Q&A | A Company founder, Sara Lopez

by Morgan Vickery

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A Company is the conceptual fashion brand founded in 2018 by Sara Lopez. Raised in the hill country of South Texas, Sara became fascinated by the natural world and its manipulation through humankind. After graduating from the University of Minnesota and studying couture in Paris, she worked under the designer Rachel Antonoff before embarking on A Company.

The design approach of A Company deconstructs traditional wardrobe staples and reorients them into a well-structured yet surrealist garment. Focusing on one staple, Sara builds a collection article by article. The trench coat inspired her first collection, and her second, most recent collection paid homage to the suit. With a focus on sustainability, A Company rejects mass production; encouraging wearers to be conscious of clothing life and longevity. We spoke with the up-and-coming designer to discuss A Company, her mission, and her knowledge in conceptual and functional designs.

Tell us about the inception and mission behind A Company.

The name came about in a sort of accidental purposeful way. I was working on the business model, large concept ideas, initial branding and the like, and still hadn’t come up with a name, so I created a folder on my desktop called ‘A COMPANY’, as a placeholder. As time passed, the notion of a generic brand name, with an article signifying its specificity, became curious to me. What is ‘A Company’? What would ‘A Company’ of one look like? There are multitudes of hands who are critical to this brand, and I wanted to give voice to all, minimizing the singular and focusing on the collective. And then of course, there’s its reference to tradition, which I pull a lot of inspiration from: the uniform of the business world and classic tailoring and silhouettes. Also, its nod to the military, whose functional uniforms and innovations have undoubtedly impacted and informed our everyday wardrobes. I also love the missing ‘c’ that can be heard in how someone might pronounce A Company. Because isn’t that a critical role clothing occupies? It accompanies us through all moments in life acting as a physical veil between the internal and external worlds.

After working with Rachel Antonoff for 5 years, spending a year freelancing and consulting, and taking some time to lay in the grass at my parents’ small ranch in Texas, I began A Company as a container to move around the ideas that have been consuming my mind for years. A space where clothing could be critiqued as any other object, investigated, dismantled, and live in constant dialogue between the maker, wearer, and everyday. The collections do not adhere to specific seasons, but instead take one item from the common western wardrobe as a starting point, essentially building a new wardrobe collection by collection, article by article. We focus on longevity and reject the idea of over mass production; therefore, each style will ever only be produced in limited quantities of 144 pieces. Encouraging wearers to hold, mend, and cherish the clothes for years. We hope the clothes will act as the initiation to think differently about clothing and the body within them.

After graduating with a BS in Clothing Design from the University of Minnesota, you studied couture in Paris from dressmakers and designers. What did you gain most from that experience?

There are few moments in my life which have altered me as much as that one. It could seem trite, this story of going from the midwest to Paris, but I suppose sometimes those narratives exist for a reason. I had an unparalleled design professor and mentor who challenged me in the most necessary ways and encouraged all of my strange musings. There was a freedom I found there which initiated the foundation of much thinking I still hold.

And my couture sewing and draping teachers, who were retired from working for houses such as Mme. Grès, Yves Saint Laurent, and Nina Ricci, were paramount to my knowledge of the craft and these methods which are sadly dying quite rapidly.

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How has your expertise in design helped to understand the connection between the body and space?

The barrier of clothing has always interested me: these spaces between body and cloth, cloth and environment. I especially enjoy paying attention to the negative spaces. How do our limbs interact with one another… the space between our fingers, or our upper arm to the ribs, how flesh folds on flesh, and how do these parts interact with the objects around us? How does clothing communicate with these interactions? How do clothes inhibit or encourage movement? And how does that inform our experience in the world?

My knowledge of fit and function, of course, assists me in design, but honestly, it’s these improv somatic movement classes I go to as frequently as I can that have been most beneficial. They reorient my mind and open a new way of seeing how we can move within and occupy space. I recommend them to everyone I meet!

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What’s the importance of ‘Variants of Relation’ from The Fashion System to you?

Roland Barthes’ The Fashion System, was one of the books I read while designing this collection. He’s mostly dissecting fashion language and destabilizing words and ideas he’s gathered from fashion magazines. Ultimately seeing clothing as a metaphor, he investigates what makes one sign more important or valuable than another. He takes almost a scientific approach. Words and garments become specimens. There are these wonderful tables and graphs included throughout.

It resonated in the way I approach design— dismantling and critically reorienting traditional shapes.

The chapter ‘Variants of Relation’ speaks to the relationship between garments within ensembles, details within a specific garment, symmetry versus asymmetry in regards to clothes and the body, and overall, gave some context and direction to how I was thinking about the collection.

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Tell us about your suiting inspiration for season two of A Company.

I find it interesting that the modern suit has largely remained unchanged for over 120 years. Given that fashion styles are always influx, it’s the ones that stay around that make me curious. And though the suit is seen as a traditionally male uniform, women have been wearing it for years, beginning with the first recorded woman Sarah Bernhardt in the 1870s. For season two, I chose to focus on how women adopted this outfit as a kind of protection in the ’80s, to navigate a largely male business world, showing a rejection of the traditional feminine and reinforcing an idea that mimicking the conventional man meant strength and success.

Simply as an object, the suit has very powerful lines: creating this upside down triangle, elongating the body and putting emphasis on the shoulders. There is no doubt the garment speaks loudly, regardless of its cultural narrative.

The suit has played a huge role in bridging a gap between business and gender worlds. It allowed women to function within a space not previously open to them, representing new freedom. Whereas for men, the suit is still a requirement in both business and social spheres, representing a more restrictive symbol. It’s that duality I sought to explore.

I made many pieces in the collection that blur the lines between gender-ness of the garments (i.e., how they button and zip, the inclusion of interior welt pockets on the jackets, etc). Ideally hoping to erase these boundaries, I aimed to create pieces that highlight woman-ness and male-ness, hoping men will adopt from women’s wardrobes and women from men’s, because we’re all a bit of both and ultimately neither.

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How do you approach both conceptual and functional designs in your work?

It’s a constant tension I have fun playing with. I most enjoy the potential clothing carries to alter the way we exist in the world. And, as a wearer, I know I won’t wear something that feels uncomfortable. Honestly, my wardrobe consists mostly of jeans and t-shirts. So, during the development process aside from fitting on the dress form and model, I make sure to try on every drape, deconstruction, fitting muslin and sample. I like to know how something feels and make adjustments accordingly. I aim to make intellectual design still quite pedestrian and not too precious. Though I do find much intrigue in inanimate clothing, activated clothes excite me the most.

In what ways do you hope your wearers to be introspective?

I’ll defer to Joseph Beuys’ on this, “I don’t give a damn. You can nail the suit on the wall. You can also hang it on a hanger, ad libitum! But you can also wear it or throw it into a chest.”

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What’s your favorite piece from season two, and why?

Oh, that’s a difficult question! Perhaps the one that brings me the most humor and still inquiry is the ‘All Fitting Bra Top.’ I love hearing how other people interpret it. Some say it reminds them of wearing their mother’s bra when they were young or seeing their grandmother’s bra for the first time, some reference Madonna… it’s been interesting to hear how many personal stories and nostalgia it evokes.

I enjoy the collapse of form… this notable absence.. and thinking about what that means. I’m curious about all the ways our bodies evolve throughout our lives, breasts naturally changing shape or being removed electively or not. I was also thinking about what it could look like for a male body to borrow this ultra-feminine garment since traditionally women have primarily borrowed from the male wardrobe but not the reverse. And if I hoped to make the suit a neutral garment… could that be possible with the bra?

I also just found it hilarious.

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Photography by: Danielle Alprin