Maker of Workday Wear, Sarah Stitham. Photo credit: Workday Wear
One day, Sarah Stitham was walking with her friend across the dam at the Ashokan Reservoir in Catskill Park. The reservoir is an immense, broad, misshapen body of water that, from afar, looks like a smooth pane of blue or, in winter, white. It’s set into the hills like an indent awaiting a jewel, the mountains around it are a bezel, as on a ring, covered in stubby green grass, in-laid with white, violet, or russet wildflowers.
Her friend pointed to a mountain in the distance and asked if she knew its name. Much to her dismay, Sarah realised she did not, nor did she know the names of any of the mountains in the land that she called home. So she joined the Catskill Mountain 3500 Club, a peakbagging organization for hikers. To become a member, one must climb all 35 Catskill High Peaks. She has now climbed them all, many times and knows all their names: Panther Mountain, Windham High Peak, Blackhead, and Bearpen Mountain.
Sarah had grown up all over the Catskills region. Her father was a union electrician whose job required him and the family to relocate to different parts of New York State over the years. As a child, Sarah spent all of her time outside. She would climb mountains or trees, go to the brook and swim. She considered herself as part of the surrounding nature.
The Hudson Valley. Photo credit: Sarah Stitham
The dedication Sarah has to her land, her home, and her community is powerful. She is steeped in them. Beyond hiking all the surrounding mountains, she takes pride in making food for her friends (her apple pies have won awards at the Ulster County Fair), and on weekends she visits Phoenicia to play ukulele at a local picking circle. She lives in the small farmhouse that was built by her partner’s grandparents where, generations before her, women sat in the same kitchen, wearing aprons, working on quilts together.
Sarah is our newest maker, who started Workday Wear, a collaborative creative studio in Olivebridge, New York, one year ago. She designs simple, versatile, and elegant clothing for women. The clothes she makes are, she says, “for women like me who have really multifaceted lives and who want clothing that moves from farmers’ markets to lunch, then dinner, by just changing a couple of accessories, so that one layering piece can take them throughout their day.”
Photo credit: Workday Wear
Sarah describes herself as a “late-bloomer.” In her thirties, following her passion for cooking and restaurants, she began takes classes at The Culinary Institute of America. She went on to get a degree in business and took classes in nutrition. As a “serial entrepreneur,” over the years Sarah has created two businesses from the ground up and sold them. Many of her careers and jobs have required multidimensional understanding and preparation. She eventually converted what she describes as her “industrial-strength organizing capabilities” into its own business as professional organizer and has contributed to many books on the subject.
Most recently, Sarah visited Fashion Week in New York City and felt deflated by the experience, frustrated even. The beautiful clothes she saw seemed mass-produced and anonymous. She asked herself “why are we not making things here and why aren’t they made using local talent?” This frustration with fashion extended to clothing stores, finding clothes that suited her felt like a futile endeavour. “I didn’t want to play into fast fashion anymore. It’s too impersonal and even the most expensive, beautiful things felt impersonal to me.”
So she decided to make her own clothes, for herself and people like herself. She began taking classes in pattern design and apparel construction at SUNY Ulster. She found four other local women to collaborate with over design and production. Her garments are designed for comfort and function (each piece is free-size), but also to enhance a woman’s personal shape.
Photo credit: Workday Wear
The designs “are fashionable but also pieces that I want to instil with that sense of place and community.” Sarah considers her clothing a continuation of the functional clothing women who used to sit in her same kitchen generations ago wore. Her work with the women at her studio is an echo of the women who used to live in the Hudson Valley, wearing aprons all day as they worked and sewed quilts together and raised families.
Workday Wear collections are limited editions. Each collection is 12 pieces only. Sarah sews each prototype herself and each garment is made entirely by one person. The cotton, silk or denim is of the highest quality and as much as possible is made in the U.S.. In designing her clothes, Sarah takes inspiration from nature, from the colors of those wildflowers dotting the Catskill mountains. “I’m very much part of this place where I live and it’s where my roots grow deep and where my inspirations grow wide.”
Sarah loves the Hudson Valley and its “richness and diversity as far as the landscape, the culture, the mindset, and the experiences that one can have here. . . and how that all weaves together for an incredibly rich and abundant life.”
Sarah Stitham’s New York State of Mind is “Home.”
Photo credit: Workday Wear