Self-confessed minimalist and our current design crush because we live for minimalism, Sophie Zinga is a Senegalese Parsons-trained fashion designer and creative designer of her eponymous label. She considers herself a citizen of the world and her designs are a distinctive blend of her artistic experiences, which are an eclectic cocktail of her voyages. Of course we collated random questions to ask the designer, not just about the label but about herself
HFA: Who is Sophie Zinga?
SZ: I am a 27 year old fashion designer born in Senegal, raised between the United States, Kenya and Senegal. I have a background in development and economics and studied Fashion Design at Parsons. I currently split my time between Dakar and New York.
HFA: Has fashion designing always been in the plan for you?
SZ: Honestly, not really. Well actually in my head it was, but I always said in another world that I’d be a fashion designer. As a youngster I was a bit of a nerd and strived to always be first or second of my class. I read any book I could get my hands on and was generally studious. I wanted to save the world, which led me to be profoundly be interested in politics, public health and economics. However I always found myself magnetically attracted to beauty and fashion. In 2005, I started blogging about all things fashion and sometime in 2009 I decided to apply to Parsons. For me it wasn’t worth going into fashion if I did not get into the best design school.
HFA: What was it like schooling in Parsons and how did it help in honing your design skills?
SZ: I think schooling in Parsons has really thought me discipline and also gave me the opportunity to really immerse myself fully in the world of fashion, which is a highly competitive environment. As a design student at Parsons you’re thought how to make a garment from beginning to end. From concept, research, sketching to making the actual garments. As a fashion design student you could walk into a class at 2am and find students working on projects. That rigorous routine is what I have kept with me until today: Hard work and perseverance.
HFA: We take that you are a lover of art and culture having described yourself as a ‘citizen of the world’. Has this impacted your outlook on life and approach to design?
SZ: Yes, I really mean it when I say I consider myself a citizen of the world and I try to truly immerse myself in different countries every time I travel. I’ve been in and out of planes since I was 10 months old and moved every 3 years to a different city. I identify as Senegalese but I picked up bits and pieces of culture and experiences from all the different cities I’ve lived in and I feel at home both in New York and Dakar.
My approach to design is embracing all cultures while still infusing my African roots in the design process. It all starts with an idea or inspiration and I let it come on its own in the most natural way. As an African designer people like to usually put us in boxes automatically and I refuse to be put in. I am fashion designer, no more, no less.
HFA: What is your personal mantra, if you have one?
SZ: Whatever in life you choose to be, be the best at it. Be good to everyone, even those who haven’t been good to you. The universe works in amazing ways. I strongly believe in Karma and the power of being positive.
HFA: Sophie Zinga is your eponymous fashion brand. What did you take into consideration before naming the brand?
SZ: My full name is Sophie Nzinga Sy but while naming the brand I wanted my customer to identify herself with it whether she’s be European or African or from Latin America. I think Sophie and Zinga is a beautiful juxtaposition. I am Senegalese but my parents who are Pan-Africanists named me after Queen Nzinga from Angola who fought against Portuguese invasion.
HFA: Who is the ‘Sophie Zinga’ woman?
SZ: The Sophie Zinga customer embodies a strong beautiful woman who understands her body and knows how to dress depending on her event. She dresses tastefully dressed whether she’s in gala, a board meeting or just jet setting in between her travels. She’s socially conscious, well travelled and likes to be a step ahead of trends while adding her own touch to her wardrobe with accessories. She’s that best dressed woman in understated luxury.
HFA: We can’t help but fall in love with the aesthetic of your brand; how you are able to keep you designs minimalist and still infuse rich culture and travel experiences into you work. How do you do that?
SZ: Thank you, it comes naturally to me quite honestly. I myself am avid supporter of the “less is more” mantra so it naturally reflects my design aesthetic. I also proudly infuse my African roots because it is part of who I am. I think the brand’s aesthetic is a reflection of myself.
HFA: Do you have muse(s)? Can you tell us who they are?
SZ: I have several muses. This season my girl is a globetrotter; she’s socially conscious and is aware of international trends. She loves being best dressed at all her events and adds her unique touch to her outfits. I find inspiration from the women who are close to me whether they are artists, entertainers or just friends.
HFA: Can you remember your first fashion show? What was it like?
SZ: Yes, it was in 2012 at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan. It was during the 1st Ladies luncheon in New York and I remember being super stressed. I am a perfectionist so I wanted everything to look pristine. In the end it went very well and Senegal’s First Lady who was attending the event came to congratulate me.
HFA: What inspired your most recent collection?
SZ: The rose and its texture inspired my Spring/Summer 2014 collection. I was also inspired by Malian tie-dye techniques, which I infused my own way onto French Alencon lace.
HFA: What is your favourite piece/ensemble from the collection?
SZ: The alencon tye dye lace gown and the one shoulder Jumpsuit.
HFA: Where do you see the African fashion industry and Sophie Zinga in the next five years?
SZ: In the next five years, I see African fashion in a much more mature stage. I think right now everyone is watching African fashion evolve and the rest of the world is starting to see the tremendous potential that African fashion has. Investors are gaining more interest but have a lot more work to do to collectively to create a real industry with more magazines, editors etc..
At Sophie Zinga, we hope to be stocking in big name department stores worldwide. We would also like develop our accessories section starting Spring/Summer 2015 and eventually start a diffusion line in a couple of years for a more price friendly choice for customers who’d like to wear our pieces. We would also love to design a capsule collection with Zara, H&M or Topshop.
HFA: What can we look forward to from Sophie Zinga in the near future?
SZ: We are currently getting ready for our Fall/Winter presentation and will be presenting it during Paris Fashion Week on February 28th. We are excited because it is the brand’s first fall/winter collection yet to date. We are also working on revamping our website and creating an online store. Keep up with us at www.facebook.com/sophiezinga
Tags: Paris Fashion Week 2014, Sophie Zinga, Who's HauTe, Who's HauTe interview