Tusting Talks… to Sarah Kate Byrne
This week we sit down with leading sustainable stylist, Sarah Kate Byrne. We first met Sarah back in 2021, since when she has drawn on Tusting handbags for several clients and recently we asked her to style some of our spring collection with her favourite vintage designer finds. After effortlessly styling herself, modelling the bags whilst entertaining us with non-stop funny stories as we worked , we quizzed her to find out where she pulls her styling inspiration from (and learn, with some relief, that even professional stylists can have mishaps…).
Tell us about your career so far and how you got into styling
My career has been varied to say the least! I read Law at Trinity College Dublin and my first job was at a law firm based on Lincolns Inn in London. I knew suits and the city weren’t for me though, so after running off to do a ski season I ended up working in luxury tailor-made travel for Scott Dunn. I adored my time there and travelled to lots of incredible places, staying in some amazing hotels and made lifelong friends.
Having always been interested in vintage fashion I started to sell some of my finds on the side. This led me to set up an e-commerce business in the vintage space. As Creative Director, it was my job to find PR opportunities and get people talking about vintage. Enter Francesca Cumani, who had been a friend for many years and, as it turned out, was in need of a stylist for her role as ITV Racing presenter. I grew up in a racing family in Ireland so I understood the etiquette that each race meeting required. And the rest is history!
Seven years on, I work as a freelance sustainable stylist for private and commercial clients and specialise in occasion-wear, mixing contemporary sustainable fashion with vintage finds. I am also currently project-managing a heritage building site on Piccadilly (I’ve been studying for a Master’s degree in historic buildings – it’s something I wanted to extend my knowledge of). Juggling wearing PPE one day and a glamorous photoshoot the next is amusing!
Tell us about your style ethos
My style ethos is to champion and support beautifully made, timeless brands whose pieces can be cherished for a long time and end up as future vintage. I don’t believe in fast fashion and I give pieces away to friends when I know they will be loved that little bit more. I am constantly throwing open my wardrobe to friends and strangers as I want them to look a million dollars and I know I can help easily. Everyone can be stylish but most lack the resources & time or are afraid to mix it up.
How can we all make more sustainable choices with our wardrobes?
The movement towards sustainability in the fashion industry is so long overdue. It has been a slow burner, and I have had so many pushbacks from various outlets since I started out as a stylist, as from day one, I was championing re-wearing, charity shop finds and avoiding questionably made fashion. I do think the tide is turning with so many people moving towards rental platforms, re-sale platforms and vintage shopping becoming mainstream. And also people appreciating again that local is the best, be it your food or clothes!
Know your brand, who made your clothes or accessories and ask yourself if it can last the pace. I adore Tusting exactly for that reason – British-made, a heritage brand with an amazing back story of resilience and evolution. My little red Mini Cardington is quite the gal about town and is still as beautiful as the day she arrived!
Any styling mishaps you can share?
Mishaps that are amusing, yes! I once had to sew the sleeves of Francesca Cumani’s coat up on the ad break of ITV Racing during the Aintree Grand National coverage, as the threads went on both sides. I was being counted down by the floor manager, to make sure I wasn’t in vision! I have always favoured a ‘homeward bounder’ stitch when sewing though, so I managed it a little too easily. My granny would be proud and disappointed in equal measure.
Where do you get your styling inspiration from?
I don’t own a TV and rarely buy a magazine, so I think it must be Instagram mainly. I follow a lot of vintage shops and iconic photography accounts, and I am constantly saving things that catch my eye. That said, I do tend to be quite reactive when styling. So with this shoot for Tusting, I needed to see the bag we were going to shoot, and then I would be inspired on what to pair it with. I adopt pretty much the same approach with clients and shoots.
Most treasured wardrobe item?
Does my side saddle habit count?! If so, then it would be my two side-saddle habits – this is the “suit” you wear when riding side-saddle that consists of a jacket & apron (skirt) & a waistcoat. I have an antique one from 1934 and a bespoke one I had made for a very special event at Goodwood. They are so elegant and feminine.
What are your ultimate styling tips?
Accessories are king! A statement bag, a great belt, a well-tied scarf or some epic costume jewellery will elevate even the simplest outfit. Also, bright colours always win as they are show-stealers. Be comfortable and be prepared are my mantras too.
What does the rest of 2023 have in store for you?
Francesca is back on TV after a maternity break, which means a whole season of race days ahead, each with its own unique dress code. Ascot calls for lots of prep as we will go all out with the millinery choices, while Goodwood will be a little more paired back and playful. I have some commercial shoots on the horizon as well as private clients, such as mother of the bride and milestone birthdays. It is going to be a busy summer, that’s for sure!
What’s in your bag?
In my Tusting bag I assume you mean?! Well, my red Mini Cardington is deceptively roomy and I can cram my phone, battery pack, ubiquitous Mac Lady Danger lipstick and some tissues in there. I think I could squeeze a pair of my go-to flat shoes, Rothys (epic sustainable backstory), in the big sister version! And then if you give me a shoulder bag… well, I will fill it – laptop, sunglasses, my diary, endless receipts, chaos basically. Oh, and always a snack lurking in there too. And more often than not, my Waitrose shop stacked to brim-full!