Stylists of Motley: Sarah Slutsky

9 MIN READ | by Flora Beagley on Apr 1, 2021
9 MIN READ | by Flora Beagley on Apr 1, 2021

Stylists are curators, creatives and fashion seers. They help celebrities and us normal fashion-loving folk make sense of the endless array of choice. Put simply, they’re geniuses – which is why we’re keen to share their wisdom with the Motley crew. 

Sarah Slutsky is a New York-based stylist. She’s sculpted her experience through working at Vogue, styling clients like Hannah van der Westhuysen, as well as collaborating with brands like Givenchy and Aveeno. Put simply, she’s one of the best in the game. Here, Sarah tells us how she got started and what values she loves and craves in the fast-moving world of fashion. 

Becoming a stylist wasn’t an option for me – it was carved out by my past.

I would paint and be creative with my Grandma. She was like a best friend and we would spend hours playing with clothes. My Mom also loved hunting for treasures and putting outfits together. I was always exposed to creativity and the strength of imagination.

I reflect them both in my style now. My Grandma always wore stripped back colours like black and white. Her uniform was a wide legged trouser and a white shirt with beautiful jewellery. She had this collection of glistening gold fish charms which she wore hung on a chain – I would look at the seahorse and mermaid and watch how they moved and study their gleaming red eyes.

She would travel and find pieces that represented a time or a place and add it to the collection of memories she already had. She used jewellery to define moments. For me, jewellery is so emotional because it’s a personal exchange between people.

It’s very personal to me in that sense. I actually don’t really buy it. I have pieces from my boyfriend and my grandma and they are very special to me.

My Mom is a lot more eclectic. She loves bohemian fashion and has a great sense of bold prints and patterns. She’s a treasure hunter and a beautiful piece of fabric will really excite her! I really flick between the influence of my Mom and Grandma – in summer I’ll wear flowing floral prints and in winter in New York I’ll wear high waisted grey trousers and a shirt. I love flicking between the two personas.

Becoming a stylist wasn’t an option for me – it was carved out by my past.

I would paint and be creative with my Grandma. She was like a best friend and we would spend hours playing with clothes. My Mom also loved hunting for treasures and putting outfits together. I was always exposed to creativity and the strength of imagination.

I reflect them both in my style now. My Grandma always wore stripped back colours like black and white. Her uniform was a wide legged trouser and a white shirt with beautiful jewellery. She had this collection of glistening gold fish charms which she wore hung on a chain – I would look at the seahorse and mermaid and watch how they moved and study their gleaming red eyes.

I think having items that stir up an emotion or make you feel joyful is a very sustainable way to live – it seems less frivolous and has more purpose. 

I grew up in Chicago which was a bit more casual. My family and friends were a bit more laid back compared to NYC. I don’t always like to dress to be practical because I believe clothes should sometimes be about fantasy, rather than practicality. It should make you feel good. Styling has always felt like art, creating beauty in itself, and I’ve never really questioned that feeling!

She would travel and find pieces that represented a time or a place and add it to the collection of memories she already had. She used jewellery to define moments. For me, jewellery is so emotional because it’s a personal exchange between people.

It’s very personal to me in that sense. I actually don’t really buy it. I have pieces from my boyfriend and my grandma and they are very special to me.

My Mom is a lot more eclectic. She loves bohemian fashion and has a great sense of bold prints and patterns. She’s a treasure hunter and a beautiful piece of fabric will really excite her! I really flick between the influence of my Mom and Grandma – in summer I’ll wear flowing floral prints and in winter in New York I’ll wear high waisted grey trousers and a shirt. I love flicking between the two personas.

I studied fashion at school. It was fun doing internships and travelling to New York and Dallas. By graduation I was fortunate enough to have built up work experience with inspiring people – this is when I really fell in love with the profession. I got a job working at Vogue Magazine where I was in heaven. It was an amazing place to play with groundbreaking fashion and create beautiful moments.

To be honest, celebrity and fashion culture don’t constantly inspire me. I spend a lot of time looking at what designers are creating and why. It’s nice to feel independent when I work. I enjoy looking at shapes – a dreamscape will pop to mind and I will go heavy on the research. A world can slowly begin to appear before me when I’m working with a client about what they’re imagining. I actually rely on my team a lot for pop culture news! I can have my head in the clouds a bit. It’s nice to feel removed and often I’d rather be painting, reading, or hiking than scrolling through social media and pop culture news.

It can be quite isolating working on your own. 

People will often react immediately in a positive or sometimes negative way. I love to come together with people in the industry. It’s not super glamorous at times and it can be long  hours. I think there’s definitely room for more of a community in fashion. It can be quite competitive but I think we’re coming out of that slowly.

When you’re an artist you’re always thinking about the next thing you can create.

It can feel like people need to like your work in order to work. It’s quite a repetitive cycle and requires so many people – publicists, brands – and requires a lot of support. The industry can be quite beautiful in that way – people coming together to create a dream. However, it can be difficult if you have an unconventional idea.

Lockdown has affected my personal style and my relationship with getting dressed has definitely changed. 

When I was young I’d pick out my clothes for school and lay them out, imagining what I’d do the day I wore that outfit. It was like my armour and still is. In the beginning of lockdown I really tried to find a way to continue using lots of my wardrobe. I did a series that involved recreating fashion moments as a way to stay inspired and creative. It was strange though to put a dress and heels on around the house. As we begin to re-emerge, I have felt a transition. I’ve been trying to cut out those ‘fashion week’ pieces that are very trendy in the moment. Now I’m asking; who am I now? What’s my identity? What will I re-wear? I’ve never been comfortable with unsustainable brands and now it feels better to know exactly what feels good so I can repeat the style more. Clothes are important to use for physical and emotional confidence. We need to use them to get back out into the world and be able to move in comfort.

Strangely, the pandemic has opened a few doors. 

Pre-pandemic, you wouldn’t work with a client on a different continent because of time differences and logistics. But now, because we all have to communicate digitally, people are a lot more open to it. We can share mood boards and swap inspiration all day long on Zoom and Whatsapp! In an old life my publicist would have said no, but we’ve been proven wrong. It’s all about making the most out of what you’ve got and I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing women.

My job is very physical at times, I spend a lot of time carrying stuff and tying shoes.

I need to be very physically comfortable to do this, as well as feeling comfortable in my skin. If I put the wrong top on I’ll fixate on it all day because clothes do feel like protection to me. It might sound shallow but it feels deeply personal. It’s all about your outward persona –  who you are, how you will be in a new scenario. Clothes can be incredibly empowering and we need to respect this.

My three wardrobe must-haves are high waisted jeans, down sheer blouse and a great pair of kitten heel boots. 

I actually threw on a blouse three minutes before talking to you today! My favourite jewellery? The goldfish from my Grandma, my spiral pinkie ring from a female-owned company I helped mentor, and a small pendant necklace from my boyfriend that I never take off. I love the feeling of when somebody knows you and can pick a piece of jewellery for you. It immediately becomes such a treasured item, and something you want to keep with you always.

Jane Birkin and Stevie Nicks are both style icons for me. A super hardcore downtown NYC girl is always going to look great. I also love a mashup of old school vintage french with NY fashion. 

I feel strongly about generally being nice to each other and being nice to the Earth. Be a decent human – it’s not rocket science. You don’t need to generate waste, you can recycle, it’s so easy. We don’t need to be or live the same, but you do need to be respectful. I also do hope America specifically can better itself. It’s been a tough year to be a citizen of the United States. That said, I’m an optimistic person, and I believe change will begin to arrive soon.

Sarah’s top Motley picks

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