Name Sarah Phillips
Spouse(s) Tom Hatch
|Years active 1989 to present|
Occupation Fashion designer
|Employer Sarah Phillips New York|
Notable work The 1993 Inaugural Ball gown for Hillary Rodham Clinton
Sarah Phillips is an American fashion designer. She founded Sarah Phillips New York in 1989 and was the designer for the 1992 Inaugural Ball gown for Hillary Clinton. Taking a break from designing from 1993 to 2012 in order to raise her children, she relaunched Sarah Phillips New York in 2013.
- Early life and career
- Sarah Phillips Design
- 1993 Inaugural Ball gown
- Sarah Phillips New York
- Personal life
Early life and career
Phillips was born in New York City. She attended college at Stephens College in Missouri before transferring to the Parsons School of Design. She spent the early part of her design career working for labels including the menswear collections of Yves Saint Laurent and Ralph Lauren, and the women's collection of Christian Dior.
Sarah Phillips Design
Phillips first began designing her own pieces in 1989 while still working for Dior, developing a private line of twelve pieces that she sold to Henri Bendel. The store featured several of Phillips' pieces, including a cutaway-sleeve jacket, in their window along Fifth Avenue. Phillips' has said of her first break that, "I put them in the back of a taxi and took it up to Henri Bendel, and they bought it ... Just like that: boom." Her first official line was produced in April 1991, where according to the New York Times, "She worked out of [a loft] in lower Manhattan and had the clothes produced in a factory on West 20th Street." According to the Los Angeles Times, her first collection consisted of "15 pieces, mostly suits and evening clothes". The initial collection was picked up by purchasers including those from Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.
She also sold pieces to Michelle Revere, the buyer for a Little Rock, Arkansas boutique named Barbara Jean. Lisa Anderson of the Chicago Tribune said of her early designs that, "Phillips' clean, classic designs in suits and separates, her high-quality workmanship and her relatively affordable ($400 to $1,500) prices attracted store buyers." At the end of 1992 she had 25 accounts purchasing her designs, and eventually reached about fifty boutiques in the US, Canada, and Hong Kong. Her sales also doubled between her first and second year of business.
1993 Inaugural Ball gown
Hillary Clinton, then the first lady of Arkansas, spotted a pale yellow silk Phillips-designed suit at Barbara Jean in Little Rock, and bought it to wear to the 1992 Democratic National Convention held at Madison Square Garden, where her husband was giving the acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.
After this she submitted a sketch for a gown for Clinton to wear to the 1993 Inaugural Ball. Clinton selected Phillips' sketch over those submitted from other designers, and Phillips went about creating Clinton's custom designed "shimmering" violet lace-and-mousseline gown. Phillips said of Clinton's choice that, "It's a fairy-tale sort of dress, very traditional, which really isn't typical of my style ... I thought it was a beautiful design, but I never thought it would be selected since there were a million other gorgeous gowns submitted by designers far more established than I." Nicole Fischelis, then-fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, said of the gown that, "I think Sarah Phillips is part of a new generation of young designers who are very contemporary and have a definite feel for quality clothes ... I think it's terrific that Mrs. Clinton would pick someone young and unknown to the public. It shows a certain kind of spirit and open-mindedness."
The gown appeared on several national television shows and magazines, such as Today, People Magazine, and in parody form on Saturday Night Live. It was later introduced into The Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution collection of first lady inaugural ball gowns. The New York Times said of the gown's reception by the public that it "won thumbs-up reviews from just about everyone who saw it" at the ball. Following the ball Phillips was asked to design gowns for several other women for that year's Academy Awards red carpet and ceremony. She also became a member of the CFDA.
Sarah Phillips New York
Phillips was unable to complete a Fall collection following the inaugural ball publicity due a lack of financing, after the investor for her line backed out one month after the inauguration. Phillips was also newly married and pregnant with her first child, so decided to stop designing until her children were grown. At the end of 2012 Phillips announced she would be relaunching her line in 2013. The New York Times wrote of her new collection that, "Ms. Phillips is introducing 40 special-occasion pieces made of silk and cashmere (including a variation on the cutaway-sleeve jacket from the ’90s)." The Times also described her new business model, writing that, "This time around, her business strategy is considerably different. For one thing, she is selling only through trunk shows (with one planned for Manhattan in the fall) and her website," before she begins re-entering the retail fashion market.
Phillips' parents are Sarah Levis, of the Levis family that founded Owens-Illinois, and James T. Phillips Jr, an investment banker with Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. She married sculptor Tom Hatch in 1991.