Style Profile: Karen and Sara Brown

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I spotted Karen at a friend’s wedding. While everyone else was dressed in either black or dark metallics, she was wearing a languid, printed turquoise dress. Then, through Facebook, I happened to come across her and her twin sister Sara’s blog and Instagram accounts. You can’t quite put a finger on their style, which is why I wanted to feature them on the site. Is it street? Is it preppy Americana? Is it Southwestern-influenced? It’s all of those things melded together in such an inspiring way.

Fashion has been in a cycle of pared down, Celine-inspired looks for the past few seasons. It might be not as obvious on the runways now, but the uniform for many women, at least in New York City, is refined basics paired with Stan Smiths. And I get it. It’s an easy formula that makes getting dressed in the AM easy. Even I find myself opting for foundational items over offbeat pieces. But Karen and Sara made me want to go in the opposite direction. They made me want to hightail it to the nearest vintage store and buy pieces that I love instead of pieces that I know will work. Read on to see where they shop in New York City, what they do, and what they’re thinking about buying for spring.

*Click on images for clothing credits.

What do you do at Ralph Lauren?

Karen: I do creative direction for the Home Collection. I put together the concepts for each season. We’ve both been there for about 9 years. I actually interned there in college when Men’s Rugby just started. We both started freelancing on special projects after college which turned into full time jobs. Sara is the global vintage buyer/curator. She buys vintage accessories and clothing for resale in most of the RRL stores and the other Ralph Lauren stores.

Does that involve a lot of travel?

Sara: Yea. Usually once every six weeks.

And how do you determine where you go?

Sara: Our calendar is based on specific vintage shows that are happening. And then we make our vendor appointments in each city based on the shows.

Is the Manhattan Vintage show good?

Karen: It’s really good. There’s a lot of fun stuff. Brimfield is good. Before the flea market starts there is a day inside this hotel and it’s all clothing and textiles.

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Do you two have different styles?

Karen: Yes. I feel like Sara tends to wear more vintage.

Where do you shop for vintage in New York?

Sara: I don’t. It’s to expensive. I shop on eBay and Etsy, and then I go to flea markets.

Karen: In Williamsburg there’s 10 ft Single by Stella Dallas.

Where’s your favorite place to travel for vintage?

Sara: It depends because there are so many different areas of vintage that I buy. It depends on what I’m looking for. I think London has good vintage. and LA I guess. It’s hard to say.

Karen: I like Scout Vintage in LA. They have really cool vintage designer stuff, but it’s also very eccentric.

Where do you like to shop in New York?

Sara: I get so much online. I like Maryam Nassir, Beautiful Dreamers, and Creatures of Comfort.

Where do you shop online?

Karen: I shop Ralph Lauren and tend to shop Barneys for other designer stuff. I feel like Barneys has better sales than Creatures of Comfort. eBay and Etsy for vintage.

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 Where are you two from?

Karen: Connecticut.

Do you have any favorite designers:

Karen: Aside from Ralph Lauren, Dries Van Noten and Valentino.

Any cool new designers or stores you’ve discovered?

Karen: I continue to love all that RTH does. I just bought a pair of their drop crotch pants.

Do you follow the shows:

Karen: Yea. It’s fun. I like to look at images afterwards to get styling ideas. We also look for pieces that we can find vintage copies of on eBay.

I haven’t gotten comfortable with eBay.

Sara: Once you get the hang of it, it’s fine. Not everything works out, but you’ have to be willing to take the risk.

What’s the last thing you’ve purchased on either eBay or Etsy? 

Sara: A French love token necklace from 1970.

Karen: A vintage long sleeve maxi dress from the 60’s/70’s with an Egyptian Deco pattern.

Did you two dress identically as kids.

Karen: No, never.

Why?

Karen: We didn’t want to. We were different people.

But you both had a love for fashion and style?

Karen and Sara: Yea.

Karen: We always liked getting dressed up and putting on crazy outfits.

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Do you share clothes now?

Karen: Yea. Kind of. But we don’t live together so it’s not as easy.

How do you think growing up in Connecticut affected how you dress?

Karen: I think of the kind of very preppy aspect of it influenced us, but at the same time we were always into the more grungy, vintage stuff.

