Sophia Kah founder on building her ready-to-wear empire
By Danielle Wightman-Stone
20 Mar 2019
For autumn/winter 2019, Ana Teixeira de Sousa, founder and creative director of contemporary womenswear label Sophia Kah showcased her effortless sophisticated couture pieces for the modern woman against the rich backdrop of London’s Mark’s Club with its eccentric interior design.
Inspired by powerful, courageous, dynamic women with a tigeress spirit, de Sousa has created a romantic collection filled with elaborate detailing, with silk georgette, chiffon and satin bases overlaid with intricate French lacing, which is showcased across tailored separates, from split flared trousers with waterfall hemming to a knee-length skirt with button detailing, and an updated version of the brand’s trademark Sophia lace coat dress.
The contemporary label has become known for its couture eveningwear, and the demure glamour is still present with a show-stopping black long-sleeved fishtail gown with polka dot lace-panelling, and a midnight velvet floor-length wrap dress in a shimmery gloss.
However, for autumn/winter there is a shift to a more commercial feel to the ready-to-wear line with a playful pink silk georgette mid-length dress, a lace bustier with velvet straps and chiffon detailing, and a versatile black sleeveless trench coat dress that features buttons inspired by Portuguese gold coins that can be worn solo or layered over one of the mesh cocktail dresses for a nighttime engagement.
During Sophia Kah’s London Fashion Week presentation, FashionUnited sat down with the Portuguese designer to find out about her inspiration for AW19, her creative process, how she balances working directly with clients on made-to-order while designing her ready-to-wear, as well as her goals for the future.
What’s the inspiration behind your autumn/winter 2019 collection?
Ana Teixeira de Sousa: “The name of the collection is ‘Tiger Souls’ inspired by the inspirational women I know, like my friends, clients and even celebrities that fight for their dreams, this collection is very fearless. I want the clothes to bring a kind of fearless feeling that’s powerful with the dresses, so when you wear the pieces you aren’t afraid of anything.
“At the same time in terms of colours, textures, and fabrics, I was also inspired by British private clubs, and those different textures and details come across in the dresses.”
What’s the starting point when designing a new collection?
“It's always comes from a little thing, for this collection, I was looking in a book and I saw this tiger and I thought it was such a good idea to do tiger souls, as now the world expects so much from women, we are expected to everything, we must be strong, powerful, and successful, but at the same time have a family, and I wanted to bring this to life in the clothes.”
With this collection there seems to be a shift away from just eveningwear - why is this?
“I'm very passionate about eveningwear, but in the last few season I have be trying to make it more ready-to-wear. I’m still passionate about eveningwear but the world is changing, nowadays people are much more relaxed and they want a dress to fit different occasions, they don’t just want a dress for a party, they want to wear it to the party but also to work. So, I’ve been creating a new concept, we have trousers that can be worn with a nice top that you can wear to work but also still dress up.”
Has there been any challenges in adapting the label to more ready-to-wear looks?
“I think nowadays as a designer you need to look at how the world lives. In Europe, maybe in the Middle East they still like to get super dressed up for dinner, in London, people used to dress like that a few years ago, but now they want their clothes to be practical and versatile, where they just have to change their shoes into a high heel so that they're ready to go to the party.
“I felt that I had to translate this feeling into the collection and bring more practicality.”
Is there one piece from the collection that is the focus of this new thinking?
“This collection is much bigger, but the one piece that I love, that we've been doing for a long time is the lace jacket as you can wear it work with jeans, as well as be able to put your heels on to dress it up. It looks super chic and super nice to go anywhere.
“We used to offer this jacket with bespoke embroidered names on the back, people loved that, but as this collection is called ‘Tiger Souls’ we’ve done it with a sequinned tiger that’s all handmade. I love that piece.”
What other new additions have you added this season?
“We’ve introduced a lot of silk georgette that I love, it is very flowy, and something different for us because we are always very focused on lace, lace, lace and we wanted to offer something else for our clients. We’ve also added separates, with lace skirts and matching tops, to offer a whole look and I’m really pleased with the final result.”
Is there a step back from intricate craftsmanship that you are known for?
“I’m still all about the details. For me, the details are the most important thing, they make the clothes, when I have a fabric I love I'm always thinking what can I add on, because that's what makes the difference, that’s what makes our lace dress standout over so many other brands also doing lace dresses.
“I'm obsessed about the details and the craftsmanship, we are very serious about it in Portugal, we have a whole team who have been with us for a while, and we are super focused on detailing, but at the same time we also need to be realistic commercially. So, where we used to spend hours and hours doing handmade detailing we are trying to have more of a balance by using machines, as everyone is price sensitive today.”
Do you prefer working on your ready-to-wear line or your made-to-order pieces?
“I love both and nowadays we work very separately. Now more of our special pieces, with intricate handmade detailing is for our private clients as they still really want that and appreciate the craftsmanship, but I find retail are very price sensitive and don’t really care much about that, the reality is that they are looking more for nice with a good price.
“It is much nicer to work when you can do the best, you know it's my passion, and a lot of our big clients they still love the craftsmanship and hours of lace work that goes into their pieces, but we also need to have a vision that works for the commercial side.”
What are the goals for Sophia Kah in the coming years?
“That's a good question because I never think about that, I generally go day-by-day, but I know I should, and if I could focus on one thing it would to be more present in more markets. As I think as a brand, the more markets that you conquer, the more successful you are in terms of doing your job right, but it's very challenging.”
Is there any markets that you want to target?
“We are very successful in the US, which is amazing market, but Europe it's tricky. Even though we are based there and we have a lot of private clients, it is a tricky market because there are so many different countries and all of them have their own personality and the way they see fashion. I would like for us to be more present than we currently are, I would like to understand a bit more and to develop further not just in Europe, but also Asia and the Middle East.
“Asia is tricker, it is harder to understand what they like, but it is also the most amazing market, as Asia is fabulous, but also very difficult to understand and do well in. But it's one market that I would absolutely love to conquer.”
Images: courtesy of Sophia Kah