Interview: how Adam Saaks became a fashion designer to the stars

The response he got to being seen customising a T-shirt with a pair of scissors was enough to turn Saaks into a designer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 July, 2015, 8:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 July, 2015, 8:39pm

48 HOURS: When did you begin designing with only scissors?

ADAM SAAKS: The funny thing is I was never really interested in fashion. It kind of pulled me into it. I didn't do it to be a part of anything, it just kind of made me a part of it, especially with the T-shirt cutting. I definitely didn't do it to be in the fashion industry, I just like the act of cutting shirts. It happened one day by accident when I cut a shirt in public for someone who asked me to cut them a shirt. It drew a big audience and I just fell in love with it right then and there. This was more like performance art and the fashion industry turned it into a market. Now it's evolved into a worldwide phenomenon.

What do you like most about what you do?

The end result. It's like painting a picture. When you're done you get to admire your painting. In this case you get to see it live and on somebody's body. It's like living art.

WATCH Adam Saaks shred a model's clothes

When you started cutting shirts did you imagine ending up where you are now?

I knew after the first shirt I did I was not going to stop until the whole world had a shirt done. I keep saying the word shirt because that's how it started, but I don't even cut shirts any more. I cut more bodysuits, bathing suits and dresses. I focus more on those types of pieces because they're sexier and more fun to make.

Your pieces are commissioned by celebrities, but can also be bought by the general public. How do you service such a large variety of clientele?

I look at everybody exactly the same. That's because it's the process that has to be done to make a good piece. Nobody gets special treatment because there isn't any.

How did you gain your following?

I tour and I bring it to you, so you can see it live. I like to cut one design in front of 10,000 people instead of 10,000 shirts individually, so I put myself in front of as big an audience as I can and as far away from my home as possible. It's a "see it to believe it" kind of experience. The past two months I've been in seven countries. I've been flying everywhere and performing constantly. The internet has done great things for me. I have been viral many times. The pilot episode of my show Shredded with Adam Saaks on my YouTube channel beat the new Star Wars trailer by at least 20 million views and a quarter of a million shares in one week.

How do you feel about your success?

It's fascinating because I just do what I love to do and that's the key. If I continue to do that it just grows and grows. I'm walking living proof that if you're doing what you love, all kinds of things will follow. The second I don't love it any more, I will not do it. I don't know what I'll get into, but I'll put down the scissors.

What inspired you?

[Grammy award-winning US heavy metal band] Metallica is a big inspiration because they were successful in the same manner. They didn't have any corporate marketing, radio play or music videos [when they started out]. They toured and they brought their music to the people. They built a huge fan base and were incredibly successful completely underground and on their own [before making a global impact]. That was a big inspiration for me because it showed me that it can be done.

What advice do you have for designers trying to make a name for themselves?

Do it because you love it and love what you're doing. The advice goes for anything and anybody in any industry. Don't do it because you have to. Do it because it lifts you up so high that you can do it where time stands still. It's just you and that feeling. You'll be amazed by how much abundance comes along with it and you get to inspire a lot of other people, too. That's a real gift.