“Once the basic story is complete, I build my mood board to illustrate it as best I can,” Sabina Savage – founder of her eponymous luxury accessories brand – tells us, explaining her procedure for designing scarves and pocket squares. “This mood board sits in front of me throughout the entire design process, so it’s a very crucial part of the process.” Which gets us thinking, what would a mood board for the brand itself look like?
A collage of Sabina Savage the brand would essentially scan like the history of Sabina Savage the woman – so central is her artistry to the company’s offering. Sabina spent her childhood riding horses in Somerset, surrounded by animals in her “very rural” environment. This goes some way to explaining why animals are such a prominent theme in her designs. She was interested in art and design from a young age, but when she left school none of the courses at London universities felt like a good fit. Happily, the prestigious École supérieure des arts et techniques de la mode (ESMOD, for short) in Paris was running its Nouvelle Couture course, which – in contrast to London with its focus on lightning-quick creativity – gave students much more time and supervision in order for them to truly hone their craft.
“We focused on a lot of specialist couture techniques and spent weeks to months at a time on each garment. I have never been interested in creating fast fashion, so I think the experience of dedicating an entire term to one garment has helped me to realise that my strengths lie in the detail.” Nouvelle Couture means new couture – this is an epithet which could equally well describe the work Sabina Savage does today. The brand’s output is of the same quality you would expect from a Parisian atelier, using time-honoured techniques and skills cultivated through diligent study and practice. Yet, at the same time, the products feel undeniably new, allowing their wearer to incorporate the elegance of traditional haute couture into even the most contemporary of stylistic ensembles.
Despite not speaking a word of French when she moved to Paris, Sabina graduated as Valedictorian of her year group. It was a sign of things to come. Jobs soon followed at Gareth Pugh and Alexander McQueen. Names, we can’t help but notice, are quite different to those that now stock her products (Harrod’s, William & Son, and Harvey Nichols, to mention a few). However, this contrast makes complete sense when looking at her designs – which fuse the high-fashion creativity of labels like McQueen with the commitment to quality and artisanship of heritage brands like William & Son.