Welcome to our podcast, Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr. Think of it as your direct line to the designers, stylists, beauty experts, editors, and tastemakers who are shaping the fashion-and-beauty world. Subscribe to Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
As she is the co-founder and creative director of her eponymous clothing brand (and the former fashion director of Reformation), you could say that Sarah Staudinger has a talent for knowing just what will captivate the fickle fashion audience. After realizing there was a need for affordable pieces that would still turn heads, she launched Staud in 2015 with her co-founder, George Augusto. It wasn’t long before Staud’s bucket bags and PVC totes became must-have accessories, finding dedicated fans in celebrities such as Hailey Bieber, Bella Hadid, and Kendall Jenner.
Since then, the brand’s ensuing success has gone beyond It-bag status. Staudinger gives exactly what the fashion community wants at its core: clothing and accessories that are classic, cheerful, and anything but boring. In the latest episode of Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr, you’ll hear about where Staudinger finds inspiration, her “perfect-imperfect” philosophy, the power in dressing optimistically, and much more.
For some excerpts from Staudinger’s interview and to shop her vacation edit, scroll below.
How do you go about finding inspiration, especially in times like this, when you don’t have the freedom to move around the world in quite the way that we used to? I’m curious about how you fill that well of inspiration up when the world feels smaller in some ways.
Well, inspiration for me comes from anything around me all the time. [It was] definitely more difficult in the early pandemic. That’s when we launched our pet-club initiative. My pets were bringing me so much comfort during that time. So I was like, “What does the woman want right now?” And I think that at that time it was comfort and something that felt personal. Right now, I’m really focused on “perfect-imperfect,” and there’s this Japanese type of treatment of ceramics and philosophy called Kintsugi. It’s taking something imperfect and making it more beautiful by it being broken. So that sort of philosophy lends itself to this idea of acceptance of change and the renewal of things, and I think that that has been really inspiring to me. So this current handbag season—the fall season that I’m working on—we sat around, and I was like, “Okay, take these bags and imagine if they were made out of glass and we dropped them on the floor and we put them back together.” What materials would we use to put them back together, and how would it look and feel? And that idea spilled over into ready-to-wear. Stitch is really important to me, so we played with a lot of stitching, but it was a simple concept. It grew into this bigger story, and I pulled in all the elements, like rope and stitch and all those things that we love, and incorporated them in a lot of different ways. So even subtly in dresses, you’ll see that little put-back-together, imperfect-perfect moment.
You’ve done a number of takes on the bucket bag, some ’90s-inspired beaded bags. What do you think is the most important shape or style right now? And more specifically, what are you interested in for spring when it comes to bags?
In terms of accessories, I think the pandemic was really interesting because we saw a big shift from everyone wanting comfort, comfort, comfort. They wanted small bags just to put their keys and a credit card in; lots of shoulder bags; crossbody; easy, small shapes. And then we saw this shift, where girls were gravitating toward stilettos rather than comfort shoes and miniskirts and more evening bags. And I think now where we’re at is sort of this mix, and … people are just shopping for what makes them feel good and what brings out any kind of emotional connection to them. It’s about what makes you happy, and that’s where the trend is right now. Personally, I’m a huge fan of oversize bags. I love a little bag—don’t get me wrong—but I love a bag that I can put an entire first aid kit in and just be prepared for everything. I think a weird, awkward, huge tote is well overdue. I’m excited for that, and I do think that’s on the horizon.
So many folks look to you for personal inspiration in the industry. You’re obviously a tastemaker of the highest order. I’m curious about your best piece of fashion or style advice.
I think it goes back to what I was saying earlier, which is you should dress optimistically, right? I think you can’t be in a bad mood if you’re wearing a rainbow knit set or pink. And often, women, when they feel bloated or it’s that time of the month, will just gravitate toward whatever. They will wear something heavy and black, and they don’t really care. And that’s just… They’re gonna have that energy all day. And I think you should dress for what energy you want to project and for what energy you want to feel on the inside. And I think that that’s pretty easy to do. You just have to do it. And it’s often easy to fall into doing the opposite. But it’s just that extra little picking out the colorful thing versus the black thing that one time or putting on a dress when you want to put on sweatpants. Just that extra little thing will make your day that much better.
Even though I’m personally stuck at home these days, it’s not going to be like this forever. Let’s talk about vacation. I name a location, and you tell me some of the essentials that you would pack for that place.
So if we were going to some high desert, like a Joshua Tree or even Marfa, Texas, what would you pack?
That’s an easy one because, if you saw the resort collection that we just did, we did this adventure collection. So I would pack a heavy nylon button-down and this cargo-Bermuda-shorts situation.
What about something a little more true tropical like Kauai or Barbados or even Tulum?
The mini Milla dress. It comes in four different prints. We just launched a new print called the Poppy print. It’s just the perfect minidress. It’s super flattering. It has sleeves, it’s not tight around the stomach, and it’s just the easy “throw on with any shoe” [dress]. And I pack that for every single trip that I go on.
Love it. So you’re going to Montana. You’re going to have some sort of “horse-girl ranch/prairie” moment. What would you pack?
That’s too easy. The Claud boot, which is our riding boot in our croc-embossed brown leather. And then, I would pack the Swells Dress or the Wells Dress. It’s a white poplin—easy, very prairie. That’s definitely what I’m wearing.
Okay, so let’s say you’re going somewhere where there’s hiking and camping. It’s still stylish. You’re in Zion. You’re in Yosemite. What would you pack?
I would pack what I like to call a chic stargazer outfit, which is a fleece pencil skirt with turtles printed on it and a fleece crop top.
And there’s a matching fleece jacket.
What if you have watched too much Succession, and now, you’re obsessed with Tuscany, and you need a European countryside vacation, or you’re going to go to the South of France and go chase lavender fields?
I would wear toile. I’d probably pack a toile poplin corset and a toile matching skirt.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Check out our previous episode featuring Thirteen Lune founder Nyakio Grieco.