The Dutch Sophie Hardeman graduated only recently from the Fashion Department at Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, yet has already shown her work during New York Fashion Week in 2016 and during LA Fashion Week in January 2017. Her work defines young, innovative and fun, but most important of all her designs will embrace everyone’s individuality.
We, from Dutch Culture USA, got the chance to ask the energetic, inspiring and kind fashion designer several questions about her short yet already successful career on her ideas about fashion and her future aspirations.
Friday morning New York time, we got in touch with Sophie via Skype. Even though our laptop screen is flat and shallow, we could genuinely feel her liveliness all the way from Amsterdam, where she is currently living, being present in our office. Sophie is vibrant and her ideas are well translated into her fashion designs. She tells us that it all began on Instagram. She got noticed by the American company Vfiles, that supports new talent. They had only seen her work through the pictures which she posted on Instagram, but her designs were so extraordinary, that even with only 100 followers, Vfiles was already interested in working with her. She was surprised that she got picked up by Vfiles, but if you see her designs there is something provocative and sexual, yet there is also something satisfying about her work. Besides, it’s not only her designs that make it special, it’s also her choice of models and settings that make her work worthwhile.
When the time finally comes that she completes a collection and is ready to show it to everyone, like every other designer, Sophie as well needs models to present her designs. Sophie tells us that she chooses her models herself, she wants to know that the models feel comfortable and convey the message she wants. In preparation for the fashion show in LA, she even asked the pizza delivery guy if he was free the next day and fortunately he was. The next day he was one of the models at her show! This makes Sophie’s shows special: she wants to present models of all sizes, shapes and colors and by choosing them she wants to tell us that everyone no matter what size, shape or color you might be, is unique in a way and that we should embrace our uniqueness. There is no such thing as a perfect size or a perfect body. Everyone has something which another does not have, but hey that’s okay. And Sophie will work with every body individually, to embrace who you are and what your body looks like. By casting models the way Sophie does, genuinely conveys this message of embracing your uniqueness.
Also, Sophie doesn’t let her models walk on a “normal” runway, yet she wants them to have fun: substituting the catwalk with a spectacle play that lasts two hours. Here the models can dance, do what they want and be themselves. Her idea to change this conventional concept of the runway evolved because she wants, firstly that her models enjoy what they are wearing and wants them to have fun, and secondly, her designs are there to be seen by everyone. This means that during a two-hour long show the public can walk in and out so that more people are able to see her work and not a select group of people.
This comes to the next point which gives Sophie’s work a special dimension. With every collection that she brings out, she accompanies it with a short video. Again, to present the people that couldn’t attend her runway spectacle her clothes anyways. Sophie wants to include everyone in her work and let everyone feel good about themselves and their bodies.
Sophie gets her inspiration by questioning herself “what is normal?” and “what does it mean to dress up normal?”. She wants to exaggerate trends and tries to get the “normal”, which we seem to think of as the norm, to be special. For example, gowns or gala dresses are not considered normal clothing wear, yet Sophie wants to transform the dresses in something we would define as normal. She is playing with our conventions of what we think is normal to wear. In her work, it is important that there is always a point of recognition. Therefore, she works a lot with denim. It’s a fabric that everyone knows and wears. She uses denim in such a way that we have to get out of our comfort zone and embrace what is actually ours.
Sophie sees that we are buying clothes to become someone else: “if you wear this, you will become that”. Of course, this phrase is appealing to many young women and men, yet Sophie wants her collection to be more like: “if you wear this, you will be yourself and you can be proud to be you”. We must embrace our individuality – was the general message that Sophie told us at Dutch Culture USA.
Lastly, Sophie wants to continue doing what she does. She would love to open her own studio which would also function as store and gallery for her work. She is not sincerely interested in becoming a big company since she doesn’t want to do any concessions. Being close to her work and making her own choices is more appealing for her than running an immense business. She is now represented by a PR-agency in London but also looking at opportunities in the States. Hopefully, she can participate during New York Fashion Week in the fall too!
As for us, we would love to see her show here in New York and see her continuing the way she does:
“Embrace your individuality”!