Sophie Theallet creates clothes that stand alone in today’s Fashion. The only path she follows is her own, as each new collection is an evolution of the last, built around Sophie’s singular vision and mastery of craft. Her signature is a panaché of femininity and ease, sensuality and craftsmanship that is instantly recognizable. Like Sophie herself, the collections have a undeniably French accent, but also exude a freedom of spirit that transcends all borders – luxury clothing whose universal appeal lies in its unique point of view.
At 18, Sophie moved to Paris to attend the renowned fashion design school, Studio Berçot. She graduated early after winning France’s “National Young Design Award”. She was then hired by the most influential designer of this time, Jean-Paul Gaultier. She credits M. Gaultier for teaching her how to work with colors, how to develop the narrative of a collection and, most importantly, how to be fearless and to trust her own instincts.
A few years later, she moved on to Azzedine Alaïa where she would truly mature as a designer. During her 10 years as Alaïa’s right hand woman, Sophie immersed herself completely in the world of couture which allowed her to refine her considerable cutting and draping skills. She worked on the main collection as well as accessories and knitwear, traveling constantly while closely working by the side of the living Master.
After moving to New York City, Sophie continued to work with Alaïa on a part time basis, while also freelancing for other fashion labels. In 2007, she launched her own label, Sophie Theallet, which swiftly garnered critical acclaim from the media and prestigious retailers. In 2009, her talent was ultimately recognized by the American fashion industry at its highest level when she won the coveted CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award.
Sophie Theallet’s growing clientele responds intimately to her ability to create a sense of discovery about each garment. From a simple t-shirt to a elaborately constructed evening gown, Sophie Theallet’s clothes invite the woman’s personality to come through. It is this philosophy about subtle sexiness, beauty, substance and style that continues to draw converts worldwide.
You have been a designer that wowed in the fashion industry from the start. Tell us a little bit about your journey.
I was born in the South of France, the only girl with 5 older brothers! As far as I can remember, I wanted to Design. I have sketches dedicated to my mother when I was 8 years old of an Asian inspired collection, princess gowns, and Arabic themes with fabric descriptions and accessories!
At 15, I spent a summer in London with my English cousins. It was a total eye opener! I discovered the underground Punk music scene and most importantly, Vivienne Westwood and her boutique S.E.X with Malcom McLaren.
At 18, I was accepted at the Studio Bercot in Paris. I graduated early after winning the “National Young Designer Award.” Jean-Paul Gaultier hired me. Martin Margiela was also working there at that time. Gaultier was at the top of the fashion game. It was a fantastic period! I then worked as Azzedine Alaia’s right-hand woman for about 10 years. It was another world! All the top girls – he changed my eyes forever! I discovered the world of couture and the discipline and the level of mastery involved.
One day I decided to leave everything. I was in love and moved to NY. We lived at the Chelsea Hotel and traveled everywhere just enjoying being in love and free.
After living the Bohemian life for more then a year, I needed to get back to work and make some money : ) I freelance for a few American brands (DVF, Tahari, etc…) and would make routine trips to Paris continuing to work with Mr. Alaia. At that point, I realized that I could only be fulfilled doing my own brand. We started in my living room in Brooklyn with a little money, a seamstress, and a patternmaker. The following year, we made our first runway show, started dressing Michelle Obama, and won the CFDA/ Vogue Fashion Fund! Everything picked up from there!
What are you often influenced by to create your collections?
I am influenced by everything native and tribal cultures, modern art, architecture, hip-hop…I filter everything that intrigues me through my couture background; and I try to bring something uniquely mine. In the end, I see and find inspiration mostly outside of fashion.
Your collections have been inclusive of all women. Was that a deliberate creative choice or a natural progression in your creative process?
It is deliberate and also a natural progression of my work. For me, it is the modern way to view fashion and design.
You were a major designer pioneer who celebrated plus size pieces before the rush of what we see now from Rachel Roy to Tory Burch; and let’s not forget the Sports Illustrated’s cover of Ashley Graham! Do you credit yourself being one of the influencers in terms of bringing awareness to the need of plus size women in fashion?
I credit the bigger part of the new movement to Linda Heasley, CEO of Lane Bryant, and her sincere dedication to open the conversation in the media. She came to me with a vision to offer great fashion and design to an underserved clientele. I immediately jumped in. I only asked her for complete creative control with our collaboration. I needed the product and images to reflect authentic Fashion. I worked with Tiziano Magni on the photography and art direction. We wanted all the images to celebrate the sensuality and beauty of the models, like a modern Marilyn Monroe. I absolutely love working with these girls!
I want to break the stigma of the plus size model label. They are simply gorgeous models. They should be the faces of fragrances, cosmetic brands, etc… After working with Candice Huffine on my collaboration with Lane Bryant, I wanted her to be the image of my own Brand for our FW15 collection. The campaign was so successful. CR magazine and models.com featured it. It traveled on the web worldwide. I believe we are the first brand to open the conversation in the High Fashion circles.
When you began collaborating with Lane Bryant, was it a natural, creative process in terms of creating collections for the runway in high fashion to mass market?
I started with Lane Bryant on their Cacique Brand. We focused on lingerie and swimwear. I wanted modern color combos and a sexy attitude – the idea of hiding a secret under your clothes.
What is your philosophy for designing for plus size woman?
It’s about the cut, the fit, and the right proportions, accentuating a woman’s best assets : )
With your current collaboration with Lane Bryant, what was your inspiration to create the pieces?
With everything I design, I want to offer a chic glamorous feeling; I want my pieces to be the favorite items in a woman’s wardrobe.
How would you describe the collection?
What is an important facet in designing for women, whether they are plus size or not, that you want designers to be aware of and take away from this post?
It depends on the intent of the designer and how a woman is looking to portray herself to the world. For me, women FEEL. I believe that you can FEEL the intention behind good design. Personally, I love women that have true personalities. They can be sensual, strong, or vulnerable…like them or not, they fully assume who they are and live it! I want clothes that provoke emotions.