Starting from Australia and quickly moving on to the world fashion hub hollywood, Sophia Banks, in a very short time, has carved out a niche for herself as a global fashion and style expert. Her impressive resume includes working with worlds top fashion czars and celebrity clientele. Sophia’s work spans across diverse portfolios that speaks volumes of her professionalism and the hard work she has put in over the years. From Italy’s fashion houses like the Rodo’s shows to the red carpet looks at the Oscars, Sophia has designed them all. She has featured in top magazines from the Forbes to the pages of Elle.
Sophia’s meticulous planning worked wonders in the hollywood debut and successful launch of Indian actress Priyanka Chopra in the USA. Sophia also directs commercials for big brands like BMW, Sparkling ICE, Ford, Rimmel, Christian Siriano, Pam & Gela etc. In fact, it wont be an exaggeration to say that Sophia Banks is a 360 degrees all rounder and an expert in all things fashion. After having barely managed to catch Sophia at her plush LA office, I found myself lucky enough to chat with her.
Husain: Hi Sophia, thanks for taking out the time to speak to me.
Sophia: Hi Husain, Not at all, pleasure is mine.
Husain: Sophia, please tell me a bit about yourself, your career so far, how did you become a fashion stylist?
Sophia: I am an Australian and after a business degree and a fashion degree I started styling in Australia. I moved to the USA, launching a fashion boutique was the next step for me, it was called Satine and quickly became award-winning Hollywood hotspot. Satine was written up in all the fashion magazines, shopped by celebrities and because of its fashion forwardness, step me up as a ‘Trend Forecaster’ from which started my career as a fashion consultant, I began to consult to top fashion lines and design for them. One of my favorite projects was for fashion house Rodo where I was flown to Italy to design shows.
At Satine I also launched the careers of many top designers and won many awards from Harper’s Bazaar Style Leaders Award for several years, La fashion awards, Vogue retail store of the year etc., and we got a licensing deal to open a store in Japan and a contract to design shoes for an Italian Fashion house. During the time at Satine we would work with Celebrities every day from Cameron Diaz to Nicole Richie, I was able to style people daily.
I enjoyed the designing so much at Satine that I decided to take it one step further and launch my own fashion line, Whitley Kros. It became an instant success and established itself as a celebrity favorite with talent such as Katy Perry, Blake Lively, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez and Kate Hudson. I was featured in FORBES as “Top ten Undiscovered Designer of the Year,” I was nominated as “Ecco Domani Fashion FOUNDATION AWARD,” and was the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week sponsored show.
From Whitley Kros I had developed many relationships with Celebrities and Fashion companies, who loved my designs but also my creative vision. I was asked to come on board to creative direct for companies creating their visions. Celebrities wanted me to create a vision for their brand, themselves and so I was asked to create an entire image for them, creating their performance looks, red carpet, and even casual looks. (An example of this is Kristin Chenoweth where I created every look from Oscar Performance, Buckingham Palace or Hosting the American Country Music Awards to the looks she was paparazzi in daily).
I was able to tie in my creative, storytelling and my marketing skill to whether for a Fashion Brand, Company or Personality, creative a cohesive look that fit in with what message it or they were trying to convey.
My success in fashion and costume design for performances and commercials, also lead to bigger opportunities such as film. In 2012 I Costume designed, SYRUP, starring Kellan Lutz, Amber Heard and Brittany Snow, produced by Academy Award winner Barrie Osborne (Lord of the rings trilogy, matrix, and the new Great Gatsby) and was invited into the costume designers’ guild.
A few years ago I began working with Priyanka when she was first arriving in the USA, my background in Marketing combined with my fashion experience meant we could create the correct look for her for the USA. We worked out how she wanted to be perceived and then worked on her looks for every carpet event. Contributing to growing her in the USA has been fantastic.
Husain: Can you tell us the most memorable moment of your career, so far?
Sophia: Ohh so many, getting most googled dress of 2016 for Priyanka Chopra, being on the E Oscar panel the year below, and being backstage at the Oscars the year before.
Other highlights, directing my first fashion commercial, doing costume design on my first movie, having my first fashion show sponsored by Mercedes Benz and winning Forbes top ten undiscovered designers on the rise.
