Sarah Staudinger Previews Her NYFW Show at the Plaza Hotel – celebritiestalks
New York has a long history of entrepreneurs who have spun their jet-setting lifestyles into affordable Fashion empires, Gloria Vanderbilt, Diane Von Furstenberg and Tory Burch among them.
Sarah Staudinger could be the next, only with a West Coast vision of relaxed elegance.
Stepping up, the L.A.-bred, Hollywood-connected designer is bringing her Staud runway show to the ballroom of the Plaza Hotel on Sunday night, where so many swans have gone before her.
She returns to New York Fashion Week after two years, during which time fascination about her lifestyle has grown. Staudinger married Hollywood powerbroker Ari Emanuel, chief executive officer of William Morris Endeavor, in a Vogue-documented wedding in Saint-Tropez. She’s shared her “Favorite Things” in Vanity Fair, and she turned up courtside with Skims multibillionaire Kim Kardashian at two Lakers NBA Finals games.
All the while her brand has been expanding, with more retail stores, categories and collaborations, and an impressive new headquarters — a 9,000-square-foot 1923 mansion in the Hollywood Hills above Sunset Boulevard, where celebritiestalks previewed the spring 2024 collection.
Founded in 2015 by Staudinger and artistic director George Augusto on the idea of accessible California luxury with a European twist, Staud is “knocking on the door of nine figures,” said its largest minority investor Chris Burch, of Burch Creative Capital, referring to the $100 million mark.
“When Tory and I worked together and we built the brand, that was a moment, and that brand has gone on to be extraordinary worldwide. We attacked a customer, and today I think Sarah is attacking the younger version of that customer,” he said, praising Staudinger’s vision, Augusto’s ability to bring emotion to the brand, and president Jon Zeiders’ execution.
“We tripled the size of the business; our direct business has grown 4x,” said Zeiders. “As we are looking at our overarching strategy there are three pillars: a best-in-class website; disruptive wholesale to keep things exciting, and our own stores. New York and L.A. have been extremely successful, we have a pop-up in Dallas through January, and we’ve signed Palm Beach, Boston and Bal Harbour, Florida. We want to have 15 stores by 2025 — and we’re on track to hit that.”
Staud, which ranges in price from $149 to $1,295, has been largely focused on the U.S. (international represents just 20 percent of sales), with wholesale partners including Shopbop, Fwrd and all the major department stores. But the brand is planning its first European pop-up at Harrods in London and Zeiders is eyeing Asia next.
“We will see growth this year across apparel, accessories and footwear, and swim was an explosive launch,” he said. (By category, sales are 60 percent apparel, and 40 percent accessories.)
The spring runway show will include ready-to-wear, swim, bridal and a couple of looks from the Staud x Wrangler collection launching Thursday.
“The goal is to be an American heritage brand and doing a show at a place like The Plaza makes you feel like you have something to live up to….Can a brand at our price point pull off something like this at a place like this?” said Augusto of the moment.
“The history attracted us, the venue is important to the show and the experience, so it made sense with the concept of this being more of a minimalistic approach. It’s mega and minimal at the same time,” Staudinger said of the setting and the collection.
She’s just back from Saint-Tropez, where her vacation style was on brand. She and Emanuel rented a house near where they got married, “so it was a bit of an anniversary,” and spent a month soaking up the environment.
“The fish market is right in the center of town, and at night you see people in gowns walking through the tunnel where they set it up,” said Staudinger, who enjoyed playing Padel, and dining at the restaurant L’Auberge de Maures. “It used to be a gas station, and now you sit and eat pâté family style,” she said.
It’s easy to connect the dots to her spring collection, inspired by the Italian phrase “villeggiatura,” or a prolonged stay, with relaxed elegant separates, including a sleeveless cashmere top worn with a technical taffeta bubble hem ball skirt.
Serene colors were a launching point, including all shades of blue paired with ivory and sand. “We are doing some epic gowns with humble fabrics,” she said, pulling out a raw-edged ruched linen dress as an example.
“There are a lot of fish in the collection; we always have a novelty icon, and in my mind, she is shopping at the fish market, making her own food, immersing herself in this place,” said Staudinger of her muse. “It’s Gwyneth Paltrow in ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ where she lives there but is wearing ’90s Calvin Klein. It’s a small town, not high season, and she’s writing a novel.”
There are beaded clutches based on vintage fish tins Staudinger collected, and a mini boat tote in napa leather with a crossbody strap can be customized like so many of Staud’s bestselling bags.
