Countdown to Runway

IDRS 15 Files #5: Behind the Scenes with Designer Sophie Karen

From leather separates to two-toned trench coats, meet the Dawson and Deveraux designer who's restyling classic wardrobe essentials.

By Aoife Reilly September 8, 2015

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Image via Dawson and Deveraux

Having trained with French couturier Cecile Pelous (of Dior, Guy Laroche, and Nina Ricci fame), Sophie Karen, lead designer and co-founder of Dawson and Deveraux, knows a thing or two about creating show stopping pieces. With an official launch date of March 2014, the relatively new local label has already featured on websites across the fashion world, including British Vogue.

While Sophie Karen's latest designs may have hints of British and French influences (edgy detailing, lean lines, and a monochromatic color palette), her creations don't fall under a certain trend. The current collection features a mix of revamped trench coats and bold leather separates, but the strength lies in the dramatic evening wear pieces. Think intense metallic prints, sleek silhouettes, and an exquisite attention to detail which will no doubt capture the audience's attention at the Independent Designer Runway Showcase on September 23.

What neighborhood is your studio in and how does that part of the city inspire you or help you design?
My studio is actually a dedicated space within my home across the sound in Indianola. It's a small beach town but it has a strong community of artists and musicians. My favorite thing about the location is that it’s so quiet and peaceful here, no matter the time of the day. It's perfect to work or to take a break with a walk along the beach when I need some fresh air.

Why did you decide that neighborhood?
We picked this neighborhood for the location, the community, and we found the perfect house for our family that came with a large bonus room ideal for my studio. We've been here for just over two years.

What is your earliest memory of designing? Maybe it's something you created before you even started calling yourself a designer, or maybe it's the thing that made you realize that you are a designer.
I have always loved art and being creative, but my earliest memory of fashion design was a black and white silk dress with a flare skirt that I made after only a few weeks of sewing class at design school. 

What do you do to get yourself in a creative or productive headspace when you're feeling stuck?
I like to go for a walk, a jog, or have a dance party in my living room with my boys. 

What are five things you can't work without and why?
I definitely need my sewing tools, my fabrics, a bottle of water, my tablet to watch movies or to listen to music when I have to work late at night, and my cellphone. My tablet and cellphone help me focus on design and allow for an occasional mental escape when I need it without having to leave my studio. 

What is your favorite thing about your studio? What makes it your ideal working environment?
I like the big space and windows that let in a lot of natural light in the morning. I also like that I can't hear any traffic noise, day or night. There are no distractions other than the ones I create.

Where can we find your products, and where would you like us to be able to find your products—that is, if you could snap your fingers and have anyone start stocking and selling your stuff, what would that look like?
You can find my designs on my website. I really see us as an accessible boutique brand. We like the idea of our customers feeling like they are getting something unique and high fashion but at a reasonable price point.

Where do you get inspiration for your work?
I like art galleries, looking at architecture and different shapes that I see all around me, but honestly I am inspired by women. We can do anything and I think Dawson and Deveraux women are multi-generational and diverse.

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