This year, Vancouver’s Sara Armstrong is marking a decade of working in the fashion industry with a fall capsule featuring the first print she ever designed, which was inspired by a particular dream from her childhood—a stark-white room filled with a mountain of shaking brown and black lines, like vibrating blinds piled high on top of one another. “People would describe me as a very chill, laid-back person,” says Armstrong, “but I’ve always had stress dreams.” The designer was struck by the memory of this particular one. “To me, it’s like organized chaos.”

Armstrong, who started out as an intermedia artist working on installation-based kinetic sculptures with video and audio components, creates from an emotionally informed space. After moving from Saskatchewan to B.C., she took a one-year course in fibre arts and pattern drafting at Vancouver’s Blanche Macdonald Centre. Now, when she’s not working on her eponymous made-to-order label, Armstrong acts as the director of the school’s fashion design program and does costuming for film, television and theatre.

With such a busy schedule, it makes sense that Armstrong’s preferred environment is one of ultimate ease. “I’m a big nester,” she says. “When I design, I think about what activities you’d wear [my pieces] for, but my ‘occasion’ is always being at home.” The desire for familiarity informs her collections, which marry luxury and lounge with high-fashion details for elevated comfort clothes that can do it all. In contrast to the natural fabrics and earth-tone palette of Armstrong’s last capsule, this season taps into a dressier mindset, with draped jersey, metallics and soft silk. “I want it to feel like liquid,” she says. “This collection is about reflectivity and light, which is not usually something I do.”

Sara Armstrong


“Even though the future is digital and 3-D, the fundamentals of craft and handmade patterns are still king. Digitizing makes the process faster, but you still have to understand the basics. Everyone wants to live in this fast paced world, but it takes time to learn a craft. I have signs posted in the classrooms [that say] ‘Preparedness prevents poor performance.’ We also have to recognize our own intentions and move at a pace that we’re able to maintain. Everyone wants to be an influencer or have their brand online, but it actually takes a while to make things.”


“I never intended to be a designer, but fashion seemed to encompass all the things I was already doing in intermedia: sound, music, visuals. For example, fabric can have a certain smell and sound to it, and when I’m choosing fabrics for a collection, I’m thinking about all those elements. It feels like the best medium for me to tell a story right now. In the spirit of this digital realm, I might do a virtual runway [show] or a fashion film.”


“We don’t have a huge industry [in Canada], and it’s harder here because we import everything. A lot of brands don’t stick around for long. My advice for designers who are starting out is to surround yourself with people who want to build you up and are genuinely supportive. Sometimes that means having hard conversations. You have to find people who are honest because you don’t grow by being told that you’re amazing all the time. It seems like such a simple thing, but it really goes a long way.”