Another theme is versatility, Staudinger explained, pointing out a cream Dupioni column dress with a cowl neck that can be buttoned up or left open. “It’s about minimal and feminine details, fishtail hems…netting flats.”
This will be the first time Staud Sea is on the runway since launching in May.
“There was a lack of chic elevated swimwear at an accessible price point that still had some nostalgia, and it was difficult for me to to find a bikini that was chic or a one-piece that was not overly covered,” Staudinger said, explaining how she incorporated some of the elements of the ready-to-wear and bags, including beading, colorblocking and abstract print details, into swim.
“One thing that bothered me is if you wear a triangle bikini bottom, the strings are always in your pants. So we added a slider there. These are things I always thought about that maybe the customer picks up on, maybe not,” she said.
“Staud Sea is a whole new world. It sold out and we had a wait list; it was one of Shopbop’s most successful launches,” said Zeiders.
Staudinger will also show her first denim.
“Wrangler was my number-one choice as a denim partner; vintage Wrangler and current Wrangler, there’s just something about it. We exist in two separate spaces, but all the collaborations we have done have been with iconic heritage brands,” she said of past collections with New Balance, Birkenstock and Keds.
“My first pair of Wranglers I got at a Western store in the Valley, and I couldn’t believe how great they were, they’re fitted at the waist, they stretch, they make your butt look great,” said Staudinger. “Over the years exploring vintage Wrangler, I started building a collection. They have amazing cuts, their archive is great. I wanted to do a denim jumpsuit and they had one called the Body Beautiful. So the ideas were already aligned, and we added our DNA.”
Staudinger sounds modest when asked about stepping into the role of the face of her brand.
“I think it’s organically going to be the case. I’m not against it, but it was always important to me the brand spoke first; that’s what true heritage brands do,” she said. “Culturally, being associated with one person isn’t what we’re trying to do but I do think I have a story I want to tell.”
Part of what makes people want to listen is that she comes across as being fairly down to earth — for a Hollywood insider.
“I am a pretty chill person, monotone for the most part, self-deprecating, and that’s also part of the DNA of the brand. It’s elevated and accessible at the same time, approachable and aspirational. It’s a suit and Havianas, that’s who we are and what’s missing in the market,” she said, referring to the periwinkle three-piece suit from her new Staud Essentials line she paired with flip-flops. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously; we’ll have a fish-shaped bag on the runway but we’ll have her wearing it with a beautiful Dupioni dress. That’s the vibe.”
But she has definite ideas about how to build buzz — for her business and others, pitching in back in March to punch up the guest list for Emanuel’s WME pre-Oscars party, for example.
Hollywood sources say in the future Staudinger could well step in to punch up the agency’s IMG New York Fashion Week: The Shows, too.
“I’m focused on my business and when I feel like there’s time to help out with that, I will maybe help out with that,” she said when asked about getting involved. “But with all the new hires, and everything they’ve done, I’m very optimistic about what’s happening.”
Still, she’s not showing at Fashion week’s main venue, Spring Studios; she’s showing at The Plaza. While that will no doubt lend a new air of exclusivity to the brand (and Staudinger already pulls in A-list guests, from Jared Leto to Larry David), it will not mean elevated prices.
“The DNA is the DNA, it’s never been about price point so much as value,” said Augusto. “And who knows? The next show might be at Coney Island.”
In the meantime, they are going to keep dreaming up new products and categories.
“I made a water bottle to try to drink more water,” Staudinger said, showing off a brown woven leather bucket bag with her reusable water bottle nestled inside. “Because that’s what I was missing, and I didn’t want to keep having to carry a purse as big as a water bottle. We added a slit for a credit card. It’s thinking about what she needs, maybe it’s home, maybe it’s sport — what are the other areas we see gaps in and how can we fill them?”
“This space is a perfect example of how we are building the brand — to have a creative space where the design team can do their thing, a house that can allow them to fully create their vision,” said Zeiders, noting the holiday campaign is just the beginning of the lifestyle content that will coming from the property.
But what to call it? Casa Staud? Chateau Staud? Villegiaturra?
“Back to the Oscars, there needs to be a modern cool place to invite people over for glam and custom dresses,” said Staudinger, identifying a gap. “We’ll have dinners and previews of our collections and connect to the community in a different way…It’s really exciting because we’ve already got a lot of requests and we live in the city of the red carpet.”
Sarah Staudinger Previews Her NYFW Show at the Plaza Hotel – celebritiestalks