Stroll into any Sara Campbell store and you’ll feel as if you’ve walked into your friend’s closet for outfit inspiration. The bright patterns, oversized bows and chic dresses all lend themselves to Campbell’s quintessential style and contagious kindness to dress women for an event where they will make a memory. A memory that begins at the first stitch and carries through to the customer’s in store experience, all the way through flaunting the chosen piece.
“When I’m cleaning out my closet and come across a dress from 20 years ago, I don’t want to let go of it because it’s a memory,” says Campbell. “I mean, I’m not a hoarder but the dress is a memory and that’s what I want to make for my customers.”
For the past 30 years, Sara Campbell has transformed her unique designs and unrelenting passion into a classic, elegant brand of timeless beauty. Boston-based and solely manufactured in the United States, the Sara Campbell brand focuses on dresses for the everyday woman; designed to fit the lifestyle of the busiest socialite with the unaging soul of a fashionista.
“My design aesthetic is not juvenile,” says Campbell. “A woman might be 50 but she’s ageless. She’s ageless in attitude, she exercises, she cares about herself, she’s very charitable, she goes to church, she does a lot of stuff and she needs different outfits for it.”
This concept of timeless beauty was inspired by Campbell’s appreciation of vintage dresses and honed by her mentor, and first business partner, Corita Kent. The respectable Sister and art legacy welcomed Campbell when she first came to Boston, gave her a job doing grocery runs and pushed her to focus on “one-of-a-kind clothing” to break into the business.
“A favorite Corita saying is ‘The groundwork doesn’t show till one day.’ I love that, especially from a meditation standpoint.”
From the first store order in 1984, to the Philadelphia stores’ grand opening, Campbell carries this saying with her through meditation, something that aided her in dealing with the company’s “road bumps” along the way. This spiritual viewpoint and positive energy allowed Campbell to persist through company embezzlement, brands sourcing her contacts, giving up personal paychecks to pay charity and employee checks, and even selling her backyard in Brookline; proving nothing but a selfless effort in having the Sara Campbell brand succeed.
Yet even now with 17 stores and a flourishing company as pretty substantial proof that the groundwork is now showing, Campbell takes nothing for granted.
“I’m nervous nelly about tomorrow. I don’t take enough time to pause and say ‘wow, this is amazing’ and sit in it for awhile. I say ‘wow, this is amazing’ and then I keep going,” says Campbell.
Part of this “keep going” attitude relates back to the selfless effort to give back to the local community and to charity.
From well known foundations, like St. Jude’s, to smaller organizations, like Friends of Guest House in Washington, Campbell focuses her charitable efforts on women’s and kid’s needs, as well as cancer oriented organizations.
“I did a lot of work with cancer. My dad was an oncologist and I did grow up fighting cancer,” says Campbell. “But I try to focus the most on where my $1 will go the furthest because I really want to make a difference in these organizations. I want to give the hungriest what they need.”
It’s this overflowing, unmistaken kindness that spills into Campbell’s stores across the country, making her brand what it has become today; “Timeless, classic, made in the USA, awesome fabrics and I love it,” says Campbell.
Visit Campbell’s Boston store at 44 Plympton Street and keep a special eye out for a Beacon Hill location in the works. Meanwhile, Campbell’s newest locations on the North East are two Philadelphia stores at 8409 Germantown Ave. and 1012 W. Lancaster Ave., with grand openings today and tomorrow.