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  JERRY HALL
STEPHANIE SEYMORE
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  ASIA ARGENTO
DENNIS HOPPER
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WILL OLDHAM
DJ SPOOKY

Sophia Kokosalaki, 2004

WITH WITH ZOË BRUNS
PHOTOGRAPHED BY BILL GEORGOUSSIS




Her soft draping responds to a woman's body. Pleated panels and leather accents reveal her gift for tactile details. Sophia was invited to design the costumes for the opening ceremony at this year's Olympics in Greece. She spent the summer months ricocheting between her native Athens and her studio in London. Zoë Bruns managed to catch her between flights.





ZOË: The way you drape fabric to emphasize the shoulders and hips seems to refer to classical Greek sculpture. Does that come from growing up in Athens?
SOPHIA: Athens isn't a big fashion city like New York or Paris, where you're constantly under the influence of new fashion. Trends trickle into Athens a bit later. As a teenager there, I used to deconstruct my clothes — that was the look back then. I experimented with different personas. I went through all the stages that young people do — I was a Goth, then a raver, I was even a rock disaster for a while.

ZOË: Did you wear band t-shirts?
SOPHIA: Oh yeah, the whole works. And I was constantly changing my hair. I even got into heavy metal. But let's not go there — it's too hilarious.

ZOË: So you were always thinking about fashion.
SOPHIA: Actually, I took a degree in literature at the University of Athens. When I was eighteen I wanted to be a journalist or an academic. But I gradually became more drawn to designing clothes.

ZOË: As a designer, do you incorporate what you like to wear into your pieces?
SOPHIA: Not at all. I simply make what I think is beautiful. But sometimes I wish I did work that way. It forces you to consider the clothes very pragmatically and figure out exactly what you need from a piece.

ZOË: Do you ever wear your own designs?
SOPHIA: Yes, but I always mix them with something really old. I like to pair new clothes with something low-key that I've had for ages.

ZOË: That kind of juxtaposition is really clear in your Fall 2004 collection, which was glamorous yet understated. I loved the bronze and gold dresses — they accentuate a woman's curves without revealing too much.
SOPHIA: I want women to feel comfortable when they wear my clothes. They shouldn't feel restricted or awkward. And it's important they don't look like they're trying too hard. They should look effortlessly sexy. I like designing functional clothes that still feel very special.

ZOË: The collection certainly was diverse, encompassing micro-dresses as well as cozy puffy jackets.
SOPHIA: I tried to do something very practical that season, but I also wanted to dot the collection with a few extravagant pieces. I love the idea of showing sports clothes alongside eveningwear.

ZOË: Your Fall 2004 look also had an edgy, assertive feel. You paired clunky boots and opaque tights with delicate dresses and fitted jackets. It was very cosmopolitan.
SOPHIA: I moved from Athens to London at the end of '96, to do a master's degree at St. Martins. In London, you feel like you're part of something exciting, that you're contributing to the changes in the culture. The city has so much energy.

ZOË: Is Greece still important to you?
SOPHIA: When I'm in London, I find myself missing Athens — the weather, the social lifestyle, the sounds and smells. Greek people like to go out after work, sit outside, have dinner, and maybe a few drinks. I strongly identify with both cultures.

ZOË: After St. Martins, you stayed in London to start your own label. How did people respond?
SOPHIA: There were very few people at my first show in 1999. Building my business has been a slow process. It's not as if somebody "discovered" me, and all of a sudden I was hot. But more people came to my second show, and even more to the third. By the fourth show, I felt like a success.

ZOË: Running an independent label is hard work. Do you ever consider bringing in outside investors?
SOPHIA: I've managed to survive independently so far — I don't see why I should stop now that life's become a bit easier. For me to sell even a portion of my label, the buyers would have to convince me they really understood what I'm trying to do. In the past, I've had offers from people who were only interested in profits. Of course, without outside investment I can only expand the label so much. But I'm happy with how things are going at the moment.

ZOË: In 1999, you were invited to design for the Milanese leather label, Ruffo Research. You've done a total of six collections for them.
SOPHIA: That was pure luck. The people at Ruffo didn't know anything about me. But they happened to see one of my shows, and they liked it.

ZOË: You use leather in unexpected ways — twisting, knotting, and pleating it as if it were a woven fabric.
SOPHIA: Usually, it's very difficult for young designers to get their hands on amazing fabrics. I was lucky that I had access to fantastic leather through Ruffo Research.

ZOË: Do vintage clothes inspire you?
SOPHIA: Not unless I come across something really magnificent. I certainly don't go out hunting for them.

ZOË: A lot of designers travel in pursuit of fabrics and inspiration before they start a new collection.
SOPHIA: I get most of my ideas from books rather than particular people or places. I look at museum catalogs and books on ceramics and modern art. But my collections are rarely inspired by anything specific. Sometimes there will be one or two images that are especially helpful, but usually it's an accumulation of ideas.

ZOË: What are you planning for next season?
SOPHIA: I'm launching my shoe and handbag line in the UK. Up to now, it has only been available in Italy. Shoe design comes very naturally to me — I've designed all the shoes for my shows since my first collection.

ZOË: How do you approach your shows?
SOPHIA: Everything is important when you're dealing with presentation. You don't just throw some dresses out there. You have to have a complete view encompassing everything — the location, the lighting, the accessories. And it's crucial that the soundtrack for the show reflects the mood of the clothes and creates the right atmosphere.

ZOË: How do you choose the music?
SOPHIA: I always invite somebody who understands what I'm doing to curate the music. Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream has done it the past five seasons. For the last show, we used "Some Velvet Morning," the track he did with Kate Moss, before it was released. Moby is going to do the next show. My studio is a democratic atmosphere — everyone can suggest tracks they like. But he'll have the final say.

ZOË: You design the shoes, the clothes, the accessories — surely you have someone to help you with the actual shows?
SOPHIA: In the early days I had to do the shows myself, but now I have a production team who scout locations. I've been working with them for a while, so everybody's on the same page. They know exactly what style and feel I'm looking for. It's much easier when you've worked with people for more than one season. The longer you work together, the more you gel, and the less there is to explain.


 

 
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Sophia Kokosalaki by Bill Georgoussis, 2004

 

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