story / Alyssa Hardy
photos / Spencer Kohn
grooming for Andrew VanWyngarden / Kodo Nishimura
grooming for Nick Bockrath / Lynsey Laskowski
It’s almost impossible to think of an iconic moment in musical history without recalling the clothing that helped make it so special; Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock fringe, Debbie Harry’s pantless t-shirt, or even Lady Gaga’s meat dress. So what is the relationship between music and style? Clothing designer Sarah Baker, known to her rock and roll clients’ as King Sarah would argue, it’s everything. Sarah has made a career out of making clothing specifically for rock stars, by simply walking up to them and saying, “Can I dress you?” It started with a band called Dreamers. When Sarah saw them play in New York wearing ill-fitting black suit pieces she felt compelled to talk to them about changing their look. Whether it was through intrigue or need, they decided to let her have at their wardrobe, making them her first client in what is now a list of many. In the years since, with the assertiveness of someone in the business for decades, Sarah has managed to make her way into the closets of rock and roll, dressing members from bands like MGMT, Cage the Elephant and The Strokes in her distinctive and artful designs.
Her start in the industry was humble. Like many others in the art and fashion world before her, her hometown was bleak in the style department. “My hometown in New Mexico was voted the worst dressed city in America. Coming from there I always wanted something more than southwestern fringe. I wanted something more interesting, I wanted to meet people more interested in expressing themselves in clothing.” The music industry is probably the most outwardly expressive and free range industry you break into and for Sarah’s wearable avante garde clothing, it is exactly where she wanted to find herself after breaking away from the fringe. “When it came to school, I was a Japanese major living in Hawaii, then I realized I just wanted to do fashion design. So I went to San Francisco and got a bachelors degree in fashion design from the Art Institute of California, San Francisco. Pretty much from the second I decided I wanted to be a designer, I knew I wanted to do menswear and if I could… rock and roll. When I listen to music I think man, I want to dress these guys.”
Like music is to its audience, there something extremely personal about Sarah’s work. It’s original and it speaks to the personality of the person wearing it. It stands out and makes you say, where the hell did you get that. One of Sarah’s clients, Nick Bockrath of Cage the Elephant says, “her work is like psychedelic rock and roll chic, and I love the variety in all of it. She loves music and gets men’s style and her passion shines through in the amazing pieces she makes. I wore the suit Grammy weekend and literally feel like I answered the question “Wow!!! Who made your suit it’s amazing!!” hundreds of times.”
Looking through her recent work, it’s clear that she has a knack for stage wear and a range that makes her a rock and roll godsend. In one image, Andrew Vanwyngar of MGMT wears a full Picton Blue, white spotted suit that’s dapper, but unexpected and fits his stage presence so well, you’d swear it’s the only thing you’ve ever seen him in. There’s the Mother Feather, two women, with an on stage style to rival David Bowie, wearing bright neon spandex, with fringe that Sarah might have borrowed from her home town but turned it on it’s head. There’s also her first client, Nick Wold, who is wearing a black suit jacket with flowers on the shoulders and lapels. Nick says, about wearing King Sarah clothing, “I feel like I am wearing a piece of art! There is always an attempt at expressing something with the clothes she makes for me; artwork on the lining, unique and flashy patterns, skulls for buttons.” Nick loves these suits so much he wore the suit for a full two weeks with a hole in the crotch after ripping it moving equipment. That’s dedication. Perhaps it’s the fact that not only does Sarah care about the person she’s dressing, she cares about how it represents their art.
“Well the thing is when I hear music, I see clothes. Music and clothing have always just gone together in my mind. I guess the reason I always went toward music is because they’re still icons. When it comes to musicians, there’s no real direction, its just a management company saying be more cool, and then we can just take it from there and really develop the musicians look. We work at it together, I’m inspired by the music, and I’m inspired by the musician.”
Whether it’s the music or the person she’s dressing that inspires her first, every piece from the King Sarah line becomes a cohesive tour de force on stage. There’s no doubt that music will always need it’s fashion counterparts and lucky for us King Sarah will be there to dress the rock stars of the future. When asked whether she had any musicians on her radar moving forward she said, “Artic Monkeys, or anything that Alex Turner is involved with. Muse, because…it’s Muse. Maybe Brandon Flowers, because that man can wear the crap out of a suit.”
You hear that Brandon Flowers? You might just be getting a tap on the shoulder soon from someone asking “Can I dress you?”