Fashion for taller women - meeting founder and CEO of Leggy Threads Sarah Stoker
PUBLISHED: 12:01 25 January 2016 | UPDATED: 12:01 25 January 2016
It could have been something of a stretch, but our writer Linda Fawke was delighted to meet a specialist in fashion for taller women
From my vantage point of around 5 ft, this article was an unusual one to write! I’ve never experienced the problems of Sarah Stoker, but was interested to find out. Sarah, who lives in Wokingham, is an elegant lady of 6ft – or more, she says, if you count heels and hair. She is the founder and CEO of Leggy Threads, a company producing luxurious clothing for the taller woman. She decided to set up her business because of the absence of well-proportioned, good quality ‘day-to-evening’ wear in the marketplace.
“Since I was around 16, I’ve had problems finding clothing to fit,” she says. ‘So two years ago, I decided if I didn’t do something about it now, I never would.” Sarah explains that simply increasing the length of clothes wasn’t enough; the shape had to be right, something those who buy from the ‘petite’ end of ranges will fully understand.
Waistlines, she found, were often in the wrong place and the arms were too short. Even getting jeans that were long enough has been a problem for her; she has sometimes resorted to buying men’s to get the length – but then the waist is too big. So there was no shortage of incentive to set up her business.
Sarah is passionate about buying British so she wanted her range of clothing to be made in the UK. As an admirer of the inspirational Mary Portus and her British range of lingerie, she now does her own designing and even considered making the clothing herself. However, Sarah knew that as the volume of sales increased she would not be able to keep pace – and did not want her home taken over by bales of cloth! And although she is a skilled seamstress, she isn’t a tailor, and the quality had to be spot on.
“My mum taught me to sew after a failed shopping trip years ago – a necessity then, but I enjoy it, anyway,” she reveals. Sarah started to make clothes for herself and now runs them up for her twin five-year-old daughters, Ava and Sophia. “They had a magical woodland party for their last birthday and I made their outfits – a fox for Ava and a fairy for Sophia,” Sarah explains. While far too young to be fashion models for their mother, they do, however, have shirt designs named after them, and perhaps will also grow into tall young ladies.
It is early days for Sarah’s business and there have been barriers to overcome. She lost her first manufacturer when the factory closed and finding the right suppliers for her trims hasn’t been easy. She says she is still in a ‘testing mode’ learning the ins-and-outs of the trade, what the market needs and how best to provide it.
“I discovered there were more aspects to producing a good fashion line than I realised,” Sarah explains. For example, she had to learn about labels – their content, where to place them and matching them to the colour of the clothing. Then there’s how to make sure of an excellent fit for a tailored garment by having the right percentage of elastane, and so on.
In her quest to make her clothing really special, she has gone to enormous trouble to source her materials and has a strong eye for detail: she uses Nottingham lace and hand-sewn buttons (also from Nottingham). Her button-maker is one of the last in the UK and the buttons are hand-dyed to order.
Sarah wants her fabrics to feel luxurious and keep their appearance, but still be easy-care and machine washable. They also need to be comfortable. After all, her target market is busy women who want to be able to wear the clothing at work but still look smart if they go out straight afterwards. The shirts are adaptable with double cuffs so they can be turned back to adjust sleeve length and, where applicable, there are removable bows.
Having her eyes firmly set on a goal, and then persevering, saw the launch of the range around a year ago. She is pleased it has been so well received: “People are excited there is another tall brand, and one that doesn’t just cater for casual wear.” It is filling a real gap. Currently her range is shirts only, in several designs and in black, white and red. She covers sizes from 8 to 18 and heights from 5ft 8ins up. There are plans to expand, with trousers, jackets and dresses next on the list. Sarah knows the demand is there; she is frequently asked for trousers, in particular.
In October 2014, Sarah had a photo shoot with a professional model and fashion photographer in the French Dining Room at Cliveden: “It is a beautiful room and the perfect place to show my clothing at its best.” You can see more of these photos at www.leggythreads.co.uk. It’s always handy to have some help with the ‘techie side’ and in this case Sarah is backed by her husband, Tony, who manages the website and social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Sales are through the website – where there are currently some good deals on offer.
Sarah is definitely a busy woman. Over a decade ago, she set up Ocean Consulting, a commercial recruitment consultancy. This gave her experience in running a business successfully – and surviving the recession – and she’s now using this to advantage in Leggy Threads, splitting her time between the two businesses.
Her enthusiasm for her latest venture is enormous and the clothes are truly beautiful. The general market for taller clothing is improving, Sarah acknowledges, and she is delighted to be making a significant contribution.
This is where I wish, not for the first time, that I were taller!
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