ICARUS. They specialize in delicate lace, creating beautifully and uniquely designed garments with enough beading to blind the sun. Their designs aim to break gender stereotypes, and turn provocative shame into limitless courage. Every eye-catching piece of clothing is hand-made using high quality materials. Countless hours are spent hand-sewing intricate details, and head designer and business owner, 23-year-old Sarah-Anne Long, meticulously inspects those details to ensure absolute garment perfection. This is the world Sarah was born to work in.
“I’ve always had two strong female fashion icons around me – my mum and my aunty. Saving to buy a new outfit was more important than making sure they had enough money to feed themselves.”
Although she’s always been fashion conscious, it wasn’t until Sarah was 14 that she actively pursued the fashion industry. So eager to work in this area, Sarah lied about her age so she could score a job at a retail outlet, eventually working casually for multiple brands. Two years later, at just 16, Sarah started a styling business that took off in leaps and bounds.
Within weeks, stores were lending Sarah their clothes for the shoots, and people were lining up so they could book Sarah and her styling talents to style their shoots.
“It was crazy but I just went with it!”
Another year on, Sarah took the next step in her career and moved to Sydney to study design at a private fashion college. She was studying, working and interning in the fashion industry, and tapped into her creativity like never before.
“This is where I really felt my creativity flourish. I barely slept and lost a heap of weight (not complaining), but the buzz was all around me, seeing how everything happened, it inspired me to create and work harder every day. I can’t stress how important interning is for anyone wanting a career in fashion. It really thickens your skin, and in fashion, a thick skin is essential.”
But, she was like, crazy busy. Crazy. Busy. Living in Sydney and studying isn’t cheap, and Sarah had to work three jobs just to keep on top of everything. Even so, Sarah never lost sight of her ambition to start a label of her own. In 2012, she graduated her design course, and her final assignment kick-started her label, ICARUS. She had all the encouragement and support of her family, friends and colleagues who were high-key obsessing over her stuff.
“To have people appreciate and actually enjoy your work is an amazing but honestly surprising feeling. Of course I had a few people (mainly teachers), who doubted my creations, but you need those. You don’t want to be loved by everyone; you need some negativity to push you further and make you stronger.”
Um, can we just take a moment to appreciate how humble, headstrong and mature this woman is? The inspiration is real – if someone said they didn’t like my work, I’d literally just crumple into a heap and cry for eight days.
“I didn’t think ICARUS would ever turn into a full-time job, or at least not so soon. I didn’t see myself running a label until I was 30+. There are so many pathways in this industry that I want to explore and learn from before I focus all my attention on my own baby (ICARUS). I love soaking up as much knowledge as I can from those I look up to. I feel like I still need to do more of that before I can bring ICARUS to its full potential.”
Sarah’s inspirations, like so many who work in the creative industry, have no end. For her, it’s a mix of different people, places and stories.
“As an artist everything inspire you, I think the most important thing is to submerge yourself around other creatives. You feed off each other’s creative juices and other artists understand your fears.”
Besides fashion influences, Sarah’s parents constantly inspire her.
This is a cutthroat industry, and Sarah has needed every spec of drive and work ethic she could muster to get where she is today.
“Oh jeez, the amount of roadblocks I ran into was terrifying!”
During her studies in 2012, teachers told Sarah that her collection was nice, but it wouldn’t be well received by the public. It was full of lace pants, tops and shorts, mixed with sheer organza and structured dresses and jackets. Sarah was told it would fail in the market, as no one would wear such ‘risqué’ items out in public. Unshaken by these words and immensely proud of what she’d created and achieved, Sarah posted images of her garments online.
“I didn’t care if people didn’t want to wear them, I wanted to wear them, so that’s all that mattered.”
Then, ICARUS just took off! Her garments fell into the hands of some pretty up-there Instagram models and then basically half of Australia saw her work. From there, things went nuts! Sarah was flooded with emails and she couldn’t keep up with orders.
“I panicked. I wasn’t prepared at all and it really reflected badly. This is the main hurdle that has affected me the most and I’m still working on it. Creating enough quantity for demand – I didn’t expect such a big response so I really didn’t prepare myself.”
Even though it took some time to get into the swing of things, Sarah now has a small production team in Perth who help her out a bunch with the enormous amount of orders she receives. Now, things run pretty smoothly.
One of Sarah’s favourite moments on her ICARUS journey so far was being contacted by Christine Centenera (from Vogue) and Chloe Hill (from Cleo), who asked her to post her images online and do mini write-ups.
“For me this was the biggest moment and the one I’ll never forget, as it was the first time I had put my designs out there, and to receive love from these women that I’ve always fan girl’d over – it blew my mind.”
So cool, right? Other than this incredible moment, Sarah’s other beloved memory was when she initially created her ICARUS Instagram account. The account was just to showcase her work – she wasn’t selling anything at this stage, but Sarah still had hundreds of customers and socialites wanting to purchase her clothes. She would receive emails in great floods asking when her stunning garments would be for sale.
“It was such a breath of fresh air knowing there were more people (other than me) willing to make a statement and wear something so bold.”
So, is it any wonder ICARUS has been so successful? I think we can all agree that her clothes are to die for, her headstrong and humble attitude is inspirational and Sarah is all round slaying the Girl Boss domain. Check out the links below to see more of her work. You know you want to.