By Hillary Latos
More than just your classic fashion designer and model as muse tale, Sophie Theallet and Veronica Webb began their lifelong friendship as teenagers at the beginning of their careers in Paris. Veronica was Azzedine Alaia’s model and muse and Sophie was the designer. Prior to launching her eponymous line in 2007, Sophie mastered the design process from the kings of couture, namely Jean Paul Gaultier and Alaia. Since her debut, Sophie’s collections reflect her undeniably French aesthetic, combined with a striking use of color on sensual silhouettes, which were met with praise and recognition from fashion insiders and garnered the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award in 2009. To this day, Veronica symbolizes the woman Sophie loves to dress, and Sophie’s creations embody the effortless and timeless elegance that Veronica loves to wear. We caught up with the designer and muse in Sophie’s studio as she was preparing her upcoming collection.
NYR: How does Veronica Webb inspire you as your muse?
ST: We began in fashion together and were both teenagers. The way Veronica dresses is always chic, she has good taste and her attitude is effortless. She also has a strong personality and she’s extremely beautiful and smart. For me, she represents the lady I love to dress.
VW: My mother always made me clothes as a kid and I learned how to do fittings from the time I was 3. So if Azzedine Alaia wanted to work on a sleeve for 3 hours I was already used to it.
ST: She never complained and she would know exactly what a woman wants and she would play with it, she really knew what it was like to have really well done clothes.
VW: Our lives are also similar, we’re both running businesses, we have kids, we work late, we want to look professional, look sexy, have a great wardrobe, and we need to savemoney to put back into our businesses and put our kids through private school. Quality, versatility, durability are all big issues.
NYR: What are some of the lessons you learned from Alaia and Gaultier that have influenced your aesthetic?
ST: To respect the clothes and to work closely with a strong team. Fit is very important, the way that clothes are done and cut, the woman has to feel the clothes. With Alaia he made my eyes very sharp, and taught me how to do a fitting and defined what fashion is. It was the best experience you can have as a designer, if you want to learn, you learn from the best. With Gaultier it was a different experience but strong as well, he taught me to believe in yourself and to follow your instinct and play with the colors which are really important in all my collections. I love to play with color, I love to take two strong colors that fight each other,its part of my DNA. If you come from the South of France, you’re surrounded by color.
NYR: How do you feel French and American fashion differ?
ST: Now the world is small, people are travelling a lot so before it was defined by country, but now fashion is everywhere. I learned how to design a collection in France, it’s a different way to create a collection and thinking process, but I learned how to build a business in NY. You take the best of both worlds and make a mix of both and try to do the best that you can. Now I live in NY, so France and America became one.
NYR: How is living in NY vs. Paris?
ST: I love living in both cities, for me, its different experiences. Now I feel at home in NY, in the beginning I didn’t because I was 100% Parisian, but now I’m in NY, and I’m a New Yorker with a French accent.
NYR: What are your favorite places to go for inspiration?
ST: When you work in fashion you work a lot, so when you hang out you try to find the best places. When I was in Paris I would go to the most beautiful places, and when I want to escape the city I was going to the Tuilleries. Paris is a really romantic and beautiful city, so it’s easy to find great places, such as Le Marais that has history that you can really enjoy and you can dream about being in another era. In NY, you can go everywhere and find a different kind of culture, every neighborhood has a strong identity.
NYR: Do you have any pre or post fashion show rituals?
ST: I’ve been doing yoga down the street a few times a week. It’s very stressful to do a collection and everything around you is moving so fast and you really need to be focused because you need to make it happen and your clothes need to be the best that they can. I also drink coffee, have a glass of wine.
NYR: What would you say is your signature style?
VW: Sophie’s style is always distinctly feminine and the moment you put her dress on everyone always says you look so beautiful that they don’t even notice the dress. Everything is feminine and the colors are incredible that make you feel alive and it brings out your skin tone, hair and jewelry. You can never place what era it’s from, there’s never anything in the clothes that reads as trend.Its never too tight, short or bright, everything moves. Most designers dress in a uniform, they don’t put much thought into dressing themselves and tend to wear the same things because most of their energy is spent on dressing other people.
ST: I really believe that’s what fashion should be, timeless. These are expensive clothes and you want it to be timeless. You want to wear a dress, but not a dress by a particular designer. You want to feel the dress. It’s something really important, you want the dress to help you shine, you want it to be part of who you are, you don’t want the dress to wear you.