Sandra Murphy’s website sums up her vintage inspired line, Recollection, in one phrase: “New Clothes With Old Soul.” Sandra grew up in Ireland, where she learned to sew from her mother and grandmother who inspired her to go to fashion school. Upon graduation she came to the US and worked for several large American brands before deciding to launch her own line in 2009. Sandra’s clothing mixes vintage and modern. She uses only high quality textiles and methods so her pieces will last the test of time and hopefully become vintage treasures of the future.
How did you first learn to sew?
I learned to sew from my mother who learned to sew from her mother. My mother was particularly skilled at it and worked as a factory seamstress before she got married. After that she worked from home doing all the alterations for the family business, my father’s mens drapers shop. From a very early age I played with the scraps of fabrics that fell on the kitchen floor & made all sorts “fashions” for my dolls.
My skills were further developed when I started school. We would get a gingham 4″x4″ swatch on which we learned and practiced hand stitches. I have memories of our sewing classes, which were for the girls only while the boys learned hurling (a Gaelic sport) outside our windows. Lucky for me I wasn’t the sporty type so it didn’t bother me but it was torture for some of my friends. This was the mid ’80s in Ireland and thankfully things have changed a lot since then.
What led you to choose sewing as a career path?
I was always artistic, loved drawing, sewing and any sort of crafts. In school, art class was my favorite and most of everything else didn’t interest me. But I didn’t really know what I could do with it until we got a new art teacher in my final year who encouraged and prepared me to go to art college. Once I started looking at colleges and saw fashion design courses being offered that was it, I could never imagine myself pursuing anything different. After spending a summer in New York while still in college, I knew moving there was inevitable once I graduated.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I explored all different aspects of fashion in college but once I learned about Dior’s New Look it impacted my thesis and final collection. From then on, mid-20th century fashion remains my strongest influence.
Where do you think it the best place to look for vintage inspirations?
For me, I try to relive this era in my work. The sewing pattern magazines that influenced the home sewers of the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s inspire me. I have an extensive collection that keeps growing. They are so inspiring to me and filled cover to cover with the style, color, fabric and print trends of the time.
What is your advice for creating a classic wardrobe?
As a designer I’ve became very upset by the shift in recent times towards what I call disposable clothing. I love a bargain as much as the next but the big box discount stores and cheap, quick-to-market retailers have led to closets that represent little other than excess. A lot of people today purchase clothing that they wear once at most. I will admit that I too fell victim to this in the past and I’ve donated clothing to charity that still had the tags on them. But I soon realized this was wrong and if I, a designer, had such little regard for clothing what were other people thinking. It’s still an ongoing process but I’m continuing to work on editing the contents of my closet. Now I shop consciously and only buy pieces that I plan to wear over and over which will have a purpose in my wardrobe. I still enjoy the thrill of a bargain but I prefer it to be an amazing vintage find at a great price.
Do you think growing up in Ireland influences your designs, and if so how?
Yes. They say necessity is the mother of invention but growing up in rural Ireland, necessity was the mother of my creativity. I didn’t have access to all the latest supplies, fabrics and hi-tech equipment but rather the basics. So I learned how to do everything from scratch and work around the things I couldn’t get my hands on. There is so much that I’ve become exposed to since moving to the USA and now I think I’ve found a balance between the two that works for me.
How did you go about creating a workspace that worked for you and your creative process? What are some aspects of your workspace that are important to you?
There were 2 things that were very important to me. The 1st was to be surrounded by my inspiration so the walls of my studio are lined with white homasote where I hang all my inspiration. The 2nd was having a great work surface and my skilled friend built a fantastic 4’x8′ custom table that’s perfect for me. After that, once I brought in my 1949 Singer sewing machine and full body dress form, I was ready to start working.
How does creating your own collection compare to working for a big corporation? What are some of the differences and similarities?
When you work for big corporations your original design never makes it as the end result. It gets reworked as it goes through the hands of senior management as well as marketing and sales teams etc. Also, it often gets diluted to make the best mark-up and profit which sometimes alters the original integrity of the design. Working on my own collection I have first and final say so I control the process. The similarities are that you have to be aware of the trends, work within your cost parameters and know your customer.
Do you have any tips for aspiring designers/seamstresses?
There is so much more to being a designer besides drawing and sewing. If the plan is to make this a business, develop all your skills so that you can do as much of the work as possible and eliminate the cost of outsourcing services. Finally and most importantly, have a strong point of view and stick to it. You will get lots of opinions along the way but it’s most important you that stay true to yourself.
What is your favorite sewing tool and why?
My antique Singer makes sewing a pleasure, they simply don’t make them like that anymore. But additionally, I would be lost without my stitch ripper & I don’t think I’d ever get anything finished without it.
What do you think makes your garments unique?
My prints make Recollection unique. I don’t buy them from a studio’s line but instead create my own art so that the prints are truly original and they won’t be found on any other line.
Where do you hope to see your line going in the future?
It’s been a life long dream for me to have my own line. Now I’ve got it started my hope is to sustain and grow it into a successful label that goes from strength to strength. I’d love to first get it to the point where it’s enough to support me so that I can focus solely on it and not have to work other freelance jobs. From there I’d love to expand it so that I can get my friends and family involved who without their support, I wouldn’t have gotten this far. I not only want to see my future in it but if I can someday offer opportunities to others that would be the ultimate dream. That’s why it’s most important to me that Recollection is made in the USA and remains that way.
You can learn more about Sandra and her collection on her website: Recollection. And be sure to watch her behind-the-scenes video from the photo shoot here.
Connie @ Daydream In Color
July 1, 2011 #
Wow. Such beautiful and inspiring pieces. I love learning about her and her collection. Thanks so much for sharing!
July 1, 2011 #
Thank you for introducing her collection on your site. It’s absolutely beautiful. Love it!
July 1, 2011 #
Wow! Sandra Murphy’s line is gorgeous! I love how ladylike her designs are. I also really agree with her that it’s sad that many people seem to be gearing toward excessive amounts of disposable fashion rather than fewer piece that are higher quality. However, I do thing there is a growing awareness of this issue and people (including myself) are starting to put more thought into what they buy. :)
July 2, 2011 #
Love this. How can I purchase her clothing? The Recollection website doesn’t seem to indicate how to do so.
July 3, 2011 #
Kirsten – This was such a well written piece – lovely interview. I fell in love with Sandra’s line…and even blogged a little about it myself. http://vividengrossments.blogspot.com/2011/07/mid-century-fashion-love.html
Well made is key today and closets filled with disposable clothing is OUT – in MHO. <3
July 4, 2011 #
@ amy, as far as I know ANIK, in New York is the only shop carrying Recollection currently but Sandra is also taking custom orders via her email:
And thank you all for your sweet comments, they are much appreciated! I completely agree with all your thoughts about focusing on quality vs quantity in our clothing–it is an important issue for so many reasons!