A mainstay in the popular legal drama Suits for nearly a decade, Sarah Rafferty is a champion for empowering women—whether on screen as her character Donna Paulsen, or as a brand ambassador for Marc Cain. Here, the actress discusses progress she’s seen in the film industry, her partnership with TIFF’s Share Her Journey campaign, and the union between style and female empowerment.
What has been the most moving part of working with Share Her Journey?
“I had to try not to cry when I talked about my daughters, because of the fact that the world is changing for them right now. That moves me—because it’s very important that the world changes for them.”
What steps do you think need to be taken to facilitate more female empowerment in the film industry?
“TIFF is doing that. Maxine Bailey has put mentorship programs in place committed to having 50/50 percent of males and females receive those opportunities, to commit to having more films in the festival that are directed by and starring women. They’re actually doing it—and with the 50/50 gender parity agreement, they’ve agreed to hold themselves accountable. Now other festivals are following suit—they’re leaders and they’re influencing people to take notice and to make change.”
In your eight years portraying Donna Paulsen on Suits, have you witnessed visible changes in the industry?
“Absolutely! From a practical standpoint, we have more female directors now than ever. I also felt that after the presidential election in the US, Donna’s storyline needed some female empowerment situations and I’m thrilled to say that Aaron Korsch, the show’s creator, heard me, and Donna became a partner at the firm and became COO.”
As an ambassador for Marc Cain, how would you describe your style philosophy?
“I’ve definitely been very influenced by Donna’s style. I really like feminine clothes and I like classic clothes—I appreciate elegant clothes and beautifully made pieces, and I can say that Marc Cain is all of those things. Their fit is the best. I wear a lot of their clothes now and my friends are always asking ‘where can I get that?’ Their jeans fit like nothing else, their boots are so comfortable, their sweaters are beautiful—so I can feel confident when I just grab the pieces and they work together. Because another thing is we’re all really busy, we don’t have a lot of time to spend on this—we’ve got important work to do!”
Can you share some of your favourite pieces from the Fall/Winter 2018 collection?
“Right now, I love these over-the-knee sock boots I’m wearing—you can smoosh them down and wear them scrunchy. Their coats are also great.”
Do you see fashion as a way for women to empower themselves?
“I think so. We’re making choices everyday with what we wear, and I’ve definitely felt that playing Donna. She’s very different from me—she has superhuman self-confidence, and I think that’s really reflected in her wardrobe. The wardrobe and the shoes and the accessories help me to access that. When you’re wearing something that is tailored and impeccable in these gorgeous fabrics, it feels like armour. What I mostly love about Donna is that her silhouette is always feminine, and she always feels powerful—she never feels like she needs to look like a man or behave like a man. Her power is in her femininity, and her clothes reflect that.”
Can you touch on one of the highlights in your journey as a woman in film?
“My favourite part of the journey is when I meet people and I hear their experiences and their reactions to Donna. When I realize that it matters to them to see these examples. I love all the tweets that I get on the nights that the show airs—there’s so much girl power, ‘you go girl’, and just women supporting women. That’s been amazing.”