Sophia Khaled: ”Let’s make Danish fashion fun again!”
The Copenhagen-based designer brings us to her imaginary, ”childish melancholy” world.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
Growing up, Sophia Khaled was a lonely child, spending a lot of time drawing and creating her own universes. Over the years, her creativity has taken her to a KADK (Royal Danish Academy – Architecture, Design, Conservation) Bachelor and when the pandemic hit and Denmark closed, she saw an opportunity to make use of it — through knitting.
— I get certain images inside my head which I then have to try to create. So, I just started. I didn’t really know how to take the images into knitting — and I didn’t really know how to knit either. It just came to me, for some weird reason, she says.
Tell us about your aesthetics.
— Playful but evil. It’s a world that is building inside my head and I have to get it out of my body. I also draw a lot and include these drawings in my clothing to create this world of, what I call, ’childish melancholy’.
How would you describe this imaginary world?
— It’s really hard — I’m a really visual person and not as good with words but I think my keywords are always this loneliness melancholic, and sinister but also cute.
The brand’s new CEO, Sophie-Isolde Dall, adds:
— A big part of the universe is to create a space for ’outsiders’, or people who we maybe don’t see reflected in the typical fashion industry. You can maybe say a place where they, like you, Sophia, who felt very lonely as a child, can see themselves.
Two years ago, Khaled put her hand-knitted products up on Instagram, where they almost immediately got attention. This week, she’s one of four nominees for Wessel & Wett Fashion Prize — Denmark’s leading award for new talent. She uses wool from neighbouring Norway and with a limited production capacity, retailers like Ssense, which the duo says have shown interest in the garments, will need to wait. Now, Khaled and Dall have concrete expansion plans.
How do you produce the garments?
— It’s all made-to-order and made by me and a few girls in my team. I’m a fast knitter and can make, for instance, a vest in around 12 hours, says Khaled.
— We hope to get a small, local production behind us, Dall adds. We found a very nice place, Huset Venture, outside of Copenhagen — a social economic company where people, especially women, who can’t manage to have a full-time job, sew and knit stuff. So, I think that we’re going to use them, and also, in terms of communication with them, we can easily go there. We went to visit last week.
— I think communication with the production is very important and I really like the thought of it all being really locally produced. I want it to be exclusive and not grow fast and send it all off to production in China or something, but just to stay local, and see if it works out, says Khaled.
Who’s your client?
— People from America and Australia, for some reason, and some are from Asia as well, says Khaled. There are not that many in Denmark, and that’s because Danish fashion is a little boring…
— If you look outside of Denmark, fashion can be a lot of things, but in Denmark, it’s really boring and commercial. There’s not any room for artistic, weird things and I think my mission is also to make a room for that and bring fashion in Denmark back to being artistic and not just commercial.
How do you work with sustainability?
— I grew up maybe as the first generation who was taught in the first grades that we are gonna die if we don’t do something, says Khaled. So, it’s always in my head to try not to have a huge bad influence on the environment. But it’s also hard because fashion is just…to create something is not sustainable.
— It’s also important to build a brand where you have an environmental mindset from the beginning — to set the guidelines and not do it reverse, says Dall. For instance, we have quite a lot of small garments that we use as accessories, such as brooches and necklaces, which are all made from scrap yarns, so that we don’t waste anything.
For you, being new in the industry, how’d you wish to develop it?
— I’d love to see more diversity, especially when it comes to diversity in clothing. I think that a lot in the industry looks very alike, says Dall.
— I want to see more original work and I think that is why I say ’boring’ [about Danish fashion]. Working on our new collection, we’re here to make Danish fashion fun again. In fashion, you have to be so nice all the time. For me, it’s my life, it’s what I can do. I don’t know what I should do if I didn’t do what I do now. It’s like life and death, but it’s also exciting, I think — to live on the edge, says Khaled.