Good Life: The Mix: Tastemaker: Sarah Van Aken

How custom clothing designer Sarah Van Aken started designing uniforms

Who: Custom-clothing designer and Center City resident, with models showing off the uniforms she designed for snazzy Izakaya, the Borgata’s newest eatery.

Where she got her start: Designing bespoke shirts for men under the label Van Aken in her Rittenhouse studio.

How she got into uniform design: She met Alfred Portale, chef/owner of NYC’s famed Gotham Bar and Grill, at a cocktail party in Philly in 2006. He dug her style, and asked her to create uniforms for both Gotham and Gotham Steak, his Miami spin-off.

Also see her uniforms at: Supper on South Street, and NYC eateries Forge and Rouge Tomate.

Philosophy: “Staff are the ambassadors to the restaurant.”

How she conceives designs: Van Aken uses trend-forecasting books in combination with classic elements (like wrap dresses) and a restaurant’s decor for inspiration.

Biggest challenge: “Finding fabrics that can hold up to industrial-strength laundries.”

Next: Sava, a women’s contemporary ready-to-wear line in early spring, and a continued commitment to social responsibility: “I own a fair-trade production factory in Bangladesh and want to do something comparable in Philly, so I can give back and create jobs in the city.”

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