Fashion designer Sari Lazaro describes her creations as elegant with an edge, much like this lady who has both class and spunk.
She may be one half of the swoon-worthy couple with James Younghusband, but she is 100% her own amazing woman. After taking up fashion at Istituto Marangoni, she came back to the Philippines in 2012 and has since been creating dresses for every occasion. I met up with her at their beautiful, modern family home and chatted about what it’s been like continually evolving as a designer. Sari has an optimistic but realistic outlook on life, and she tries to make the most out of every moment and opportunity. With passion, grit and humility, this Super Styler is definitely one of Manila’s most promising young designers—and we’re excited to see what she’s up to next!
Take us through your background. How did you end up as a fashion designer? Where did you study and get your training, and how long have you been doing what you do?
According to my mom I have always been interested in the world of fashion. She enrolled me one summer in Central Saint Martins when I was about 17, and continually encouraged me to take up short summer courses. I eventually studied Fashion Marketing and Fashion Design in La Salle College. I then furthered my studies and took up a one-year intensive fashion design course at Istituto Marangoni in London, easily one of the best experiences of my life.
What’s the journey been like? How have you evolved in the last few years you’ve been a fashion designer?
It has been interesting and challenging, but definitely rewarding. My designs are more practical now. Over the years you make some hits or misses, and each time you do, you create better and design smarter. It’s all a learning process.
What inspiration do you surround yourself with, and how do you keep creative?
Anything can spark my imagination: from music, scenery, travel, photography, or even a flower arrangement. I mostly like to read about successful and passionate people. I like to be around them, too. It inspires me and pushes me to be on top of things.
I find myself most creative when I surround myself with nature, I feel it keeps my mind fresh.
How would you describe your designs? Do you stick by a design philosophy?
I do not really follow trends. I stick to elegant pieces with a bit of an edge.
You’re focused on creating beautiful gowns to make girls feel special on big days. What’s the most challenging thing about this?
Understanding different body types and knowing what works and what doesn’t. Also, being a fashion designer (or anything that has to do with the fashion business) requires a lot of problem solving. There are a lot of things going on between the time I sketch a design, fit a client, and have them pick up the item. And what’s the most exciting? Putting everything together, creating, mixing colors and fabrics, and seeing it all come to life.
You recently launched yourself as a designer with your own show at the Green Sun Hotel last January. What was that like? What did you enjoy about and learn from that experience?
That experience was so exciting and stressful at the same time! I barely had time to do anything else. It required a lot of patience, planning, and creativity on my end but I’m thankful the team I worked with (Art Personas) knew how to execute my vision impeccably. Their team is so on point and professional that it made things easier for me and my staff. I enjoyed creating, putting things together, sorting out the fabrics, and making different designs every day. It was definitely challenging and required long hours but I believe that is where growth lies. When you put yourself in situations that are uncommon and uncomfortable to you, you grow. All lessons learned help you become better at what you do.
I learned that I still have a lot to learn… That it’s good to be humble, it keeps me reaching for more.
What’s the best part about being a fashion designer?
Creating new things and seeing your clients happy and confident, sourcing for fabrics and working with creative people. Plus, getting to choose what I wear and having my staff make my clothes is enjoyable!
Whose style do you admire and why?
It changes all the time, but right now I would say Rosie Huntington Whiteley for her street style, and Lyn Slater for her cool, clean, chic, and confident style.
What’s a day like in your life? Take us through your average day.
No days are ever alike for me. Lately I’ve been doing this 21-day wake-up-early challenge. I’m only on my fifth day, so we’ll see how that goes! But for the past five days I have been setting my alarm at 7 a.m. I lounge around, watch Robin Sharma videos/Ted Talks, check my email/read a book, or watch a series. The point is to relax before I start my day so I am refreshed and energized. I then go on to plan my day and have breakfast. After that I work out at the gym for an hour and a half or two. Then I get ready and go to the studio. I plan the line-up for the day, work with my assistant, check up on my sewers and see where we are at. Then I fit with clients, go home to hang out with my family and/or James, my boyfriend, or sometimes I have dinner with friends.
Some days I’m sketching, some days I’m looking for fabrics. I work six days a week (Monday to Saturday). Some days are calm and I get to go to work later than usual and go home early; on some days when there are a lot of deadlines and things are crazy, I get to eat lunch at 3 or 4 p.m., sometimes even 5 p.m. and then end up going home at 10 or 11 at night. It all depends, really!
When you’re not creating ethereal dresses, what do you do in your free time? And if you don’t have much free time, what would you love to do if you did?
I definitely make sure I get out there as much as I can. I go to the beach or anywhere that has anything to do with the outdoors and nature. Lately my friends and I have been planning stand-up paddle boarding around Taal or Caliraya. I like exploring and learning new things—stagnant and routine is not something I enjoy. I would love to take up calligraphy writing or have wine sessions with my girlfriends, more hiking, zip lining, fishing, whatever is new and different!
On my free time I like reading books, cooking, writing on my ‘Goals’ journal, catching up on the shows I watch and the audiobooks I listen to.
What’s it like having James Younghusband as a boyfriend?
He is very supportive in everything I do. He is very easy to be with and our personalities complement each other. James and I go to Nuvali sometimes or Laguna and look for a picnic spot and use our hover boards while being surrounded by nature and fresh air. We also like to hike sometimes.
Each of you are passionate about what you do, how do you balance work time with quality time together?
It helps that he is passionate about his job because it pushes me to be the same. It’s nice when both parties understand the role our work plays in both our lives, because no one is trying to compete with time—although we make sure we spend time together. During the day, we focus on work, and when that’s done we catch up for coffee, dinner, or a movie. We also go on short trips or have date night. It’s important to make time and talk.
What stores, restaurants and brands do you love that Sassy girls should check out and watch out for?
I like eating at Your Local, Taco Vengo, TWG, Keizo, Susi, Sushi Ninja, food markets, and a lot of the restaurants at The Fort. I have just been going to mainstream brands such as Topshop, Zara, and the like. My favorite store now is LCP, they bring in a lot of designer brands from Australia.
What advice would you give for aspiring fashion designers? What skills should they learn and have to become successful?
To be successful as a fashion designer, you need to know enough about sketching, construction, and fabrics in order to communicate what you want to create. There’s a lot of technical knowledge involved in designing. What you’re going to need is grit and passion—and a lot of humility.
Grit because there will be days when things won’t go your way and you will come across road blocks—a lot of road blocks! What is important is you are clear about your goal and your vision, and you make sure nothing stops you from achieving that goal. You need to protect your dreams and goals because no one else will. Don’t give in to distractions and just keep going.
Passion, it may sound obvious but you have to be passionate about what you do in order to be successful in the industry you want to be in. It requires a lot of hard work, long hours, and patience but it is very fulfilling. A lot of this isn’t just an issue in the fashion industry. It’s a life lesson I believe.
Be humble, too. Be humble about your mistakes and learn from them. Be grateful to the people around you and the people you work with. I think success means nothing if you are going to be big-headed about it. Stay humble. Stay hungry. And be grateful. Always.