Tell us about yourself-
I am a personal stylist based in San Francisco and the owner of Sasha Maks Vintage, a vintage costume jewelry e-boutique. I collect 20th century jewelry with an emphasis on statement pieces from the 60s and 70s. I also blog about fashion and personal style, and I love hosting trunk shows around the Bay Area.
What does being a woman in control mean to you?
You are in control of your career and the work that you have to create for yourself. It’s empowering and terrifying at the same time, and once you have control it’s very hard to give it up. Control means freedom, creativity, and discipline, and the perseverance to continue on your chosen path through successes and failures. You are in control and you are responsible for every aspect of steering your business.
How has your Russian background influenced your style and way of thinking as a woman?
I was heavily influenced by my very stylish mom growing up in Sochi, a popular Black sea resort in Russia. As a little girl, I would watch her getting ready for nights out by applying sooty mascara, teasing her hair into glam half-up bouffants in the style of Bardot, and wearing vertiginous heels.
This ritual of dressing up and creating a glamorous persona continues to inform my approach to beauty and style. This ability of fashion to project different moods and various aspects of one’s personality will forever intrigue me!
My mom’s fashion savvy extended to me by having my school uniforms custom made as well as my everyday clothes. This early awareness for fit and material has stayed with me. I’m not sure this is strictly related to my Russian heritage, but I grew up in a household of strong, independent women. My mom and maternal grandmother always worked hard, loved to travel, l and were incredibly loyal and supportive.
They were also hilarious (my mom still is!), my grandma had a very sarcastic streak, being a very well educated, smart cookie, she burst the bubble of anyone who questioned her life choices and always had a smart retort at the ready.
Of course being raised by these awesome women formed an important foundation in how I have approached the world!
How did you discover your passion for vintage fashion?
I loved watching old movies since high school, and was mesmerized by Classic Hollywood movie stars like Marlene Dietrich, Claudette Colbert, Katherine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Gene Tierney, Rita Hayworth, Audrey Hepburn, Bette Davis, Doris Day, I can go on and on! The makeup, the hair, the costumes, the way the stars where lit, was incredibly inspiring and opened up a world of fashion, glamour, and feminine mystique to me.
Later in college I took a film history class and was introduced French New Wave films and the actresses who have influenced my personal style and continue to inspire me daily–Jean Seberg in Breathless, Ana Karina in Band of Outsiders and Alphaville, Jeanne Moreau in Jules and Jim and Bay of Angels, Catherine Deneuve in Mississippi Mermaid. Again, this list can go on and on!
How has vintage fashion influenced and altered your personal style?
Immensely of course! I draw on these style muses to inform my concept of dressing. I choose my favorite decades, like the 20s, 30s, 60s, 70s, some 80s and recently the 90s and combine them in a very personal way.
I think for me this is the essence of personal style, and it is something that I stress to my clients as a means of achieving original personal style, taking the many influences and experiences that you come across in life and distilling them into your own original vision that continues to evolve over time.
What inspired you to chose your career? And what continues to drive you?
From my early interest in cinema, I became an avid vintage clothes shopper in college, I would shop thrift stores, garage sales, and flea markets. It’s a very opportunistic way to buy clothes, since you have to be open to what you find. I think that makes one more creative in their approach to dressing and putting things together. And that thrill of finding a choice item, something you often hear from vintage lovers, is very addictive. Of course you’re also the only person to own that particular piece and that’s a very attractive proposition.
While haunting all these vintage stores, I was studying interior design and later art history. I worked as an interior designer and my favorite eras of design where the 50s, 60s and 70s. Of course I would come across fantastic pieces at the fleas and I decided to become a mid-century dealer (selling furniture, lighting and decorative objects), which I did for several years selling out of a collective in San Francisco. This lead me to start collecting vintage costume jewelry that was hard to miss while shopping the fleas, and eventually I switched to jewelry exclusively. I began by selling at trunks shows and online marketplaces like Ebay. In 2009 I launched my website, Sasha Maks Vintage, and I started a personal style blog, where I feature my latest jewelry finds.
I’m drawn by the glamour, fantasy, and originality of costume jewels and its ability to transform an outfit. In personal styling it’s incredibly gratifying to see clients gain new confidence as they discover how the right fit, fabrics, and colors can transform their image.
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What is your greatest challenge when styling someone with vintage pieces?
I don’t see or think there are any challenges. Fashion is cyclical. The type of jewelry I collect and sell is still made today, hence its still relevant. Of course this applies to vintage clothes as well and I take clients shopping for vintage clothes only after we build a strong wardrobe of contemporary pieces. Then vintage is used for accent and special occasion pieces.
Do any of your pieces carry a unique story that align with being a woman in control?
That’s a great question! There where a number of very important women in fashion and jewelry design who where trailblazers and I are still important today, and whose designs I’m always on the look out for. Coco Chanel in in the early 1920 began designing costume jewelry to compliment her streamlined fashion and made fake jewelry acceptable to wear in society.
Her rival, Elsa Schiaparelli, who was associated with the Surrealists, another self-made woman, was a successful fashion designer in Paris, whose original jewelry was meant to shock.
While in America, Miriam Haskell (who incidentally was friends with Chanel), whose elaborate, beaded organic jewelry was worn by the stars of the day like Joan Crawford and Lucille Ball was another example of an independent, strong-willed businesswoman.
Can you highlight one of your favorite moments in your styling career for us?
There’s always that first moment working with a client, either during a closet audit or a shopping session, where you see the demeanor change when they realize how transformative fashion and style are, when they see themselves with new eyes and really love what they see.
How have you overcome challenges throughout your career? And do you recall a particular challenge?
I think the biggest challenge is to give yourself permission to start something of your own, to think that you are capable, and to just take the plunge.
If you could say one thing to a young girl encouraging her to be a woman in control, what would you say?
I would encourage her to discover what drives her creatively, what she finds inspiring and what makes her happy, to pursue the education, or the training that will achieve that goal. It may be hard to find a clear direction in the beginning so it’s important to experiment and not to miss opportunities that may reveal where your talents lie, and to build on those experiences the confidence to propel her into success.
What are some of your favorite aspects of the LIA LARREA brand?
What immediately stands out is the careful consideration every piece receives in execution and fabrication. The lines are elegant and sleek and very modern.The clothes are made to be versatile and multi-functional, ideal for a professional woman who admires minimalism. As a stylist, I’m very drawn to simple, yet strong pieces, they offer the wearer the flexibility to interpret them in myriad ways.
Photography by Quincy Stamper
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