Kat’s closet deep dives: The sustainable wardrobe of Catherine Sarca ’24

Feb. 22, 2023, 2:17 p.m.

“Kat’s closet deep dives” is a series of interviews with Stanford students about their personal style, where they find inspiration, their views on campus fashion trends and their thoughts on the future of fashion and sustainability. 

In this first installment, Kathryn “Kat” Zheng ’24 sat down with Catherine Sarca ’24 to discuss her vintage sustainable wardrobe and experiences working at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) and designing clothes for FashionX’s recent runway.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

The Stanford Daily [TSD]: How would you describe your style in a few words? 

Catherine Sarca [CS]: Sustainable, comfortable and vintage. 

TSD: How did you become interested in fashion? 

CS: I became interested in making clothes in general because I used to watch a lot of “Say Yes to the Dress” and “Project Runway,” and I ended up drawing designs in sketchbooks and all that. What I love about fashion especially is just the creative expression, and you can tell a lot about a person from what they wear.

TSD: Where would you say you usually shop? 

CS: A lot of thrift stores. Or, actually, I shop at a lot of online thrift stores — Thredup, The RealReal. And I’ve also recently been really getting into Rent the Runway. I think I get a lot of inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram, so I try to be as conscious as I can in terms of what I’m getting for my closet and seeing if I’m actually going to wear this or if it’s something that’s just going to be in my closet for a while.

TSD: Are there any specific brands you really like? 

CS: I really like Theory and Vince — very simple, clean looks. There are also high fashion brands that I try to model my looks after. I really like some of the looks from Miu Miu and Prada, as well as Saks Potts and Cecilie Bahnsen. I like a lot of Copenhagen and Denmark-based brands that are very sustainable. 

TSD: What are some of your favorite pieces in your closet? 

CS: My favorite pieces in my closet are all thrifted. There’s a specific dress that I got in Dublin — it’s a tiered blue dress from a vintage shop that usually specializes in costumes, but they had some really cool 1950s dresses, and I think that’s my favorite piece. I also have a really cool transparent blouse from Urban Outfitters that’s secondhand, and you can definitely layer it on top of a lot of things. I also love my Comme des Garcons Converse, because even if you’re wearing a very simple outfit, they always elevate it a bit. 

TSD: What are some details that you look for when you shop? 

CS: I really look for quality and something that could be long-lasting, so that’s why I like shopping at secondhand stores. And I really like playing with textures and knits and all of that, so I think I always look for that too. When I go to the thrift store, I kind of just move my hand around the rack and feel the clothes. And then I’ll pick something up, and I’ll see, oh, maybe it’s something that I can transform or upcycle, because that’s always something I think you can do with clothes too.

TSD: You worked at New York Fashion Week this past summer — what was that like? 

CS: It was very chaotic but fun, and I got to see what it’s really like to be backstage. I worked for this designer called Bach Mai and I was able to go in the weekend before his show and see how fittings work with models and how to do finishing touches on a dress that we were working on for his finale. It was all a team-based like effort — it’s not just Bach Mai by himself. You have his assistant designers, the people who are working backstage, the makeup, the hair — it’s everyone trying to send out the models in their best looks and really bring to life what Bach Mai and his assistant designers have envisioned. It was really cool to meet him and the other people who were working backstage, and I hand-sewed some of the flowers on his finale dress.

Catherine Sarca stands between two student models, Valeria Gonzalez and Stephanie Unur wearing Sarca's own designs.
Sarca at the FashionX Runway event held at the Cantor, with models Valeria Gonzalez ’23 (left) and Stephanie Unur ’24 (right) wearing two of Sarca’s designs. (Photo courtesy of Catherine Sarca)

TSD: You’re also working on some of your own pieces right now for the FashionX Runway show. What’s that like, and what inspired you? 

CS: It’s honestly been a very exciting experience bringing my looks to life. I’ve been developing my sewing skills more this year through working at the costume shop and upcycling stuff on my own, which has really been a whirlwind of a journey. Both looks I decided to showcase are skirt and top sets. I really enjoyed playing around with the recycled fabrics — one of the fabrics is a green mustard fabric that I got from the costume shop. They had a 1920s costume dress, and they were giving a bunch of stuff away, but I really saw something in it, so I totally transformed it into a set. The other fabric I used is from a white linen skirt that I got in Dublin, but I wasn’t wearing it as much, so I thought it would be a really cool fabric to play around with. I dyed it with black beans so it came out to be this really cool purple tie-dye color. 

I was inspired by florals and really making sure that I was using sustainable fabrics and not buying new materials, because there’s so much that can be upcycled — old pieces that maybe need some love and just need some creativity to transform them into something new. 

TSD: What role do you think fashion plays in your day-to-day life?

CS: It’s something we all have in common, right? We all choose something to wear every day. I think sometimes when you think of fashion, people think it’s a little bit frivolous, but there’s so many aspects to fashion in terms of self-expression, or when it comes to fashion as a business or making the industry more sustainable. In my personal life, I think it’s definitely a form of self-expression — and maybe I do dress a little bit more comfortably or in activewear sometimes, but I’m still putting clothes on. At the end of the day, it’s something that someone designed and someone put in an effort to design. Fashion is something I definitely want to pursue, whether it be on the business side, in sustainability or by actually designing the clothes.

TSD: How do you like to accessorize? 

CS: I keep it really simple. I have one ring that I wear literally almost every day — it’s this enamel ring. I wear a lot of gold jewelry. I have this initial necklace that I got for my birthday from my mom, and then I used to have another necklace that I layered with it that was just a simple gold necklace with this cubic zirconia flower charm. But then that chain broke, so I just put the charms together, and that’s a necklace I wear almost every day. 

TSD: What are your least favorite and favorite trends right now?

CS: Least favorite: I heard that the skinny jean is coming back, and I don’t necessarily like that. I really like oversized denim. And favorite trend: I think I really do like the reemergence of ballet flats and these simple, sweet silhouettes. I’ve seen a lot of rosettes on the runway, and there’s also been a lot of red on the runway recently. I really like those cool, bold colors paired with ballet flats.

TSD: What would you say the style profile of this campus is? 

CS: I feel like there’s such a range. Because it’s wintertime, I feel like I’ve seen a lot of really cool sweaters — especially Fair Isle sweaters. And then I see some really cool patterns in knitwear — greens and blues and all that. I feel like it definitely depends on people’s personality. But I definitely, definitely see an overall laid-back look, which is totally understandable — we’re in California. 

TSD: Last question — what advice would you give to someone who’s trying to shop more sustainably?

CS: Definitely try looking online — I’m an avid user of ThredUp. If you’re looking for a new top from Urban, I’m pretty sure you’re going to find something similar to that style, either on Thredup or Poshmark or Depop. There’s also a really cool Chrome extension that I use a lot — I think it’s called Changing Room. If you’re looking for a specific item online, it shows you suggestions on secondhand sites like Thredup or Poshmark. 

And it’s always good to just go to the thrift store. Yes, it might take a little time, but I feel like it’s the way to go, especially with fast fashion and everything.

Editor’s note: To nominate yourself or a friend to be interviewed in the next edition of Kat’s Closet Deep Dives, fill out this Google Form: https://forms.gle/JTziRfFU1s9hxiLi7

Kathryn Zheng ’24 is from New Jersey. She is majoring in Economics and currently writes for Arts and Life as a columnist under the Culture desk.

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