Sarah Flint has had several “pinch me” moments since launching her namesake shoe line in 2013.

Among them: seeing her shoes and nameplate at Barneys New York, getting news of her first press, staging her first trunk show and seeing her shoes worn by Alexa Chung and Blake Lively. Not bad for a self-funded 27-year-old who launched her collection on the premise that sexy shoes don’t have to be uncomfortable.

This story first appeared in the January 20, 2016 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Raised in rural Massachusetts in what can be described as a modern-day “Little Women” setting with three other sisters, Sarah was “always sketching” and knew early on she wanted to design — she had a particular fascination with shoes. She recalls insisting on wearing tap shoes to school rather than Keds.

Her first fashion experience was working at French Lessons, a boutique in nearby Concord, Mass., that sold labels like Diane von Furstenberg and Milly. It was there that she had her a-ha moment, cementing her fashion path. She learned to understand customers and received practical experience on buying trips to New York with the owner. Following her boss, she enrolled in the summer program at The New School’s Parsons School of Design and landed a summer internship at DVF while still in high school. She continued at Parsons freshman year, but transferred to the Fashion Institute of Technology for its accessories program to focus on shoes. She also had an internship at Proenza Schouler.

 

To solve the “chic yet comfortable” conundrum, Flint enrolled at Ars Sutoria in Italy to study the technical side of shoe-making. There, she learned patternmaking, construction of lasts and outsoles by visiting manufacturers, and became enamored with the passion Italian craftsmen expressed in their work. She planned to work for a designer upon returning to New York, but instead decided to capitalize on the connections she made and launch her own line. She spent the next year designing and taking business fashion courses at New York University while working as a nanny.

Flint cites her grandmother, an artist who lived in Paris in her later years, as a style influence, and for exposing the young Sarah to “her favorite designers like Dior and Chloé along Avenue Montaigne.”

Flint personally admires Sigerson Morrison — whose designers were also FIT alums — movie icons of the Forties and Fifties including Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Rita Hayworth — for whom she named a key style. A firm believer in midheight heels, she hasn’t bowed to pressure to produce sky-high styles. “Those actresses were never in more than 60 or 70 mm [about 2-1/3 to 2-3/4 inches] and no one ever said that they didn’t look feminine and sexy,” the designer notes. Other models include the Greer, a gladiator sandal named for Greer Garson, and the Bennett, a flat, after Joan Bennett.

Flint admits one challenge of being a young designer is resisting the urge to react to all of the advice offered. “You get advice from buyers, customers and editors and it usually conflicts,” she says.

She’s learned some important lessons, too: “Know what you are good at and surround yourself with others who can do the things you can’t,” and “enjoy the view before you hike up the next mountain.” Case in point, when Barneys picked up her line, she was “excited for about two minutes” before panic about delivery and production set in. She reminds herself to relish these moments. Flint hopes her future view will include international expansion and a retail location. And for a future pinch-me moment, perhaps it will be on a fashionable Paris street, where the next generation can look at her shoes and dream.

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