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Sarles’s early desire to express a unique and individual style has grown and evolved over the years, leading him to pursue a professional path that would allow him to put his innate creativity to work.
“When I graduated from high school, I threw myself into the industry right away,” said Sarles. “I was given the opportunity to work in New York City as an intern for Marc Ecko with his company Ecko Red.”
Sarles worked with nine other designers and merchandisers to revamp Ecko’s line and redesign it to appeal to a younger generation. After the internship, one of the dresses Sarles worked on ended up being produced and mass-marketed, giving Sarles a design credit at the tender age of 18.
Not one to rest on such laurels, Sarles went to work for Michael Kors and has been with the company for three years. “When I was hired,” said Sarles, “the company had just begun opening lifestyle stores across the United States, and I was one of very few men hired to work within that division.”
Sarles was trained in “jet set service,” the company’s uncompromising standard of customer service, “to ensure that every person who walks through the doors receives the chic, sophisticated, ‘jet set’ lifestyle he or she deserves.”
At IU, Sarles is minoring in product development, a specialization he chose because of his interest in pattern making, and because he is intrigued by the psychological, social and cultural factors behind the development and spread of fashion trends.
“It fascinates me how the human mind works,” said Sarles, “and how we become attracted to new fashions so quickly. When I graduate, I want to be able to work for a major apparel company to create and inspire the trends that people will be wearing in their everyday life. Product development helps me gain an understanding of the process of fashion forecasting, as well as the production process.”
Sarles deepened and expanded his fashion horizons when he spent a semester abroad in Paris studying at the Paris American Academy, a school located in the heart of the city. Sarles took a variety of classes such as fabric manipulation, couture techniques, and design, as well as ones specializing in the use of feathers, sequins and, of course, pattern making.
Though Sarles’s family has its roots in the south of France just outside of Nice, he admitted that he went through culture shock the moment he stepped off the plane.
“I feel as though it opened my eyes to a new and unique culture,” said Sarles. “I spoke a little French when I got to the city, but over time I improved, and I think it was the best learning experience anyone could get. I was thrown into the culture and forced to learn the language, and now I speak French pretty fluently and understand it with only a little hesitation.”
At the Academy, Sarles worked diligently to perfect his finishing techniques; now he is satisfied that his finished garments “look like they are ready to be sold in a store—inside and out.”
The creative work demanded of him, however, challenged Sarles to think far beyond familiar concepts and ideas. “I was required to drop my American way of designing the second I got to Paris,” he said.
Sarles learned that, in the eyes of the French, Americans often change a collar or a sleeve and call it a new design. “This makes the French laugh,” said Sarles. “My design professor was constantly telling me to think outside the box, to begin with an idea and then design from that inspiration.”
Sarles took this advice to heart—and hands—when his professor assigned him to create a dress inspired by Jack the Ripper (pictured on the cover of this magazine). “I did a lot of research on him [Ripper],” said Sarles, “and found out that he would target women who were simply and normally well-dressed. So I took this idea and made a simple cocktail dress from a material called ribbing, something you would find on the sleeve of a hoodie.”
On the bottom half of the dress, Sarles “slashed along the grain of the fabric” and turned the material inside out, revealing the inner lining. “From up close it looks like the intestines,” said Sarles. “I know it sounds a bit morbid, but how do you make Jack the Ripper light and fun? The whole process was very helpful in learning how the French design.”
According to Sarles, “The best part of living in Paris was that you could be courageous with what you wore and no one would have a problem with it. People bleed fashion over in Paris!”
After graduation from Immaculata, Sarles plans to pursue a graduate degree in apparel studies, and then “to jump back into the fashion world, hopefully in New York.”
His advice to incoming students considering a career in fashion is to take their dreams and their education seriously by exploring every opportunity available. “Whether it’s an internship or studying abroad, get out there! Do something while you’re still in school. This is the time in your life when you get to try things out.”
Sarles knows that having fun is part of the college experience, but he emphasized the importance of making connections everywhere along the way.
“From studying abroad, I have made friends in the fashion industry all over the world,” he said. “When I’m done with school, I have so many directions and opportunities that I can follow. But always remember to have fun!”