How One Fashion Designer Hopes to Change the World Through the Power of Underwear

Creator of fashion brand Wonder Wears the Gold, Sarah Harris recently sat down with Observer to discuss the inspiration behind her designs and what she hopes to accomplish with the messages crafted between her garment’s seams.
Creator of fashion brand Wonder Wears the Gold, Sarah Harris sat down with Observer to discuss the inspiration behind her designs and what she hopes to accomplish with the messages crafted between her garment’s seams. Facebook/Wonder Wears the Gold

With so many modern issues represented on our social media feeds and in our social circles, they often feel too overwhelming and large-scale for us to take on. So, in lieu of getting involved and advocating for what we believe in, we continue scrolling and reading about the big-ticket issues plaguing our society.

Thirty-year-old Sarah Harris, though, decided to take action through something she believed could reach the masses—undergarments. What first started out as a pair of rainbow underwear, which she designed after having a dream about them in 2017, has now evolved into a medium that raises awareness through radical art.

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When you click on her Instagram account, it’s like entering another galaxy full of unicorns, flowers, cacti and rainbows (her favorite). But, if you look a little closer, you’ll find messages stitched into the fabric of her designs that spread awareness for world peace, climate change, women’s rights, consent and body positivity. Harris’ brand Wonder Wears the Gold, which she sloganed “Wearable Art for the Cosmic Relief,” includes sweatshirts, T-shirts, jeans, bras and lots and lots of “wonderwear,” as she calls them.

Even with under 10,000 followers, she garnered the attention of St. Vincent, who was pictured in one of her more popular undergarments, “The Hands.” Still, Harris is not particularly interested in growing her collection into a huge sensation. “I feel constantly weighed down by climate change and creating waste and creating more material things in the world. It makes it really difficult for me to want to ‘grow my business.’ It feels so silly in a lot of ways, but I have to remember that art makes the world a better place,” the designer explained.

Harris recently sat down with Observer to discuss the inspiration behind her designs and what she hopes to accomplish with the messages crafted between her garment’s seams.

What was the inspiration behind your brand?
Well, I was living in Joshua Tree at the time. One night, I had a dream that I made myself a pair of rainbow underwear. There was a unicorn involved, and I don’t quite remember how, but I do remember feeling this sparkling magical power while wearing the underwear. Anyway, the next day, I couldn’t stop thinking about the dream. I decided to go to the thrift store and bought a bunch of colorful blank T-shirts so I could cut them up and make this pair of rainbow underwear. I spent the whole day hand stitching them, and I felt so satisfied. I’d never made anything quite like it before, and I remember showing one of my friends at the time, and she was like “OMG, I want a pair.” I had been making other clothing at the time, but that piece specifically got a different reaction. And slowly, I started making them on the side whenever I had the time.

How did you come up with the name “Wonder Wears the Gold”?
Gosh, it took me at least a year of searching. And then I really needed to make an Instagram. I remember sitting on the grass outside of a coffee shop in Glassell Park trying all these words together and from somewhere it came: Wonder Wears the Gold. I always see it as a spiral. The question mark. Thinking about gold (the best things in life) and wondering how to get there. Then you look down and you’re like “Oh, I AM the GOLD.” It was me all along. Also Wondering WEARS the Gold, like the golden trophy goes to those who wonder beyond and think outside of this reality. It’s twisted and makes you think, which is why I like it. 

How do you use your collection to raise awareness for world issues?
When I wear inspired clothing on my body, I feel more inspired to live fully. Body positivity is also a huge part of my system—empowering other women not to feel shame in their bodies. I am super hairy and I like to expose myself to share that, and I think it is a great avenue of connection. I like to weave in my ethos subtly, whether it’s through embroidery or sharing a story or fabric choices or symbols or models. I think it is so important to be conscious about what we share. Lead by example is my motto, which, for me, has more longevity and is a daily practice.

What is your favorite piece and why?
There was a piece that I made recently while I was stranded in Maine for a few days. I embroidered on it “Peace for the people, Peace for the flowers.” I like that message. I like the use of multiple mediums—painting, sewing, dyeing and embroidery. I love anything with embroidery on it. It makes me feel like I am infusing poetry and conversation in people’s lives when I write words on things. Usually, I feel more connected to the stuff that takes a long time. I’m obsessed with scrapping stuff together. I don’t get to do it too much with underwear, but when I work with clothes, I love finding treasures from all over and cutting them up and putting them together. Collage clothing is always my favorite because we are all our own collages from all of the places we’ve been and things we’ve experienced.

How did St. Vincent and other influential people discover your brand?
A friend of mine, Wade Ryff, was on a trip with Emily Batson, who was doing the styling for St. Vincent’s new record. At the time, I was just first starting to publically make the underwear. She was online, trying to find some Japanese underwear or something. My friend Wade told her about the stuff I had started making and she reached out and was like, “Can you make me these four pairs ASAP?” Then, I did it and didn’t hear anything for months. One night I was out and my friend said to me, “Did you hear St. Vincent is wearing your underwear on a billboard in the center of Times Square?” I just started laughing.

Celebrities are not really my angle. I am really into organic growth. But some rad people I know wear the wonderwear on stage like Boyfriend, Mannequin Pussy, Calliope Musicals, Corrine Loperfido, Lizzy Jeff, Handmade Moments, and the list goes on. People send me pictures of them wearing it almost every day. I have so many amazing radical friends. But I would say my angle is more into the rad farmer chick rockin’ the
yin yangs under her farm dress or the mom at home breastfeeding, making tea and wearing the sundies. I’m into the collection as a whole growing and empowering each other. Yes, I realize there are spokespeople that represent a genre. But I’m into the everyday folk. Those are the people I want to put on billboards.

What do you hope to accomplish with Wonder Wears the Gold?
My vision from the beginning was to create a platform for people to express themselves. A product that could inspire people to push boundaries; push through the person they think they have to be. And that would turn into events. Events, performances, workshops, music, bands and merch. Which I have done very separately actually in my own life practice. Wonderwear has sort of solely been a platform to design and make clothes, which I needed to establish first to do anything else. But my vision for 2020 is to merge all of my things together into ONE. And actually make this vision come true.

What is the message behind the following pieces?

Never Give Up:
That came right around the time the burning of the Amazon was first being publicized, and I was like, “How am I supposed to care about making art when the lungs of the earth are croaking?” But then I listened to this Matt Kahn video, and he was saying that you have to commit to being here. Just commit and once you commit, commit to doing your best. So that was me talking to the earth. And me talking to myself, “We will never give up on you, baby.”

I’m Still Here:
That is one of the first wonderwear I made, when I was still making them with thrift store T-shirts. I was having a hard time in my relationship and that was my outlet to my sexuality. It was maybe a cry for help to my partner. Like, “HEY I’M STILL HERE.” I was screaming but in a sweet way. Passive aggressively, maybe? Like my yoni talking, “I’m still here! Don’t forget about me, I need some attention. I’m still a magical rainbow portal.”

Therapy Worked Rainbow Pants:
Painting rainbows became my therapy this past summer. I would go to the park and post up on some picnic tables and just paint rainbows all day. It was so refreshing! I get so lagged down all the time from being cooped up in a studio all alone sewing. Especially in Los Angeles, where it is beautiful out a lot of the days. So it was sort of a joke—rainbow therapy worked. How One Fashion Designer Hopes to Change the World Through the Power of Underwear