This upcoming spring season, however, the designer notes that the collection will take a slightly different tack, moving away from her typical sobriety. “There’s going to be much more freshness, more colors and prints,” she says. “It’s something I haven’t done in a long time. I don’t want to be pigeonholed as a dark, moody designer.” Wauchob opens her purse and pulls out an oversize plastic bag full of a hodgepodge of items, all offering a sneak peek at spring—it’s a whole other color story.
“When something’s slightly out of context, that’s when it feels right. It’s kind of a formula that isn’t a formula.”
There’s a sketch, for instance, with various strips of fabric attached, one of which, a watery blue print, is being recycled from an old collection of hers. Wauchob then draws out a small chain-mail handbag that belonged to her grandmother and explains how she’s using its multicolor handpainted elements as inspiration. And there are loose fabric samples, including a beautiful metallic-embroidered silk swatch and a white woven floral jacquard. She flips the latter over, exposing the underside of the fabric, which is covered in fringe. “Usually, nobody will see this, because the factories cut it all off,” Wauchob says. She plans to use the fabric in reverse, uncut shaggy side out, to make for some intriguing texture. “I like how it’s a bit accidental,” she continues, “so none of it becomes too contrived.”
After Wauchob graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 1993, she was hired by designer Koji Tatsuno to work in textiles and spent four years in his Paris atelier. She followed her time there with a very different stint working on accessories at Louis Vuitton in 1997, just as Marc Jacobs was arriving at the company. “It helped me to understand the two extremes of Paris fashion, seeing it from an independent’s view and also being aware of how it works from inside one of the bigger houses,” she says.
The dual perspective may have helped pave the way for Wauchob’s success as an independent. “Her runway show might come across as more experimental, but that’s the whole beauty of Sharon’s talent,” says Sarah Rutson, fashion director of the Hong Kong–based retailer Lane Crawford. “Each item, when broken down, is actually so easy to wear. She has an aesthetic that is intelligent without being too complicated for a wider audience. From her first season [with us five seasons ago], we had incredible sell-throughs, which for a new-generation designer to have from the get-go is rare. And Sharon is also an extremely astute businesswoman.” Wauchob’s current retailers number more than 100 in 23 countries and include Holt Renfrew, Ron Herman and Henri Bendel.