Faculty Interview: Sariah Park
by Maria Elena Pombo Reyes, AAS Fashion Marketing
Learning to sew at the age four will probably give you an advantage as a fashion designer. It certainly did for Sariah Park.
Moving to New York from Dallas in 2001 to attend Parsons, Sariah spent her years at school busy interning for Marc Jacobs, Diane von Fustenberg and Neiman Marcus. Sariah then went to Paris to formalize her education at Parsons Paris and ended up apprenticing with Malhia Kent, Chanel’s weaving studio. When it was time for graduation in 2005, Sariah was awarded with the Gold Thimble Award, and her thesis collection (made with fellow student Jaylin Potter under the Carson Potter brand) was selected by Julie Gilhart to be sold at Barneys New York stores. That brand would eventually end and her solo brand Sariah would be born in 2008. I met with her to discuss her successful career and share it with fellow Parsons students on 560.
When I ask her about her name (I found online information of her as both Sariah Carson and Sariah Parker), she confirmed for me that Parker is her married name. “I’ve been in business for six years now. After I got married in 2007 I began to get people to recognize me as Sariah Parker.” She also confirms that Kevin Park, who is listed as a contact on Sariah’s website, is in fact her husband, who handles all the financial and technological part of the company. “Before, I was doing both the business and the designing, and it was a lot. He wanted to help me as he thought we could do better.”
The family-support theme is a constant in Sariah’s career. “My grandmother made her own clothes, and growing up, my mom wanted to be a fashion designer, but things were much different then than they are now,” she tells me after I ask her about an interview I found on her brand’s website where she mentions both her mom and her grandmother as influential. As I will learn, this influence was so strong that she was already sewing at the age of four, with her mom’s guidance.
“There was no time when I was not working,” she tells me as we review a timeline I prepared of her career since her first year at Parsons: internships at Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Fustenberg, Neiman Marcus, J. Crew, Banana Republic and Mahlia Kent, and two fashion brands (the now discontinued Carson Potter and now Sariah) in which she has been involved from start to finish. “While I was apprenticing at Mahlia Kent I learned how to weave, so after I came back from Paris in the summer of 2004, I started weaving my own fabrics for my senior collection from a standing loom my mom had at home. By the time I started the semester I was painting my own fabrics.” She continues to be dedicated to her craft from start to finish, as I’ll realize when I ask her if she would rather be called a fashion designer or a “calligraphy artist”, as she is referred to on Anthropologie’s website. “Actually designer, as not only do I hand paint my textiles, but I drape them, I make the patterns, do all the sketches… they just handle the production.”
This diligent spirit has proven to work on Sariah’s behalf throughout her career. In 2004, in her senior year, she received the prestigious Gold Thimble Award. “I like to make a point of that, as I worked very hard for it.” That year she also got another recognition: Barneys bought her Senior Collection. “Julie Gilhart, the Fashion Director at Barneys, was on my panel and she really liked the collection.” This hard work also helped her in terms of distribution of her second brand, which was carried not only by Barneys, but also by Neiman Marcus (where she knew who to contact from interning in their Dallas’ offices in the summer, she tells me, in order to stress the importance of internships in the fashion industry) and Scoop NYC. The collaboration with Barneys continued up until her Fall 2010 collection. Now she works with Anthropologie. “I sold for Barneys from that point all the way to the present, and now the line is available at Anthropologie. Barneys is going through some transitions. They have a new CEO, and there has been some movement to Urban Inc. I was then put in contact with some buyers at Anthropologie and started the collaboration with them. They pretty much took over the label, though it’s the same logo and everything…”
As we go through her collections, I ask her about the names of the garments, for example, the Yvonna dress from her Fall 2010 Collection, which appeared on Gossip Girl. “I sometimes name them after a friend, or after a name that I like,” she says with a laugh. “Gossip Girl used a lot of my clothes from Barneys.” Besides Gossip Girl, her clothes have also been featured on Law and Order. “A lot of people use them for TV and film. I guess because colors are bright, they look good on the camera.”
As we’re coming to an end, her Parsons students start arriving at the studio she
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