Creative Spotlight: Sarah Sidway Godshaw
Interviewed by Alexa Wilson
Sarah Sidway Godshaw is no stranger to designing swimwear. In fact, she's an expert in the field. Sidway, the designer’s very own swim line, is the culmination of years of laser-focused study. Inspired by the iconic supermodels of the 90's, Sidway meshes top quality materials, streamlined modernity, and an unmistakable 90’s flair to help you channel the statuesque power and confidence of those same catwalk regulars. It's a collection that you can tell was made with the know-how and dedication only someone with Sarah’s experience and passion could have. Ahead the designer discusses the network of supportive female entrepreneurs in LA, body positivity, and why you should never be afraid to ask for advice.
Have you always been interested in design?
I've always been interested in design but I think doing it as a job only really interested me after I started design school. I thought I would go to school to learn all the technical construction things so if I went into the fashion industry, I would know more about what I was doing. When I got there, I just got a degree in fashion and it was a really fun process.
There was this other thing where all of the other students I went to school with were super talented and they had really strong art backgrounds. They’d been going to art classes since they were little and they’d always known they were going to go to art school for college. I wanted to do something different since they all wanted to do apparel and work for Alexander Wang, who was the designer when I was in school. I just decided to stick to swimwear because it seemed a little more fun and novelty. It seemed like I wouldn’t have to move to New York and be an intern for 10 years.
Your line is largely influenced by 90’s supermodels, what draws you to that era?
I think the thing about the 90’s supermodels that I like more than the ones today is that the pictures aren’t as touched up and their bodies are more womanly, like they’re really naturally sexy and they don’t look super buff and super shiny and super skinny and super spray tanned. They have this natural feminine sex appeal and I think that the swimsuits back then showed off what people now think of as imperfections as a sexy positive attribute. Looking at all those inspiration pictures and those 90’s babes on the beach that were really tall, sexy, and statuesque made me wanna make swimsuits that make women feel like that.
You’ve worked with brands like Nasty Gal in the past, what inspired you to take the plunge and pursue creating your own line?
Until I had been at Nasty Gal for about 2 years, I didn’t really know that I was ready. Starting the job at Nasty Gal and launching swim and intimates in-house really taught me a lot. At the time, I don’t think that I knew there was so much that I needed to learn. By the time I’d been there and swim and intimate had got going, I learned how to source overseas, how to work with domestic manufacturers, how e-commerce stores works. Before that, I’d only worked on the retail side. Working there with such a strong group of women and doing small units and being able to turn around and respond to the trend so quickly and have such an active role in the whole process got me prepared to be able to start my own line because there was never going to be a job that was closer to having my own line than that experience was.
Were there any initial hurdles to building your business? How did you overcome them?
I think the main hurdle for starting a business is just getting intimidated and overwhelmed and not starting it. The things that really intimidated me were the logistical things--like how do you form an LLC, how do you buy a website and the domain, dealing with things like Legal Zoom, negotiating, and all of the stuff I had never done before because, while I had done design and production, I don’t know how to build a website and I don’t know the legal side of building a business. For me, that continues to be the thing I get overwhelmed with. Every time I complete the most ridiculous logistical thing, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot!
Is there a certain feeling you want to invoke in women when they wear your suits?
Yeah, but I think that a lot of the swim brands out there intentionally do not. I think their imagery ends up promoting the “#thinspiration” aesthetic and they get a lot of fans following their page that are just trying to find very thin models to look at so they can make themselves not eat or go to the gym or to have these unattainable standards. I wanna make swimsuits that you can put on and feel like you have a great body the way you are, not swimsuits that you put on and feel bad about yourself.
We really liked your lookbook in collaboration with Courtyard LA. How did that collab come about?
My favorite part about starting Sidway has been all of the really amazing and supportive women that I’ve met. I’ve met so many people just through Instagram, which is so crazy. I never thought I would make friends on Instagram! But Aaliyah from Courtyard LA reached out to me and asked if I wanted to collaborate in some way. I didn’t really know what she meant by that because I only had the account for a little bit, I was just starting to build the brand. I don’t even think we were selling yet, we just had the samples. She offered to meet us at the beach. I came with my husband, who is a photographer, and the swimsuits and she brought models and vintage clothes and it was just this really kind of free spirited slapdash experience and it worked out amazing. We all just looked at what we had, hung it up on a fence on the side of the beach, and we were like “ok, this will be cute on this girl”. It was just really easy. There was no make up artist, there was no art direction, and there was no formal plan. I think that’s why it ended up coming out so well, it was really unstifled.
Is the way you work usually more intuitive or more planned out?
I’m working on trying to get it to be more planned out but I think it’s more fun when it’s more intuitive. I think that’s more of my natural state.
What advice would you want to share with aspiring designers who either want to work for a brand or start their own line?
I think the first thing would be--don’t be afraid to ask for advice and help. I’ve been really impressed by how incredibly helpful all these other designers and people that own their own companies have been to me. I thought that when I started this everyone would be really competitive and scary and it would be hard to make friends, but it’s been the opposite. People that even have other swim brands have just been telling me anything I need to know and answering any questions from how to ship internationally to how to deal with returns and how to deal with customer service stuff. Any question you have, you can find somebody that will gladly answer your question. A lot of times people just do it because they wanna help and be nice.
My second piece of advice would be to stick to something really specific and learn it. I think a lot of people that go into fashion design end up moving around a lot to different categories. I think if you can decide on a category when you’re younger and you’re starting in your career, it will really help you to become an expert in that and be able to build a successful business sooner.
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be doing?
I’d probably do sales because I’m chatty. But I’m not that good at math and I think salespeople have to do discounts pretty quickly in their head, so I don’t know...I might be unemployed!
What are your favorite vintage shops in LA?
My favorite that I can afford and shop at a lot is Virgo, which is in downtown. They have a lot of really great vintage denim and just really cute, sexy little dresses. It’s really easy. I also really love Scout in West Hollywood they have absolutely the best stuff! Then there's Shareen in downtown which is like a giant warehouse of total insanity, but it’s an experience that I think that's worth the while.
*Images courtesy of brand