Have you ever noticed how many variations there can be to Royal Stewart plaid? There’s the distance between horizontal stripes, the size of the squares, and the overall tonal range, just to name a few. At South by Southwest in Austin last year, Sara Radin noted these distinctions as she documented what people were wearing (a range of plaids, as well as lots of camouflage; denim vests). She was also cataloguing what sort of stickers and band posters were up around town, whether at festival music venues, on the streets or in stores.
As a Concept Designer for Converse, the global lifestyle brand that designs fleece hoodies and graphic tees to pair with your sneakers, Sara is deep into daily visual research in locations as diverse as New York City, Miami Art Basel, music festivals, and cities all over Europe.
Although always interested in fashion design, Sara knew she didn’t want to be a product designer. She felt much more aligned with many of the historical, social and conceptual questions around why people wear what they wear, and how their environment and aspirations shape these decisions.
As an undergrad, Sara spent a semester in Rome, where the layers of history from art and architecture to street wear and public life captivated her attention. Returning to the US and the east coast following that semester, Sara interned for Polo/Ralph Lauren in the trim production department, where zippers, buttons, belts, and buckles are produced for each garment.
Throughout this opportunity, Sara got to sit in on design meetings held in one of the company’s concept rooms. The room was the domain of a concept designer who researched the material culture behind the garments. This research included how the material functioned, as well as the story the garment told — a story painstakingly constructed by searching in vintage stores for cuts and folds from decades past, combing through photographic and archival research, and gathering ancillary objects that help evoke a narrative. For example, Ralph Lauren frequently refers to films that have influenced his aesthetic, and his company uses the language of film as structure to create a narrative.
As a Stamps undergrad, Sara found the BA program to be a perfect fit for her range of interests. Alongside pivotal Stamps studio courses in photography and book-making, and photography and collage, Sara was able to take a number of History of Art courses and LS&A courses such as the History of American Magazines, History of Photography and Visual and Material Culture that helped feed her intellectual and visual appetite. She rounded out her independently assembled course of study with lots of theater production classes, art direction for film, and costume design.
When the job posting for a position at Converse came up, Sara was on a paid internship at Coach in NYC. As a student, Sara had gone to the career center often - and as an art and design student, had fused this research with a stand out visual presentation. It was this combination that impressed her Converse interviewers, who plucked Sara Radin from a field of candidates based on her visually and conceptually well-designed resume. It did not hurt that Sara came to her interview with a finished project, complete with color swatches, in the form language of the Worth Global Style Network (the trend forecaster whose online services are utilized by major brands and retailers from Converse to luxury houses).
Today, as the creator of a continually evolving array of narratives about Converse’s ideal customer, collaborating with Converse’s product design team on trends and consumer research, Sara Radin is fluent not only in “cool ways of doing plaid” but in how to stay current. Following over 200 daily blogs is part of the equation. Sara is most acutely aware of her desire to feed the intellectual appetite she honed at Stamps, which she nourishes by attending free lectures at NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology, and taking courses at Parsons School of Design (Converse offers a generous tuition assistance program) from Fashion Trends to Fashion, Pop Culture and the 20th century.
Sara adds, “As an art student, I was always most interested in the inspiration behind a work of art – how the creator initially finds ideas and how these influences come together to create a final product.” New York is an amazing place to be in that frame of mind. As a lifestyle brand, Converse is an impressive environment with a distinct emphasis on creativity and music. Included in this emphasis is Rubber Tracks, where Converse functions as creative incubator, providing an environment of events and opportunities for up and coming bands and musicians. If you go to a Rubber Tracks event, keep your eyes out for Sara Radin. Chances are, she’ll be taking photos and researching the scene.
Want to learn more? Check out Sara's Tumblr.