Saratoga Springs-based fashion designer, Staci Snider, is a force to be reckoned with. As a designer, she pushes boundaries, utilizing high-tech fabrics and embracing femininity while incorporating elements of men’s tailoring and architecture. As a woman, she is fierce, fabulous and unabashedly changing the face of fashion. She’s not afraid to take risks, and doesn’t follow trends; instead, she creates them. I was fortunate enough to sit with her at her boutique in Saratoga Springs for a conversation and learn more about what drives her.
Rachel Dunn (RD): Let’s start by you telling me a bit about yourself and the Snider brand.
Staci Snider (SS): I am originally from Saratoga and went to university on a track and field scholarship. After undergrad and retiring from athletics, I went to grad school for fashion design earning my MFA. I started my label after I worked about a decade combined in Europe and Mexico. I was recruited back to New York by a NYC showroom where I started my label and have had it now seven years.
Because of my background in track and field, the fashion line has a lot of athletic influences, from functionality to form. I work with a lot of high-tech fabrics. Overall, the brand has more of a European sensibility than an American sensibility, because most of my training – even in grad school – was with European instructors/artists or working in Europe, so there is a different type of feel to the label.
RD: Do you think that European sensibility translates here for people?
SS: I think they’re getting it more and more. But honestly, with this brand, they either get it or they don’t. In the end, there have been people in the area that have shopped with me since grad school. And that’s the thing, if they buy into the brand, it’s because the pieces show a little bit more individualism than the typical mainstream brand, so it sets people apart a little bit with more uniqueness.
RD: You said that athleticism influences your aesthetic. What else inspires or influences you?
SS: It kind of depends on what’s going on in the world. This past year’s been really tough, obviously, for anyone but for me sports is a huge part of my life. So the Fall 2021 collection’s inspiration is English soccer club teams, because that was one of the only sports on TV [during COVID] so I watched a lot of soccer this past year. But it just depends. Lines and structure are also a huge influence in each collection so I pull from a lot of architecture, like the architectural work of Zaha Hadid. It kind of just depends on what inspires me.
I mean, I’m all set for Spring 2022. which again COVID life brought things back to a more simple life and that will come through in the collection for next year, though with a lighter, more cheerful color palette.
RD: Watching soccer during COVID influenced your design, but how did the pandemic affect your business as a whole?
SS: Well, sales were definitely down in the shop and in my stores around the country. Being able to dropship was the saving grace with online sales. It is starting to transition back. Because I’m a small boutique and a small designer, I’m getting a lot of support from my clients and that’s great. I do think there’s going to be a shift from people shopping in department stores to back to a more personal experience, but people are still in the mindset of shopping online due to the pandemic. I do send packages out for people to try stuff on and see what works works. What doesn’t, they can send back.
I also did just do a debut men’s collection to kind of just get some inspiration and a different design aesthetic going, so that was good.
RD: What inspired you to design for men because I know it’s definitely a different part of your brain, right?
SS: It is, it is. But it’s funny because in grad school I took a lot of men’s tailoring classes, because I always wanted to bring that level of technical design into my work. Menswear is much trickier inside the garment than one lets on and way trickier than women’s garments, so I’ve always tried to pull that aspect into my womenswear. I used to do men’s linen trousers for pro golfers in Mexico, so that was good experience. But what I was finding is that every man I was talking to in Saratoga, they were no longer going into the office. They were all working from home where it’s like they still need to look good but it is a more relaxed environment. So, it’s like will men go back to wearing a suit? I think some will, but some will transition out probably permanently.
I am grateful that, in our area, people still want to get dressed up, like our women are ready to get back into the usual Saratoga Summer festivities. So hopefully people will not be in sweat pants anymore from COVID life, but people did change what they’re wearing on a daily basis.
RD: Do you see that having a lasting impact on fashion?
SS: I hope not. It’s terrible. (We both share a laugh over a future full of sweats.) I mean I am not for sweat pants or any of that. My stores in the South have told me that women have not gone back to what they normally wore before, so they are still wearing very casual clothes at a lower price point. But you know, with us [here in Saratoga], we have so many events and there’s always something going on in this town so people are eager to get to know what our new normal is.
