See: Sustainable Finds for a Greener Back to School

You’ve mentioned Bolivia and the culture quite a bit.  How does Bolivia influence your design aesthetics?

I grew up in DC, but my family is very Bolivian.  Even when I was very little my grandma would tell me you have to know your roots and appreciate your culture.  She would take me to Bolivia every summer, and I loved it more every time I went back. The people and ethnicity.  Each city is so different from the next with different traditions. And the outfits are so beautiful and full of color.  There are carnivals and each dance represents a story. Spending so much time there really allows me to bring the culture into my designs, including using Alpaca.  Alpacas are very important to the Bolivian people, so much so that they compare Alpacas and llamas to dogs. They are loyal companions. 

Laura Madden modeling Sarah Christie's rose dress and coat

Casual Elegance

Who is your fashion icon?

I have a lot of favorite designers, but I would have to say, Coco Chanel.  She changed women’s fashion when women weren’t even allowed to dress in pants.  She represents a strong, confident woman, which is how I see my clients as well.  And she’s timeless and classic. You can wear her every day.

Who is the Sarah Christie Woman?  How would we recognize her if we saw her walking down the street?

She is confident, powerful and independent and always on the go. There isn’t time to change into different outfits, so she wears a Sarah Christie casual elegance coat to take on the day. Whether she’s on her way to the office or meeting up with friends for drinks, she wants to look and feel fabulous. 

Final question, if you had to choose just one item from your upcoming line, which is your favorite?

Oh! This is a hard one.  Every time I come out with a collection I think, “This is my favorite collection!”  But the one piece out of this collection that I think is my favorite is this pale-rose cape that has a collar.  I’m in love with it! It’s casual elegance so you can wear with jeans or with a dress.

Pictures by Monica McLean Photography. Get to know Monica here.

For Tickets to Phoenix Fashion Week, click here!

Follow Laura Madden here.

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