By Taryn Bickley
Growing up outside the fashion mainstream certainly has its advantages.
For upstart designer Sarah Spratt, a Downriver childhood and Cass Corridor education provided an outsider sensibility that’s serving her well.
A Grosse Ile native and one-time Wayne State University costume-design major, Spratt is now enjoying fledgling success as a Brooklyn-based fashion designer with her own company. Just over four years ago, she and her partner, Christian Stroble, launched Eventide, a label that has managed to navigate fashion’s fickle world of ups and downs.
Spratt breaks down the secret to her success in simple terms: Find something you enjoy, let it morph into something grander, and run with it.
For her, the enjoyment part began with a love of vintage clothing. Observing her passion for retro style, a former babysitter suggested that Spratt study costume design, which ultimately was not the right fit. After two years in Wayne’s theater department, Spratt transferred to New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology.
Her current position as co-designer of Eventide, which is sketched and sold out of a Brooklyn-based studio, was made possible, she says, by her experiences in Detroit. “The connections that I made and the experiences that I had living in the city were some of the most important in my life,” Spratt says. “There is this freedom down there. If you want to create something or do something, then you’ve got the ability to make it happen.”
For Spratt, living in Detroit also meant trolling the creative underbelly of the city for fresh inspiration. Together with friends Brian Anderson and Nicola Kuperus, she was one of the first to commandeer the space that would become Oslo — a location the group used in exchange for cleaning and painting.
“We decided we wanted to do a show in Detroit, and we found the perfect space above Oslo,” she says. “For four months, we took apart staircases, cleaned, played, and created, all for this one-night event we called People from Good Homes.”
The interactive event featured art installations by Kuperus, a photographer and member of the band Adult, and fashion vignettes erected to resemble rooms of a home in which models perched about wearing Spratt and Anderson’s designs. The success of that show became a springboard for Spratt. Shortly afterward, she headed for Manhattan.
The label Eventide, an archaic term meaning sunset or dusk, is an indie style hit, favored for its clever detailing and remarkable wearablility. “It’s much more challenging to design clothing that people are wearing in their everyday lives,” Pratt says.
The collection also exudes a less tangible asset. Fans say Eventide has heart. Spratt and Stroble, who are avid readers and resale junkies, draw inspiration from literature, art, architecture, and vintage clothing.
Their willingness to look to other eras is evident in their spring 2008 collection, Drop of Dreams. For the new looks, they channeled surrealist Sam Haskins and his erotic 1964 photo book Cowboy Kate. They also looked to Toshiko Okanoue, a ’50s-era Japanese collage artist who’s recognized for incorporating magazine cutouts of beautiful women into her work. The dusty colors and bright reds of the Drop of Dreams collection were taken from Russian propaganda art.
“We decided for spring that we wanted these beautiful rolling landscapes with a model that looks cute but is slightly twisted,” Spratt says. Cute she is in scalloped-edge shifts, khaki cuffed shorts, and accordion-pleat minis, all in Eventide’s signature industrial tones. It’s a collection, says Stroble, for any “uptown girl who wants to be downtown cool.”