Sophia Kokosalaki was a graduate of Central Saint Martins MA in fashion, introducing her label at London Fashion Week in 1999.
Her strong will to study fashion in London was recently depicted in a recent article by friend and writer Sarah Mower in Vogue in 2019. ‘She was 16 the first time she applied; she turned up with three garments, no portfolio, and was sent away. “Louise (Wilson) and I thought she was intriguing, had something, but she was far too young. We had to send her away,” says Fabio Piras, who is now the course professor, and remembers her coming in front of the admissions panel. “We told her to come back when she was 18. And then, you knew. She was one of those students who was totally focused on doing their own thing, launching their label.”
Sophia later said about herself, ‘my design identity can be defined in terms of aesthetic and in terms of technique.’ Designs for her own label were based heavily on craftsmanship and researching of traditional methods of construction which was an important part of her practice. ‘During the realization of a collection, I have used techniques such as draping, folding, macrame, pleating, cording which are explored to their maximum potential to remove any costume, historic and histrionic references in a complex effort to achieve originality and freshness,’ she explained.
In the mid-2000s she shifted to show in Paris, consistently evolving ideas that grew from her background. Her roots were in Crete; her civil engineer father and journalist mother were both born on the island, “the motherland, we call it,” she said. As Sarah Mower reports, ‘she learned “macramé and ajiro” from her grandmother on long summer holidays, techniques that led to her abstract collaging of pieces of leather and fabric, strung together as conceptual bodices. Occasionally they’d turn up over draped pants and baggy, pushed-down leather boots, inspired by costumes worn by Cretan village men. “They wear loose trousers, flat boots, and a turban with tassels—and all in black. I just think it’s amazing and kind of sexy. How often can you say that about folk costume?” she laughed. “It’s a bit ’70s, even rock, but in a primitive way!”
In 2004, she was asked by the Greek government to design the opening and closing of the Athens Olympics. She pulled off friezes, floats, and performances that honoured Greek myth, history, and culture in front of a global audience.
She moved to Paris to show, taking a side gig at Vionnet in 2006 for two years, and in 2007 sold her brand to Renzo Rosso’s Only The Brave, parent company of Diesel. When the latter arrangement didn’t work out, she shifted to designing Diesel Black Gold’s collections for runway shows in New York from 2010 to 2012 before buying back her own label. She created collections for Topshop and worked on the relaunch of Vionnet, the French heritage house.
In recent times, she refocused to work on beautiful wedding dresses, and a jewelry collection that bears the stamp of her extraordinary ability to craft objects with both a sense of antiquity and a wholly modern vitality.
Sophia sadly died in 2019 leaving a daughter, partner and many friends and fans of her work across the globe.