Since the founding of Holdall & Co Ltd, we’ve had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know interesting and talented individuals from many varied professions. Over the course of this year, we’ll be sitting down and chatting with many about their professions and taking a peek inside their bags, to learn more of their everyday carry items and the tools of their trade.
For the first in our series of “Everyday Carry with…”, we caught up with Sarah Gilfillan, founder of Sartorial Lab - a personal styling, shopping and wardrobe management service for men.
Our time with Sarah is documented below, along with a video of Sarah explaining the items she carries (the video is also available on our YouTube channel).
My name is Sarah Gilfillan. I’m a personal stylist and personal shopper for men, and I have a company called Sartorial Lab.
Tell me how you got into your line of work - what did you do before you became a stylist?
I’ve pretty much always worked in fashion, I used to work in retail and then worked on photoshoots. For a long time I was working with men and really enjoyed doing that. It was a growing industry where men were becoming interested in looking after themselves and dressing better, but didn’t want to go shopping themselves and didn’t really know what they were doing (not all men, but some), and that’s the sort of clients that I get.
Do you have any favourite stories from your work life? Anything interesting that might have happened?
Well I went to Romania to do a guy’s wardrobe - that was fun. And I have very nice emails from people saying that I’ve changed their life sometimes, which is lovely!
Have you ever had a low point during that path of your career, where you thought that you just couldn’t do it - what did you do then?
When I hit 40 I changed my career. I ended up not liking photographic styling as I felt that I was always carrying loads of heavy bags around, and having to lie and blag for the clothes. Either lying to the press offices - because I couldn’t really get them easily if I wasn’t working for a magazine - or I was having to go and buy everything at the shops and take it back, but lie about why I was taking it back. I hate lying and I hate asking for favours, so those two things just weren’t sitting well with me and I decided to do something else. So now that I’m doing personal shopping, it’s much more about helping other people, which I feel much, much more comfortable with.
What lessons has your work life taught you? What have you learnt from doing this?
How you feel is really important, and what you are dressed in is really important to a lot of people - not just me. It helps a lot of people with their confidence, and I absolutely love helping people.
If you were given the day off from all of your everyday responsibilities, how would you spend it?
I’m always in the city, I’m always around the shops, so shopping for me is like a busman's holiday. Going for a long walk in the country or by the sea is what I quite like to do; dress in rubbish clothes and not care what I look like - whatever the weather - I don't mind.
Have you met anyone famous doing this?
In the past I have dressed a few famous people, from Ewan McGregor, Chris Moyles to Coldplay (before they were famous and nobody knew who they were - including me!).
What are you proudest of?
I’m proud that I’ve actually followed my dream, and did what I wanted to.
When I started styling, it wasn’t a well known job like it is today, so I went to the library and I photocopied a book called the Creative Handbook, and I got a list of stylists - not only did I not have a mobile phone but I didn’t even have a phone at home, so I literally had this photocopied list that I went to the phonebox with and spent lots of money mainly speaking to peoples’ answer phones, just ringing people up and saying ‘how do I get into this, because I really want to do it.’
The fact that I persevered and did that. There are a lot of people that have the dream of doing something, but they never actually do it, and I’ve gotten to travel to lots of nice places, work with great people and do exciting things.
What does your future hold?
I’ve started doing a little bit of teaching, only one-to-one so far, but I’m thinking of perhaps setting up workshops and working on photo shoots with my colleague/blogger friend Grey Fox - you might know him! It’s nice to have variety, but really I would just like to keep on doing what I’m doing - helping lots of men with their wardrobes and helping making their life easier.
Have you got a moment that’s been the happiest in your career?
I’d say I’m happiest now really, because I feel like I’m really doing what I want to do. I’ve found my niche in the market and it seems to be working.
If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
It might be to fly so I could fly around the shops, along with a client in tow. I could alleviate public transport because that does do my head in a bit! And I could get around without the traffic of London; have a quick look down to see what’s in that shop, and then that one - X-Ray vision as well would help then, wouldn't it!
If you could interview anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Who would it be?! I’ve always had this fantasy that I would love to have met Elvis Presley because he’s super-cool and beautiful - I loved his films and his music!
Sarah explains the items she carries and the story behind them: