Sarah Sclarandis is an Italian born, New York based accessories and shoe designer. Her influences have been international from the start, having been raised by her Egyptian mother in Torino, Italy and all over the UK. This multicultural childhood and her glamorous parents’ artistic lifestyle led young Sarah to crave terra firma , that place where your feet hit the ground. Her obsession with shoes was born. After designing footwear for the best fashion houses for 25 years she is now making the shoes she’s always wanted to wear. This Beyond Mom shares with us how she takes on fear and daily practices that help her connect to positivity and productivity. She also explains why the arrival of her two daughters saved her!
What makes you a Beyond Mom?
Before becoming a mother, I was fully focused on my career as women’s shoe designer – I went above and beyond when it came to sacrificing myself for the job. In a way, the arrival of our two daughters (now 9 and 8 years old) saved me.
Of course, having children reprioritizes your life, and I became determined to spend as much of time as possible during the girl’s early years. Once they started to go to school and start asking questions like what work I did for a living, I started to reassess what my professional goals were. They definitely did not involve going back to my previous life – I wanted more control over my time, my destiny. I also wanted to set a good example for my girls, and starting my own shoe line under my name Sclarandis was part of that. As risky as it was to start a company on my own and handle virtually everything – design, factory and material outsourcing, technical review, fittings, sales, shipping, social media and advertising – I wanted to show my girls that dreams are worth pursuing.
Maybe right now, our girls can’t fully appreciate it, but maybe in time they will remember the hard work and determination that I put into this venture. And maybe, down the line, if they ever came to the crossroads that I did, they’ll think to themselves, “My mom did this, so can I,” and it will have been worth it.
What are the parts of you that have grown and expanded since becoming a Mom?
MY FEET. Following two pregnancies, my feet actually went up a size and became wider. Before, I loved wearing the skyscraper heels that were gorgeous and excruciating. A couple of foot surgeries later, I realized that I needed to find shoes that were sexy but something I could wear all day, every day. The problem was that these weren’t easy to find. Sclarandis shoes are also grew out of that desire — I feel really gratified when customers say that they love the feel of the leathers and how comfortable they are.
Having been a mother for a relatively long while, it’s a bit difficult to evaluate how I’ve changed. I like to think that I’ve always been patient and empathetic and loving. What I do know is as difficult and tiring it is to take care of kids until they are about 5-6 years old, the real part of parenting takes place afterwards, when you’re able to have more meaningful conversations with them and they have questions to which you don’t have easy answers. In other words, don’t be obsessed about changing diapers – they’ll be bigger challenges ahead.
Can you share a collaboration/success story with another woman; what helped the collaboration become successful?
Sclarandis has been in business for a relatively short time, so I am constantly seeking ways to collaborate with others. One recent instance was when I went to a birthday party our girls were invited to and I met Pauline Niakos, the owner of a luxury apparel company for women, Leo & Sage. I loved Pauline’s energy and her willingness to help out a fellow businesswoman. She ended up hosting a shopping party for my shoes, along with her clothes, and it was such a wonderful event. So this was an interesting intersection of the old-fashioned view on being a mother, attending your child’s birthday party, and the more modern incarnation of an entrepreneurial mother.
Any successful collaboration should have generosity and respect. Any joint project should start with the parties being willing to give what they can, to have that open heart. There are bound to be differences in opinion on significant matters – what is important is being open to other ideas and giving the space and consideration they deserve.
What relationships help you stay connected to yourself?
No matter how stressful work becomes and I see flashes of the worst-case scenario happening, it’s always good to look at my children and my husband. All the success in the world doesn’t mean much if they don’t have good health and well-being. Just by being there for me, they keep me pointed in the right direction.
Having been born and raised in Torino, Italy, I’ve always appreciated and valued the concept of a strong network of friends and extended family. In the end, those are the most rewarding relationships, where you feel like you are someone they can count on and vice versa.
Do you have a ‘Beyond’ dream that you are pursuing?
The dream now . . . is staying in business! Creating a company with a nice website and good product is not the goal for me. I want a business that will survive and then thrive, and for that to happen, I realize that I will need to bring in people with other skill sets. If I were being wildly optimistic, I would want this company to have some sort of socially-responsible and philanthropic bent. I’ve never been driven by pure profit – there needs to be something positive that I’m contributing to society.
On a more personal scale, I’ve always kept in mind the need to maintain a proper work-life balance. With instantaneous communications and increased competition, it’s something that many of us struggle with, especially in New York, but I would find professional or financial “success” to be a hollow victory if I can’t spend time with my family and if I can’t share moments with them.
What wellness activity can you not live without? What is one thing you do daily that balances you?
Part of starting a business is getting over your fear. Fear of the inadequacy of your ability. Fear of losing hard-earned money. Fear of regressing in your career. I have to admit that it took me quite a while to forge through this fear (which is still lingering, by the way).
Over the past several years I’ve read about psychology and getting over your fears, and what I’ve realized is that negative self-talk is extremely damaging. It’s like dealing yourself a crippling blow before you’ve even started. I’ve done a number of things on a daily basis that have helped: repeated mantras, done breathing exercises, prayed, meditated. Just keeping a quiet mind for several minutes before facing a deluge of emails and to-do items can put me in a better place.
How does style influence the way you stay feeling ‘Beyond’? Who is currently your favorite designer?
Many people can relate to putting on a piece of clothing – regardless of whether it’s bought brand new, bought secondhand, gifted by someone – and feeling better about himself or herself. I’ve done my fair share of buying trendy clothes and while I’ve felt great wearing them, I notice that the pieces that stay in my closet longer are those that are timeless and can work in any era. That was the driving force behind many of my designs for Sclarandis.
Favorite Local Spots that Embody The Beyond Mom:
During the summer, when the days are long and the weather is mild and both my husband and I can get out of work a little early, we like to go out, get some food and go to Washington Square Park, which is close to where we live. Then we park ourselves on a bench and table and eat our dinner, a casual mini picnic, topped off with a gelato from Amorino. I find myself wanting to go anywhere in New York where you can enjoy nature.
Beyond Cocktails and/or Food:
When I have an opportunity to go out without kids, I tend to go toward places that are busy but somehow allow some quiet conversation and pockets of intimacy. Temple Bar on Lafayette Street, which is close to where we live, is one of those places.
In the course of my work, I visited Asia often, and my husband is half-Japanese and half-Chinese, so we end up eating at a lot of Asian places, anywhere from the hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Chinatown to more upscale Japanese, like Ootoya. Good thing our daughters love Asian food too.
Yoga on Saturday mornings – it’s a great way to calm the mind and get a good stretch in. Wish I had more time to work out.
With Sclarandis taking so much of my time, all of my shopping is online. I rarely go shopping in retail stores now. Two years ago, when I started thinking about starting my business, it wasn’t clear whether an online-only business could actually succeed. Now, I’m still not sure of the answer, but it’s becoming clear that going the route of brick-and-mortar stores is becoming less appealing. The world feels like it’s moving faster than ever, but I don’t think the answer is necessarily trying to keep up. It should be more about finding your lane and your niche and your pace and sticking to it.