SARA CAMPBELL is a classic, timeless brand of women’s clothing made from luxurious, imported fabrics that focuses on feminine details and clean silhouettes. The collection continues to be designed by the founder, Sara Campbell. The company was started in 1985 and grew to become a major supplier of companies such as Talbots, Laura Ashley, Freeport Studio, and approximately 200 specialties stores around the country. In 2008, the company had to “reinvent” itself when its major suppliers ceased using outside vendors and began manufacturing for themselves. This was the birth of retail, and there are now eighteen SARA CAMPBELL boutiques, carrying her made in USA brand all east of the Mississippi.
GETTING TO KNOW SARA
What was it about Alexandria that made you decide to open your store in Old Town?
I was very focused on having a store in the Washington DC area, and I absolutely fell in love with the Old Town Boutique District. It took over a year to find a store in Old Town, but I loved the feeling of neighborhood and community , and I knew that it would be a perfect fit for us.
What do you look forward to doing when you visit Alexandria?
I love the feeling when I land at Reagan National, flying over the capital and the adrenalin of Washington DC. I love that Alexandria is not even fifteen minutes away and I am in this adorable neighborhood filled with so much history. I love visiting all the little boutiques in Old Town, and do some serious shopping at The Shoe Hive. I love walking the streets the very most and looking at all the wonderful architecture and dreaming that someday I would love to live there.
How is the Alexandria community different than other cities in which you have stores? How is it the same?
The Alexandria customer is so incredibly interesting. She comes from all over the world, and of course I love that. I love bantering politics with my Alexandria customer, because so many of them work in the government. I would say that I have more working customers in Alexandria than some of my more suburban stores. I would also have to comment that my Alexandria customer, whether she works or does not work, is VERY civic minded, and is always connected to and passionate about giving back. We tend to care about the same things in life.
All my customers are alike in that they love clean classic timeless clothing. They all appreciate luxurious fabrics and well made clothes, which is what we offer. They all want to made to feel pretty when they put on a dress, and all love to shop in a boutique setting as opposed to a mall. They are all very loyal once they get hooked on Sara Campbell, and are incredibly supportive. All of our customers are deeply thoughtful women, and I am so proud to dress them.
Why is important to you to have your clothing made in the U.S.?
This has been important to me since the day I started this business. I wanted to do something than just fashion, or just making clothes. I wanted to know that I was creating jobs, and helping to support families. This has always mattered to me the very most, because I want to know that I did something important at the end of the day, and this business is not about just me making a product.
What legacy do you wish your brand to have someday?
No one has ever asked me that question. I would like my brand to be able to worn in ten years or twenty years and still feel “in fashion”. I want my brand to stand for excellence and care. I want the brand to reflect that every detail counts, and every stitch was made by a citizen of this country. I want my brand exemplify “feminine”.
Why is important to you to give back to the communities in which you open stores?
It is in my blood. I have never taken for granted that it is a gift to be able to have this business. From day one, I always wanted to make a profits and help my community, while supporting myself. I have always known that any day I could be one of those women in the homeless shelter, so I can never forget them. I deeply feel that I am in the service business, and my employees are also in the service business. We are here to serve our customers first, and then our community. It is my responsibility as a citizen, and the more lives we can affect thru our stores, the luckier I am. I believe that one person can make a difference, however I also believe it “takes a village!”
How do you describe the Sara Campbell style?
My style is very classic, but modern. It is ageless, timeless, with clean silhouettes and beautiful, imported fabrics.
Who has been your inspiration as a designer/entrepreneur?
Corita Kent, the famous artist and educator was my mentor, my friend, my teacher, my role model. I followed her work since I was a child in the Catholic Church. She was a political activist and a very profound contributor to the pop art movement of the sixties. I was fortunate to spend five very close years with her when I moved to Boston.
I tutored under privately for one year, worked for her, and soaked up every lesson there was to be learned from her. She was very influential in giving me the courage to start my own business when I was 25 years old.
I must also include my mother, who taught me to work hard and fight for what you believed in, because if you did not, no one else would do it for you. She taught me that you can be or do anything you want, if you really want it and never never give up.
What current fashion trend has you excited as a designer?
I am not so much of a trend follower, but I am always excited by fringe, trims, and especially pom poms. I am an avid lover of bows, and what has changed for me so much over the years is the brilliant technology in creating stretch fabrics that one can really move in. Wearing stretch is the best!
What is something that customers are surprised to learn about you?
I suppose if they do not know me, they might be surprised to learn that I have a profoundly deep faith in God…and all thru my day, I whisper prayers “between the pots and pans” as St. Theresa says. I have a true belief in the power of prayer, and the hope that miracles happen.
Another surprise is that I work extremely hard on keeping my weight down. Its really a part of my ability to feel good about myself, and it is the hardest work in my life because I love to eat, and I struggled for years with food issues while my parents were divorcing.
I am a fire addict..love warm fires and candles…and I play a mean game of Scrabble.
How do you unwind after a busy day?
Every day is crazy busy. I love love my glass of wine, or two, in front of the tv watching the news of the day. Its my moment of bliss.
As someone who frequently travels, what are the items you always have in your bag?
I always have my rosary, my cell phone charger, my lipstick, and my tennis shoes for walking.
What do you consider wardrobe staples, as in what should every woman have in her closet?
Every woman should have a set of real pearls, a simple black dress, and a pair of classic black pumps. If one can afford a cashmere sweater I would say its a great investment, and of course, a comfy pair of jeans!
What is your favorite item that you ever designed?
I made a vest one time for a boyfriend out of the bow ties my dad gave me. I later found out his wife made him give it away! I was crushed that he did not return it.
My favorite designs in my life are my two beautiful daughters, Maggie and Lucy.