This week in our At Home With series, we talk about life as a fashion write with Sarah Macken. From changes in the industry, and her love of dressing up, to the appreciation of a slower pace of life in her hometown of Dublin.
Tell us about you and the journey of how you got to where you are today?
“I started out in women’s magazines. I interned in New York in my early 20s. The whole experience was very Devil Wears Prada: I hated it. I could never quite get my head around why being ‘in fashion’ had to mean being so elitist. There seemed to be no space for kindness – nor originality, either. I nearly gave it all up and went to work in a bookshop. I came home to Dublin and soon found my people. I then went on to edit Irish Tatler magazine. It was at a time when the old guard of fashion was changing and everything was going digital first. Although I definitely missed out on the ‘heyday’ of being a magazine editor – it was more lunch al desko, than jetting around the world and telling people that florals for spring are highly banal – it was exciting to see the industry become a bit more democratised (although, there’s certainly a long way to go on that front). I’ve been freelancing since 2020 which has given me the opportunity to collaborate and do creative consultancy with some amazing brands that I rate. I write about two things I love every day: fashion and interiors. I’ve had my writing published in the Sunday Times, the Irish Times and The Gloss.”
Have you always loved fashion and has your relationship with it changed over the years?
“Since I was a teen, I’ve always felt that burst of excitement when it comes to anything fashion-related. Although, for me it was always about the idea of writing about clothing rather than designing it (a design internship at John Rocha while I was at Secondary School taught me that I do not have a head for design). That being said, my relationship with it has changed immensely in the last thirteen years. I’ve gone through the phase of feeling like I need to dress like a ‘fashion person’ – namely, in whatever trend was big at the time (including those that did not flatter me). In spite of all the ups and downs, I have always gravitated towards the same things: Breton tops, great denim, slouchy jumpers, and a lovely blouse or two. Nowadays, I really try to wear what I feel good in. Although, I’ll admit when your job sometimes involves Instagram there can still be a bit of a struggle with that: social media makes everything so performative, it can be hard not to get sucked in. Each morning, I try my best now to only wear what I instinctively am drawn to rather than thinking about how it might look or ‘translate’ to Instagram. As I work mainly from home, most days that’s a pair of cashmere joggers and a crew neck sweatshirt. With everything that’s going on in the world right now, following trends really seems superfluous. That being said, there's always room for fun and playing with getting dressed. It’s why many of us were drawn to fashion in the first place.”
What the one item in your wardrobe you couldn’t live without now.
“I have just bought a pair of Birkenstocks (the Arizona slip on) and I am excited to live in them all spring and summer. They’re super comfy and look chic with mid-length dresses and jeans.”
What boosts your confidence or makes you feel good when you need it most?
“The ability to live a slower life has enriched my life in ways I couldn’t imagine. Whether it’s taking the time to do a Yoga With Adriene video, sowing some seeds, reading a few pages of a book during the afternoon: those little luxuries are life’s magic moments. After a decade of being on the same treadmill of fashion (where often being overworked and stressed is a badge of honour), I am building a life for myself at a pace I like, working with people I respect and doing things that challenge and excite me. I don’t agree with the culture of ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’ - as a generation we’re constantly conditioned to be on the precipice of burnout. Nervous energy can only fuel you for so long, in my experience.”
As women, do you think how we view ourselves is changing? If so, how?
“I think there are so many layers to this it would be hard to answer within a few lines. It’s great that there are female-led brands portraying a more realistic body image. See how Dora Larsen actually shows nipples in the imagery on their website. This shouldn't be a novelty. (How ridiculous that we have to edit out parts of the female body to be more ‘palatable’ when we are the consumers with the spend.) I think the last few years, with working from home, have further highlighted how much multitasking women do. If anything I hope this serves for better childcare options for mothers and better support for new mothers in general.”
What have you got coming up this year?
“Lots of writing, lots of tea drinking. The chance to spend quality time with friends and family after the madness of Covid-19. Oh, and finally going on a beach holiday after two and a half years of non-stop, Irish rain. Joy!”
Find Sarah here.