Southsayer: Sarah Skelton, aka the Silver Stylist, garment technologist

My favourite south Londoner? Jay Rayner

sarah skelton silver stylist portrait 1024Sarah Skelton has lived in south London since 1985, currently SW4. She has worked in fashion for 40 years; in pattern cutting, designing and garment technology (which deals with the pre-production concept of clothes). “I found my true sense of style while working for Karen Millen,” says Sarah, “and now impart my styling wisdom as the Silver Stylist, helping ladies (usually those over 45) to develop a new look for their wardrobes.” In this role Sarah inspires her clients on how to wear what they’ve got differently, goes shopping with them to add what they need, gives their fashion confidence a boost and, most importantly, she adds, “I help them to send a whole lot of stuff to the charity shop.”

When were you happiest?
The day I moved into our current house with my partner (now husband) and two cats on 20 Jan 1994. We had a brilliant week sorting it all out before throwing a house-warming party the following weekend.

Where would you like to live in south London?
Where we live now near to Abbeville Road/Clapham Common: good shops and local restaurants and it’s in between such diverse shopping areas as Northcote Road and Brixton Village.

What is your favourite south London sound?
Police sirens!

Who is your favourite south Londoner?
Jay Rayner, for his excellent and honest restaurant reviews, comments about Brixton Market gentrification and latest views in his new book.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Push yourself, work harder than everyone, do stuff, go places even if you don’t 100 per cent feel like it. Try new things.

What is your earliest south London memory?
Driving through Brixton after the Brixton riots in 1981 with my Jamaican boyfriend.

What makes you unhappy?
The area around Clapham Common tube station: the beer stains, the chewing gum on the pavements and general detritus. There’s also the sad bit of greenery and trees above the station, full of pigeons and sometimes homeless drinkers and the boarded up public loos – now for sale. It’s sad because it doesn’t reflect the character and mix of the area at all.

What simple thing would improve your quality of life?
More and better independent shops in Clapham High Street, more coffee places and less bars. Less £1 shops and more interesting shops – maybe specialist food shops, local restaurants, shops selling interiors stuff. In short, a more villagey feel, rather what it currently is – a place only busy on a Saturday night. Oh, and more simply: more sunshine.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Looking stern when I am actually not feeling stern. Also being aggressive on the Tube and commanding people to move down the carriage.

What is your guilty south London pleasure?
Pain au raisen from Le Petite Boulangerie in Abbeville Road.

Where do you hang out?
A typical Saturday would involve a walk across Clapham Common and checking out the ducks on Mount Pond, then a coffee at the band stand (from La Baita Café) or a café au lait at Gastro in Venn Street. Then off to the Trinity Hospice charity shop in Old Town for a browse, then on the way back another browse (maybe a spend) in JZD for lovely individual stylish clothes, before a walk back through the Common.

Who or what do you dislike and why?
Too many chain restaurants, shops and supermarkets appearing on our local streets.

Best south London gig or night out?
Recently discovered the stylish Hideaway in Streatham, which has varied sounds – and not all serious jazz, which I am not keen on. It is a brilliant place for a mixed age group who want a night out with something to drink, a meal, a dance and a great atmosphere.

Clapham LibraryYour favourite south London building or landmark?
The new Clapham Library building (pictured right) is pretty amazing.

What’s your best south London experience? 
Moving to to south London from Ealing, near to Northcote Road in the mid 80s when it was affordable.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My height – too short.

What’s the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
It’s a secret.

What has your career taught you?
Don’t argue with The Designer.

The house I live in is…
…is my visual refuge, beautiful and full of the things I love to look at. Pictures by Samira Abbassy (an ex-south Londoner now living New York) Indian treasures, paper maché statues, family ornaments from my parents’ house and silly things I bought on my work trips for Monsoon and East. And the walls, which have specialist paint finishes and murals by my husband, John Brinklow.

What is your greatest life achievement?
Being lucky enough to have enjoyed a career in fashion lasting over 40 years and still loving it.

Describe yourself as an animal…
I couldn’t think of this, but my husband thinks I am like a Great Tit because they are industrious and always flitting about doing stuff.

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