There’s also a street element to your style.

Karen: Yes. Stamford where we grew up was the city. It was more urban than preppy. So we’ve always been really into sneakers. Our style is the preppy Connecticut, the urban Stamford, the grungy skater boys, and the classic American Ralph Lauren all combined into one.

Is there good vintage shopping in Connecticut?

Sara: The Goodwill in Fairfield County used to be amazing, but not anymore. There are a couple of flea markets that you could find, but more in Northern Connecticut. But as far as vintage clothing shops, not really.

Tell me about your turquoise jewelry.

Sara: Our mom growing up was really into Native American jewelry and interiors. We went to New Mexico when we were 10 or 11. We kind of grew up around it. We were into it before working at Ralph Lauren, but it definitely magnified once we started working here. And that I buy in New Mexico I’ve accumulated a lot. But our mom was always into the Native American look.

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Is there a dress code at Ralph Lauren?

Karen: It’s very casual. But I think you should wear Ralph Lauren. Even if i’m not trying to, something I’m wearing is Ralph Lauren. But I tend to mix all of my Ralph Lauren pieces differently, so it’s not necessarily a full on Ralph Lauren look.

Sara: I work on vintage team, so I can get away with mixing vintage and Ralph Lauren. Or I can wear all vintage but that’s within the Ralph Lauren aesthetic.

Do you two buy all of your designer pieces full price? Do you have tactics for getting things on sale?

Karen: We shop sales for sure. The only time I will buy retail is if its shoes because I always have this fear that they will run out of my size. Shoes are really the only thing I will pay full price on. But definitely not any clothing.

Sara: Unless I really love something, I never buy anything retail. Especially because I know the markup.

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How do you shop sales?

Sara: I go to sample sales or wait until the middle or end of the season. I feel like we don’t really buy that much into trends, so we don’t need to buy something for that season. Buying into trend kind of defeats the purpose of investing in a piece that you want because it’s timeless. It doesn’t matter to us if we buy something that isn’t in season. on.

What do you invest in?

Sara: Shoes and outerwear.

Karen: For me, it’s definitely shoes and outerwear and jackets. I feel like you could buy a silk top from Zara and its kind of the same as another designer.

Where do you get most of your denim?

Karen: 10 ft. Single and RRL denim. With denim you definitely can’t buy it online, especially vintage. It’s so hard. I’m four different sizes in vintage jeans. Sara’s jeans that she’s wearing are from our friend’s company called Redone.

Sara: They are taking vintage jeans and completely reworking them. They take them apart and put them together in a more modern cut and shape. I think they have a few different fits and then you pick if you want a dark, medium, or light wash. So you can kind of customize what you want.

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Do you get a lot of things tailored?

Karen: I’m trying to get more into the habit of doing that, but it can get expensive.

Sara: I took a bunch of jeans to a place in our neighborhood called Loren and they do denim repairs. They are all denim repairs and they make their own jeans there as well.

Do you two always have different hair?

Sara: Yea. We always flip flop. One’s short. One’s long. One’s blonde. One’s brown. I’ve had blue hair. It’s hardly ever the same. I feel like this is the closest that we’ve been.

We are moving into spring? Do you have an idea of what you want or how you want to look each season. How do you shop? Do you make a list?

Sara: I think we are definitely somewhat inspired by the shows, and then we kind of make a list. And like Karen said, we use eBay or Etsy for vintage pieces.

Karen: Or we pick a few designer things that we want and keep our eye on them.

What are you eyeing for spring?

Sara: Adidas grey Campus sneakers and mid-calf length skirts.

Karen: Linen dresses and hopefully a new pair of custom Air Force 1s.

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Where do you get your basics?

Sara: I get plain t-shirts from RRL or J. Crew.

Karen: Yea I go to Ralph Lauren for basics or the Gap sometimes.

Do you shop men’s?

Karen: Yea. We buy a lot of menswear.

How do you stay inspired to care about what you wear?

Karen: I think we’ve just always been into fashion and design. It’s just something that we are so interested in that it’s not even just a conscious thing. We genuinely really like the design of things and objects. We just like the aesthetics of it.

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 Photos by Sam Aldenton

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