RD: Speaking of Saratoga, you mentioned that you are originally from here but have lived all over the world. What brought you back?
SS: I was in New York City before this and I really had no work-life balance. I am all-in so it’s hard for me to create balance when I can just work all the time and there’s always work to do. Being in a big city environment, I was just working insane hours, so I felt like I got to the point where I was like, OK to create more balance I need to remove myself. I don’t need someone to push me, I do that fine enough on my own. I wanted to remove myself from the intense environment and put myself kind of in the country with a more relaxed environment where I could create more of a day-to-day balance and a healthier lifestyle.
RD: Now that you’ve been here a couple years, how do feel that’s been working?
SS: It’s fantastic. It’s interesting now, you know, with COVID hitting and all the City people that have moved up here. I was happy that I hit that wave before it came and that’s where I am now. Before I work, I take a run, and take time to go out with my friends. I’ve also picked up new sports and that’s been an important part of my day too. It also helps me be able to work more effectively. So it’s been good.
RD: You mention the large number of people that are moving up here from the City. Have you connected to other creative people in the community?
SS: Yes, the ones that I’ve connected with were already here. There have been a couple from the City that I have connected with and they’re actually interested in relocating, so they want to know how the transition is. You have to find your tribe wherever you are and that’s what I do. I have a couple of very good creative people in my life, where we think the same way and work the same way and that’s important. You know, in the City, you might have a lot more people that are similar but it’s also super competitive and you don’t have a ton of time to have a social life.
RD: So there’s a more collaborative spirit here?
SS: Yes, in fact, I have a call today at 3 o’clock with an Italian furniture company, Calligaris, and a Belgian handbag line, Hedgren. We’re doing a collaboration during Fashion Week in September. The models will be wearing my clothes – Fall 2021 – and holding the Belgian handbags on & around the furniture. It’s kind of something outside of the box for buyers. They can attend, have hors d’oeuvres and cocktails and view art.
I think the future will hold a lot of collaborations with different mediums coming together. It is always fun to work with other artists and to feed off of each others creative energy. This summer, I would like to do an event with Jonathan Sweet here in town. His furniture design aesthetic is similar to the design lines of my clothes, so I think that would be cool to do something creative with him as well.
RD: Earlier, you mentioned that when it comes to your aesthetic for the brand, people either get it or they don’t get it. So who would be your ideal client?
SS: Normally, I would say my average client is mid-50s and a CEO. But really, it’s women that are confident in who they are and who don’t want to look like everyone else. They’re completely comfortable wearing a bold outfit and walking into a room and taking over.
And I have some women that, you know, they’re actually quite conservative who make their own play on the clothes and that’s what is good. It’s making sure your personality comes through in the designs. There is a preppy influence to the clothes being from Saratoga. My designs are edgy, but not severe. This season has a very classic feeling and bodes well with the British influence.
RD: As we come out of COVID, do you see things picking up?
SS: The brand is growing, which is good considering the year we’re coming out of. Some business is starting to pick up and I’m getting into more stores, so it’s funny how it’s really starting to spread in the more cosmopolitan areas. I just got into stores in Atlanta and Sarasota, FL. And I’m now with a site out of London that ships all around the world, so boxes are going from Australia to Sweden.
RD: If the people who are reading this article wanted to shop Staci Snider, they could come by the Saratoga Springs store or shop online?
SS: They can shop online or come by the store. I also offer appointments at the store where customers can receive more one-on-one attention without interruptions and we can cater to their needs. I am here at the store, so they can actually come in and work with the designer. So if we need to shorten a skirt or build an entire wardrobe, then that can be done. Snider Fashion is a full working atelier with machines in the back. Some days it is all business or retail, others it is cutting and sewing, some designing or sourcing fabric. There is constant movement.
RD: And that’s a unique experience because most boutiques that you go into you don’t get to meet the designer or get that one-on-one personal attention.
SS: It’s funny, because it’s been common in Europe for decades and I have a feeling it may move back to that. It has not been a common practice in America for a really long time and I have a feeling that we will go back to seeing designers more involved on a customer level. It is always good to be engaged with the people wearing your designs. You can learn so much from just listening to those that embrace your creative vibe.
Shop Staci Snider at her boutique at 18 Congress St. in Saratoga Springs or online here.