Sam Finger challenges gendered clothing and embraces sustainable fashion throughout his collections. He will be showing for the second time ever at September’s New York Fashion Week. He divulges his excitement in creating clothing that inspires and styles that include people of all backgrounds, sizes, and identities. Sam Finger speaks about his upbringing in New York City and how its vibrant fashion culture encouraged him to build his own line of clothing.
Furthermore, we spoke about the crafting of this debut collection - from models to upcycling to telling stories through clothing. We compared the missions of different fashion organisations and talked about Sam Finger’s yearning to provide clothing that treads the line between sustainability and high fashion that is affordable and appealing to all people. Look out for Sam Finger at the 2023 New York Fashion Week!
Congratulations on your upcoming showing of your second collection SS24 at NYFW in September. You first presented your debut collection FW23 at last February’s Fashion Week. What does preparing for an event like this look like to you? And how do you feel to be able to share your platform with a wider audience?
Thank you! The first thing that gets me started is a gut feeling of what I want the show to feel like. Then I work backwards and it continues to evolve from there. I’m very excited and grateful to share the brand with a growing audience! It’s really a dream come true for me.
You attribute much of your design inspiration to New York City, the place where you grew up. Are there any distinct memories from your childhood and upbringing that guided you towards a career in fashion? What are some aspects of New York that speak to you the most when trying to encapsulate its essence in your quote unquote love letter to NY?
I think the city has always inspired me as a whole. In high school, I used to go to this club called Bungalow 8, and the best part was always the outfits. I loved getting ready and seeing what everyone else was wearing. It was a celebrity hang out, and I loved the production of it all, like the heavy eye shadow, fur coats, sheer tops, tights, heels. I still love that today. Paris Hilton and Marc Jacobs would be there, and they really inspired me at the time! I called my first collection A love letter to NY because I wanted to encapsulate the upcoming generations of NY and the sense of freedom I saw in how they express themselves.
Your brand prides itself on upcycling, the practice of making new clothing using old materials, as well as creating and designing clothing via an eco-friendly approach. What is your process when searching for materials? Where do you go, and how do you know if a material is something you’d even want to use in your collection?
I normally get inspired by a concept first; like suiting, or workwear for instance. Then I consider the way in which I can approach the category, whether it be reconstructing old Carhartts, sourcing dead-stock fabrics, or working with textile artists on sustainably produced materials. There are many ways to go about it, so I try to stay really fluid with it and not have too many rules. I used to source a lot in California, but I have become a huge fan of eBay. It’s a bit of a gamble, but if you do your research you can find a lot of gems. Most recently, I have been developing sustainable materials in South America for my upcoming collection this September.
I’m curious to know. Could you speak to how your sustainable creating process looks like and how that differs from other brands that don’t follow sustainable practices?
I include sustainable practices ranging from up-cycling and dead-stock materials to ethically produced new materials, or even my packaging being made from old Muslin scraps on the design floor. I think this results in a lot of experimentation and unexpected outcomes. For instance in our last show, I made a skirt out of 7 pairs of 501 Levi’s. It wouldn’t have had the same effect if I had made it from new denim. I think the beauty is often in its history seeping through.
Many brands, not limited to the fashion industry, are always looking for sustainable approaches to produce their products, but at the same time, there are brands that take shortcuts to output an abundance of mediocre products at a more affordable price, otherwise known as fast fashion. What is your opinion on these two different business models? And besides sustainability, what would you say is another incentive of going with brands that ethically produce instead of succumbing to the moderate and appealing prices of fast fashion?
I understand the need for affordable apparel, and I think it's very important to offer people a good value. Whether you sell lower price point goods or luxury goods, what matters most is the internal culture of a company and whether they take responsibility for their effect on the environment. I think it's a balance that we all need to consider. Like if your only goal is to beat last year's sales, your clothing quality and production ethics will probably be low. But if your only goal is ethical production and design, you can become too expensive for your audience. My goal is to find balance in the spectrum and provide opportunities for people to invest in a Sam Finger piece at varying price points. I think regardless of what side of the spectrum one is on, the incentive should be about choosing brands that not only speak to the customer but also make an effort to improve their environmental impact.
Earlier this year, Elle Fashion did an article about your brand, Sam Finger, and fashion associate, Kevin LeBlanc commented, “When you can see both yourself and Julia Fox wear pieces from the same collection, that’s what we in the [fashion] business call range”. What are some steps you’ve taken to promote the accessibility and “range” of your work to people of all backgrounds? And how do you plan to continue doing so?
I love Kevin LeBlanc’s comment! It was so in line with what I wanted to say with the launch of the brand. I love the drama and creative expression fashion offers, but I also love the wearability of a garment too. Range is something I’m really excited to explore and expand upon in future collections by offering custom sizing, genderless options, varying price points and models that speak to all backgrounds. I want people to feel Sam Finger’s inclusivity when they explore the brand.
Who are some of your favourite designers right now? How do you think these designers contribute to fashion sustainability and to the greater fashion landscape?
Mostly I’m inspired by any designers that take risks and stay true to themselves. Brands like Luar (Raul Lopez), Vaquera, and Puppets and Puppets inspire me for their authentic voices. In regard to sustainability, I think it’s very cool how Hodakova elevates and commercialises their up-cycling practices. That’s always really important to me when up-cycling; creating something that’s in-between being one-of-a-kind and also producible. 
I’m curious to know. Because your collection was manifested prior to the casting of models, what was your mentality when compiling your cast? Did you already have profiles in mind when designing the collection?
I definitely had profiles in mind. I saw a kind of person in each piece as I designed it. But I cast completely through my own community. The universe really opened up at the time, and I felt like I just kept meeting people and being like “Do you want to model?”. It was really fun and organic. I cared more about what the person’s energy was then just a certain look. It was such a special experience and beautiful to see all the models getting along so well after the show. Many are still in touch with each other to this day!
Furthermore, how did the significance of the pieces in your collection change because of the cast that was chosen?
A lot! I love the story each person tells in the clothes. So I cast each model and styled it [along with Jenny Assaf] so that each model told a story unique to themselves. I wanted the clothes to feel like they were elaborating, and at times exaggerating, the models identity.
With NYFW coming up later this year, what is a message that you hope audiences will take away from your collection? And do you have other projects or exhibitions you have planned for after NYFW?
Maybe I’m just feeling the heat this summer, but I definitely want this Spring/Summer to be hot! There’s a visceral feminine power and a wild masculine energy I am playing with. We’ll see how it evolves at the show this September!
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