This week’s subject is Savannah Yarborough, the founder of Savas, a leather brand that mixes the precision and tradition of tailoring with the luxury and prestige of an atelier. All its leathers are developed exclusively for the brand in Italy and informed by Yarborough’s many years in the industry. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, and educated in menswear design at the prestigious university Central Saint Martins in London, she got her start at Billy Reid in the early 2010s and fell in love with leather when she designed the first leather jacket she ever owned. “There was a major emotional shift that happened,” she says of the experience.
But ultimately, she traces the foundations of her brand back to her youth. “I was always a little bit on the outer edges of normal society. Creative is what they called me, among other things,” she says. “That really started me on a path of thinking about life in a different way. My dad is a construction worker and I grew up on job sites, watching things be built. My mom's a salesperson, now in real estate, and I also saw her doing that. I think I developed a pretty interesting skill set of combining my creative effort with putting things together.”
Having met Savannah a few times and knowing how much she loves menswear, I thought she’d make a great subject. Below, we discuss why she calls Savas “the rock and roll country club,” why the leather jacket isn’t as much of a statement as you think it is, finding creativity and power in the utilitarian constraints of men’s design, and plenty more.
What is Savas? What do you do? What does the process entail? What makes the brand special?
In 2015, when I started, it was a bespoke operation only. I was crafting each jacket by hand every step of the way, one at a time. I started it in Nashville, Tennessee, which is where I was living at the time. The whole premise was basically to make people feel really good about what they're wearing and to connect with them on the level of craft. I always knew that I wanted to work with people who appreciated and understood the work that goes into it. Over the years, it just grew. It was always word of mouth. We were able to get some good press which was helpful. We launched made-to-measure a few years in, which was an assortment of pieces that you could customize.
In 2022, we opened the store in L.A. and that's really the beginning of our ready to wear program. That's when I started calling us the rock and roll country club as a visual and emotional description of who we sell to and what we sell. Obviously, our main focus is in leather and suede jackets. I develop all of our leathers directly with our tannery, so they're all proprietary and really unique to us. We're not just shopping for leather. I am a maniacal freak when it comes to these materials, and I know them in and out, which is something that has taken years and years and years to cultivate. I know how they work under a machine. I know how they're going to react five years from now, all of those things, which is something that you don't often get when you're just buying the leather piece out of a collection. I feel really proud of the way we can stand in front of the materials. One of the key things too is having been bespoke for so long and focused on fit, you can't beat our fits. They're really good. It's an investment piece, and it should be able to stay with you for a long time and really feel good on you.
Do you have any tips for men intimidated by leather and aren't sure where to start?
Don't be scared. My rule always and forever is the jacket cannot wear you. You have to be able to wear your jacket. Don't stretch to get the jacket because some dude said you should or because it's this specific vintage repro thing. If it doesn't feel good on you physically and emotionally, go for something else. It's a power piece. You just don't want it to speak on your behalf. That's where it can be a little scary just because of the historic references. I find I'm always trying to prove those wrong. We don't make a bold Perfecto jacket because there are enough of those. If you want that, that's amazing, you can go get that. But usually, that's not going to come from us. I find that it's been really fun to see so many guys come to us with that mentality of like, "I'm not cool enough to wear this." And I'm like, “Bullshit. You absolutely are.” When somebody finds that piece, whatever it is, they change the way they look at themselves in the mirror. The most rewarding part of this whole thing is when you see them look at themselves and be like, "Hell yeah."
Do you have any advice on how to care for a leather piece?
I always say you're just supposed to wear it, because the first day is the worst day, always. It gets better. That being said, that is absolutely not the case for every leather because some of them will fall apart and some of them are going to have major problems. But for us, I can speak to the fact that they just do get better the more you wear them. If you're going to, because you can't stand not to put something on it, test it on the inside first. But don't pull out your saddle soap and all the other things. Don't do that. Just keep it easy.
How did you first become interested in clothing and style?
As a teenager, I was a punk rock kid. I cut up T-shirts, did weird sewing projects—they were all terrible. Because of the way I was raised, fashion wasn't really a thing. So initially, when I was thinking about what I wanted to do, I was a good writer at the time and thought, "Oh, I could be a fashion journalist. I could write about clothes. I could write about the fashion industry." No one knew that being a fashion designer was a job. I got to the school in San Francisco and I go to my journalism class on the first day and they're like, "Sorry, the teacher got fired for doing cocaine with a bunch of students." The program was canceled because they didn't have another teacher, and they put me in a design class. I have a friend, a rollerblader from England, who was also a Central Saint Martins student. While I was still in school in San Francisco, we were together in Alabama with our skating friends, and I was telling him, "Hey, I'm going to go to fashion school." And so we sat in the kitchen at my friend's house. We hung up this white denim jacket. He's one of the best illustrators ever. I'll always be envious of his drawing skills. He said, "This is how you look at that collar. This is how you see the way that seam is hanging there, or the way it's folded there." And he really taught me how to look at clothing.
How did you choose to start designing menswear versus womenswear? Are there any parallels between the two?
I think there are so many parallels, but I was a tomboy as a kid. There's something really interesting about men's clothes because the function is usually where it starts, no matter what. Men are creatures of habit, there's a sort of box that you have to stay in with men to some extent. Creatively, I really like to have those parameters to start with. When I'm left to just do whatever, it’s not really a mentally healthy place. But having that kind of box gives you something to push against and something to question. I love the cut. I love the way patterns are made, and I love seeing what goes into fitting men's clothes come to life. And then women's, I just take the boys and I water them down to fit the women. Most all the pieces are the same. And every piece I wear is the girl's version of the boys, just because they don't make the men's clothes small enough to fit me.
How have you honed your personal style over the years? Has it changed much?
I don't think it has. I've learned to embrace the many personalities that live inside of my wardrobe. It just depends on the day. My rule is usually to wear your favorite pieces of that day and kind of roll with it. Obviously, as I've grown up, I've refined things and the way I shop is very different because I don't buy things that I can't really believe in. I've become a lot more thoughtful with what I'm adding to my wardrobe. It's way less stuff, but it's better.
Are there any other brands that you love?
I love Visvim. I really love a lot of what they're doing, and I love the detail. I also love The Row. There's a lot of what Khaite does that I can appreciate as well.
If you had to wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?
There would definitely be a T-shirt because that's my first layer of armor. My Rolling Stones Tour of America tee. I'd probably wear my Visvim jeans, my '68 special jacket, and my Margiela sneakers.
You Might Also Like