Founder of Sartoria Lab
Sarah Gilfillan is founder of menswear style consultancy Sartoria Lab. Launched in 2009 the consultancy offers Personal Shopping, Personal Styling and Wardrobe Edits specifically for men. Sarah works with private clients assisting them with every aspect of their image, wardrobe and shopping needs, advising them on the best colours, shapes and brands to give them their optimum look. During a session with Sartoria Lab men discover how to use clothing to make them look more professional and attractive, how to use their wardrobe more efficiently, as well as discovering new brands and having an unbiased and frank opinion from a professional to make the process of shopping and dressing efficient and focused. Prior to setting up Sartoria Lab, Sarah spent 15 years in the fashion industry as a menswear photographic stylist, where she created innovative looks for magazines, TV shows, PR and advertising shoots, and various bands and celebrities.
How did the idea for your business come about?
There are plenty of stylists for women but hardly any for men so I saw a gap in the market to set up my company Sartoria Lab which offers personal styling and shopping to men. My background as a stylist on photo shoots was mainly in menswear so it was a natural progression for me.
What was your career path?
I left school at 16, wanting to become a fashion model. Once it was clear that wasn’t going to work out, I worked in clothes shops whilst trying to get a job in a fashion wholesalers as a receptionist & model which I eventually did. I left there to pursue my desire to become a fashion stylist, working unpaid and doing work experience whilst building up my portfolio. I worked as a fashion stylist on photo shoots for about 15 years before retraining as a personal stylist. I worked freelance for a couple of companies to get some experience before setting up on my own.
Did you have a big break in your career or was it a more gradual build-up to get to where you are now?
I always imagined I’d get a “big break” to kick start my business but it’s been a continual and gradual process.
What has been most surprising on your journey?
Clients come from the most unexpected sources – never usually the avenues you think they’ll come from. And more specifically – I was aiming my business at men, and initially overlooked the fact that a surprising amount of women book their husbands in or buy them Gift Vouchers.
What are the best and worst aspects about running your own business?
Best: It’s super rewarding and you reap the benefits of all the hard work you put in.
Worst: You have to do everything yourself – even the bits you don’t like – and and have no IT department etc to call on when your computer goes wrong!
How does what you’re doing now compare with the career you hoped you’d have when you were at school?
Very similar. I wanted to be a model because I loved fashion, and stylists didn’t really exist when I was at school! No thanks to the school careers officer I may add, who told me to take a typing course when I told him what I wanted to do (and that was in the days before computers were widely used!)
What was the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Find out”. Don’t presume things about your chosen career – find out from people who work in the industry. Call people up to see if they’ll have a chat with you, and find out what the realities of the job are, what it entails, the highs and lows, the pay you can expect to receive etc etc. And if people do help you, be respectful of their time and remember to say THANK YOU! Such a small thing but it’s astounding the amount of people who don’t bother!
If you could go back and tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Like the Nike ad says: “Just Do It”. I have no regrets about the things I’ve done, only about the things I haven’t done. Be brave!
Who are your role models or mentors?
From time to time I work with a business coach – Deborah Henry- Pollard from Catching Fireworks. I find this most useful, as she’s a real support in terms of organisation and delivery of certain jobs that might be different from my normal day to day work. It’s great having someone to turn to who can advise and help in creative and practical ways when need be.