Sara Anderson Designs offers unique, small-batch clothing and home goods with artistic flair


Elsie de Wolfe famously once said, “I am going to make everything around me beautiful; that will be my life.”

No one agrees with this principle more than artist Sara Anderson and her daughter, Sallie Anderson-Plessala, partners in the brand Sara Anderson. Anderson, a lifelong artist and art lover, was first inspired to bring her art to a different medium when she faced the daunting task of finding a home for her mother’s massive art collection. “I wanted to give art a new life. As an artist, I want to offer self-expression, another avenue that people can enjoy on a daily basis,” she says.

Sara Anderson the brand offers small-batch scarves, table linens, robes, kimonos and other loungewear printed with Anderson’s original artwork. The mother-daughter duo believes the cultural shift toward thoughtful minimalism is partially because people want more simplicity and efficiency in their lives, and an out-of-control wardrobe just adds more work.

There’s also a growing awareness of the environmental impact of fast fashion and other mass-produced goods. “If you’re focusing on buying fewer things, they might as well be high-quality materials. For example, our robes are not cut a hundred at a time; they’re individually printed, cut and pieced. Our scarves are not mass-produced prints you can buy anywhere. They’re unique and of such quality that they can last a lifetime,” says Anderson.

With the idea that the colors are richer and the feel more luxurious, the team has been dedicated to using natural fibers that will last. “It’s important to us to only work with natural, sustainable fibers,” Anderson-Plessala says. “We have silk-cashmere blends, silk with a satin finish, a silk and cotton blend, and a really high-quality cotton. We are partial to scarves. It’s really where we started, and they make any outfit an ensemble, and you can wear them all year.”

Anderson’s love affair with art began early. “I have always been an artist,” she says. Her parents worked in museums and educated her, in part, through visits to museums all over. Additionally, her father was an art director and entrepreneur in advertising. “I used to tell people my father colored for a living,” Anderson says. “He had all these fancy markers, and I wanted to get my hands on them.”

Anderson studied art from junior high through high school and then attended the Maryland Institute of Art and Design, now known as the Maryland Institute College of Art. “As many young artists do, I got this idea in my head that artists can’t make a living, so I became a paralegal,” she says. “It wasn’t a bad thing, but now that I know better, I have a side mission to encourage creatives to believe in their viability to make a living authentically. You just have to find your own niche and approach.” For Anderson, that meant learning new skills. She wasn’t tech-savvy when she started, but to bring her designs to life and run a business, she had to learn new skills, like Photoshop and QuickBooks.

Today, her process begins with an inspiration point, which often means travel. Last year, she went to Portugal on a beach-hopping trip and attended the once-in-a-lifetime Vermeer exhibit at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. “In Portugal, I was blown away by the colors and textures at the beaches. Every place you go has a palette. That alone is its own inspiration. It was an extraordinary venue,” she says. “So much of this will show up in our product. Just as nature, color and palette will surface, the more direct observations will also appear in our designs.”

The study of the Dutch masters in Amsterdam brought a favorite motif to her tabletop design. “I loved how the Dutch brought the color, texture and warmth, literally, to their tables,” Anderson says. “My ‘Turkish Delight’ design for the table is a tip of the hat to the Dutch masters. The ‘Burano Jasmine’ design features an intricate robin’s-egg blue border with a colorful center of pinks, greens and yellows reminiscent of the rich color that Burano is famous for.”

“So much of our collection is about how Sara interprets and sees the world,” Anderson-Plessala adds. “She does a beautiful job of transforming inspiration into something new and sharing those insights with the world.”

Anderson’s global influences are apparent in all her collections. “In our tabletop, we bring Burano, Italy; ‘Turkish Delight,’ a favorite motif of the Dutch masters; a design from a flower native to Africa; and a nautical blue and white inspired by Copenhagen,” she says. The brand’s cotton tablecloths and napkins are a durable, beautiful cotton that wears well and only gets softer over time.

“We know the pressure of hosting, so we created a range of table linens to help you create an unforgettable atmosphere,” Anderson-Plessala says. “Whether you’re planning a party or a night in, our home designs are the perfect companion for your setting.”

Sara Anderson offers its widest variety in scarves. Designs are inspired by a pilgrimage to Mont Saint-Michel and a visit to Lake Garda, Italy; subtler designs oriented to men are inspired by the beautiful crown glass windows of Europe. All of the designs are living artwork with motifs that might include botanicals, imagery or patterns pulled from a larger work of art, often a watercolor. For example, when Anderson came across a piece of handmade lace her great-grandmother bought in Spain in the 1930s, it inspired her to create a pattern called “Yellow Tat.” The pattern mimics the elegant curves and lines of lace but is magnified large enough that it’s bold and contemporary. Every product and design created by Sara Anderson has a story, and this one links to her heritage, which was full of family, travel and colorful characters.

A significant part of the collection reflects Anderson’s appreciation for Japanese woodblock art and the particular skill it takes to make it. Her ability to bring her own interpretation without copying a subject has led to partnerships with museums, most recently with the Cummer Museum of Arts & Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida. “The museum was doing an exhibit of Japanese woodblock prints from Boston’s MFA and felt like our designs aligned,” Anderson says. “They chose several of our scarves as product to support their show.”

Anderson-Plessala says that she’s noticed people often struggle with having beautiful things at home. “It’s like they’ll buy a gift for someone else, but they won’t do it for themselves,” she says. “You spend a lot of time at home; why not have beautiful, comfortable things? And creating authenticity and self-expression in your home or wardrobe is so fulfilling.”

The brand doesn’t do large runs, and it retires pieces often. Because every item is first and foremost artwork, each is signed. Both women say the business has made them more intentional about what they personally buy, own and wear. “Choosing things that you really love that have longevity is so much better than replacing cheaper things over and over,” Anderson-Plessala says.

“This isn’t fast fashion,” Anderson adds. “What we create has a story, and we bring the adventure to luxurious products for everyone. I love to share our product, and I can tell you about the influence and experience for everything. Choosing what to wear and what to have in our homes is a luxury—and we should enjoy it.” *

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