Boston Home

Sara Campbell Fashions Apparel and a Community

Through exceptional customer service, U.S. manufacturing, and philanthropy, Sara Campbell has found success while building an enviable community around her clothes.

Sara Campbell pictured in front of a wall of inspiration as she prepares designs for her latest collections. / Photo by Kelly Davidson

Sara Campbell has been designing clothes since she was six years old when her sister taught her how to sew, and she began making dresses for dolls. So it’s safe to say Campbell discovered her life’s purpose early on and never looked back. Because of that, she doesn’t take anything for granted—especially customer loyalty. Originally hailing from La Jolla, California, Campbell came to Boston for graduate school and decided to stay. The result was the launch of her namesake fashion company in 1985, when she began manufacturing and selling her designs to private labels. By 2008, Campbell opted to strike out on her own with the opening of her first pop-up boutique in Wellesley, which led to more shops in permanent locations. Today, there are a total of 22 found along the East Coast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest.

For the past 39 years, as the designer, founder, and CEO of Sara Campbell Ltd., Campbell has developed timeless women’s apparel that appeals to all ages and features bright, bold colors, classic silhouettes, and a stylish collection of wardrobe pieces ranging from T-shirts to eveningwear. The chic, comfortable, and contemporary items are beloved by her followers, who applaud her creativity, talent as an entrepreneur, and the fact that she keeps in close contact with consumers to ensure she’s always in sync with them.

Campbell and her team review colors, patterns, and materials at the company’s Boston headquarters. / Photo by Kelly Davidson

“I think what makes me resonate with my clients is my empathy for how they feel or experience wearing my clothes,” she says. “It’s really important to me to connect with people on that level.” The designer also lives and breathes three critical components that serve as the foundation for her work: offering the best customer service possible, creating her collections stateside, and supporting a range of philanthropic endeavors through local charities. “The idea I’ve really tried to incorporate into my business is that we are here to serve each other—in our office, in our business, with our customers and our community.”

To realize that idea, Campbell and her team have developed a design process that they have down to a science—and it all starts with finding inspiration. “We have ten collections a year, so it’s pretty fast and furious. There’s a lot you’re always doing. For example, right now, I’m trying to plan out next fall. What are the colors, the attitude, and the feel?” she muses. “I find them through tear sheets for magazines, home furnishings, and what I see on the street. It could be patterns on a wall or a really nice print. I always have my camera phone to take pictures as I look for visual stimuli.” Once she finds it, tear sheets and sketches travel with the team to New York City to research mills and source the best materials possible from all over the globe. Simultaneously, they often discover new production methods and continue to establish trusted partnerships.

Samples are made in-house to determine appropriate fit and ideal style, and the designer makes sure every detail is right before production ensues. / Photo by Kelly Davidson

Photo by Kelly Davidson

Collaboration is key throughout, and the largest part of the process takes place in the company’s Boston headquarters, where the design team, patternmakers, and sample shop work together, constructing, fitting, and perfecting each piece to cultivate concepts into reality. Then production ensues in factories located in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. “Being made in the USA is about quality control, being quick-to-market, creating jobs, and paying the right wages for people’s work,” Campbell explains. It also reduces the company’s carbon footprint and enables the team to be intimately involved in each detail of the process.

Speaking of intimacy, Campbell discovered a new level of it during the pandemic, which ultimately led to the next evolution of the business. “I was afraid of going e-commerce because I didn’t know if I would connect with people; that’s what I love about having retail stores,” Campbell admits. “But during COVID, customers saw me through Instagram. I’d walk around and talk about what I was doing that day or reveal a look at a new dress.” And while the experience made her realize carrying through a line of authenticity can be a real challenge when you try to scale, Campbell and her team proved up to the task. By successfully reproducing their immersive in-store experience online, customers now enjoy the benefits of both.

Accessories are also part of the Sara Campbell line, which in addition to contemporary tops, bottoms, and dresses, includes jewelry, hats, handbags, scarves, and wraps. / Photo by Kelly Davidson

Campbell loves being at the helm of her own brand, but she’s quick to point out that she didn’t get here on her own. In fact, three years after launching her namesake brand in 1985, she joined forces with design consultant Peter Wheeler, a collaboration that helped accelerate Sara Campbell Ltd.’s success as a contemporary fashion brand for women. / Photo by Kelly Davidson

First published in the print edition of Boston Home’s Spring 2024 issue, with the headline “Always in Fashion.”