I heard of Sarah Eichhorn’s name through a friend in the fashion department and slowly her name began appearing everywhere, the way you start noticing a new word you’ve just learned the definition of, or someone’s body language after a non-verbal communication class. I visited a faculty exhibit at our school gallery, and as I was admiring this beautiful sewn dress I noticed her name on the plaque. Then I spotted her hand-dyed, sewed textile art on the wall of swan art at Swan Day, a day of celebration for women artists. Too many dots were connecting on their own so I had to interview her myself.
Sarah Eichhorn is Assistant Professor and Co-chair of the Fashion Department at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Additionally, she teaches a few classes on dying and different kinds of weaving in the Madison and Milwaukee area that you can find listed on her website.
I was drawn to Sarah by the style of her work and her smartly constructed pieces. Like good design work, they utilize a simple idea but maximize its potential. As I think you’ll find in the interview below, Sarah actively engages in the act of cultivating awareness about social issue and being aware of her own role within them.
Read on for Part One of the interview with Sarah.
How would you describe your own personal style?
It’s pretty classic. I do focus on minimalism or the ideas of minimalism and that there can be a lot of overlap or multiple uses for a lot of things. I am definitely a function person when it comes to buying things and having things, specifically thinking are they going to keep you warm or keep you cool or last a long time.
How do you decide if something is “fashionable enough” to wear?
I was reading this book, Women in Clothes, and they ask these women that they’re interviewing which do they prefer–style or taste. Or which is more important. I tend to think taste is more important than style because you can have a lot of different styles but it’s that one taste.You want to have good taste in clothing, in art, in all of these things and then you reflect that taste in your style. Find things that look clean in lines and overall aesthetic. I don’t really look to trends but what’s happening in society that might reflect that, the different movements that are happening that maybe we don’t see in fast fashion. This is where,for me, the slow fashion movement comes into place. I also source clothes that are made here in the United States, made with organic fibers if possible, and buy small designers that you maybe wouldn’t know otherwise that might cost a bit more but you know are going to last a longer time.
I tend to do more online shopping than in stores, but at the same time I think that’s the power of the internet. We’re still supporting small women-lead businesses even if they’re not in your community you still have access to that.
What are your thoughts on thrifting/secondhand shopping? Do you thrift?
I really don’t like to shop for clothing in a traditional store sense. I get very overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin with all the different fits and options. I wish I had more patience to thrift like I used to, but again, I get very overwhelmed. I also think that if I don’t go shopping, the less I will buy/have (going back to the minimalism). I like most things I spend money on to have a lot of meaning/value. I treat the clothes I buy the same way when I buy art. I love buying art 🙂
I do sew. I do knit. And I am also a weaver. So a lot of textile art, fiber art. I had two younger sisters and all three of us were in girl scouts and we would get the badges. My mom doesn’t sew. Both of my parents were working so they were always very busy. So we had enough piled up that my dad actually pulled out a sewing machine that was my Grandma’s, so his mom’s, but it was so ancient that he was like ‘I’m the only one that can sew these on’ because there were probably liability things happening on the machine that we could hurt ourselves with. He sewed them on but just watching him I was like, ‘I want to do this. I want to be doing this myself. I don’t want him to be doing it.’
I think we bugged him enough and showed enough interest that we’d be doing these little hand sewing projects. He was a collector of vintage motorcycles, and he sold a motorcycle to buy a new sewing machine for us girls. It was really just a basic one, probably like $100 or something like that. I was the one who took to it. This was before Youtube. I’m not that old, but I’m old enough that Youtube did not exist. I just taught myself what to do. My mom kept telling me ‘I’ll sign you up for a class’, but I was in theater in high school at the time, this was when I was around 16. I was teaching myself and I couldn’t sync up taking a class after school because I was in rehearsals for plays and what not. When I learned that fashion design was a career option, that’s when i was first professionally taught how to sew. I went to undergrad and went to my first sewing class and was like ‘oh, this is the easy way of doing things, the correct way of doing things’. Because I would call on my mom’s friends and ask questions like what’s interfacing, because my mom did not sew. She’s that skipped generation I guess. My grandma did, my great grandma did, but my mom did not.
If you’ve liked what you read and want to know more (including photos of some of her work and a few shopping recommendations) please check out Part 2.
And special thanks to Sarah Eichhorn for the interview.
P.S. I checked out her Instagram account recommendation and am feeling charged and inspired.