Husain: How do you choose what looks work for each individual client?
Sophia: Coco Chanel once said- the best color is the one that looks good on you.
It’s a very detailed process before I start with every client. I have a full questionnaire of everything they like and don’t, looks they have loved, looks they have hated. I also spend a lot of time talking with the Actor/Musician about what career they want, how the want to be perceived to the public, what type of image we are trying to build.
I always make it about the actor or actress and how to make them shine. I look at what colors look good on them, there body shape and then look at what dresses will gain international attention and run across the world in all the magazine and papers. It’s a very detailed process, and one that I spend a lot of time on to ensure that we get results like Priyanka Chopra Oscar dress that was seen by billions of people and gets
Husain: Indians are crazy about Priyanka Chopra. Tell us about your own experience in styling for her.
Sophia: It was so amazing working with her, she is such a wonderful, kind beautiful person who works so incredibly hard. We always had such fun choosing dresses.
For the Oscar look as it was a big deal we were very involved in the selection of the dress. We of course requested many gowns and flew to Montreal where Priyanka was filming to do a fitting with about 40 gowns in tow.
We then did the fitting and the white was a top option along with many others but it need alterations.
Husain: What challenges do you generally face as a stylist?
Sophia: When your dressing someone for the Oscars or a big event, there is no room for error, you have to be totally on your game. That means making sure you are very prepared and that you have made sure everything is perfect. I double and triple check everything
Husain: What is the biggest misconception people not working in your field have about your job?
Sophia: It’s all glamour and all fun and games. It’s a lot of hard work, a lot goes into building every look and its also very high pressure.
Husain: What goals do you wish to achieve in the future?
Sophia: I love fashion, I would love to dress some more amazing talent from India and help build there profile the USA. I love consulting to fashion lines as well and will do a line of handbags in the future.
I am also directing Commercials and music videos which I love as I am able to oversee the whole vision so I want to expand that and also I am working on a feature.
Husain: Do the clothing choices you make at work inspire your own personal style?
Sophia: Of course I see everything and so those trends influence my style but I have a very specific style and I always dress everyone differently.
As a stylist it is your job to make whoever you are dressing shine.
Husain: How does your personal upbringing over the years influence your style statement. I mean, if at all it does?
Sophia: I moved to Australia from the UK when I was 4 and was raised there till 20. Australia there is a lot of bright light and colors and a sense of freedom.
Husain: How would you describe your personal style?
Sophia: I think my personal style is a little edgy. I also love menswear for women.
I love Jumpsuits, I own so many and also pants and suits.
Husain: What is your favorite item in your closet?
Sophia: I collect a lot of vintage so I love Chanel pieces vintage belts and jackets.
Husain: If you could choose a celebrity closet to shop in, who’s would it be and why?
Sophia: Carrie from Sex in the City… I loved her style, she was so whimsical and fun and the shoes… I loved that show and every moment and outfit was a treat.
Husain: If you could choose anyone to give a makeover, who would it be and why?
Sophia: I love doing make-over but these are really reinvention. I love doing them on may people, sometimes there are younger stars that want a new more mature looks, sometimes mucis stars who want to become actors, and sometimes visa-versa. Sometimes its stars wanting to come to the USA and have a more western looks, so I love them and am always willing to do them.
Husain: Any Indian Star / starlet that you would like to style for?
Sophia: There are so many I love it would be hard to choose, I love Bollywood and all the talent you have here so I hope I have the chance to work with many new stars coming to
Husain: Everyone loves a good deal, what are some of your favorite places to find good buys?
Sophia: I love all stores from high end to vintage. I often find good deals on http://www.revolve.com/, I find they do great versions of high end looks.
Husain: What items do you feel are worth splurging on?
Sophia: I really feel bags are the most important, I love a good bag, I think with a good bag, you can make an outfit.
My second choice would be shoes, I also feel they make a great outfit.
Then my third is Jackets, I love Balmain, Stella McCartney blazer, leather jackets from all brands and denim.
Husain: What’s the best style advice you’ve received?
Sophia: Never show too much, always go simple accessories with a complicated dress and vice versa.
Husain: Who is your own favorite designer? Why?
Sophia: I have to say I have many favorite designers, having designed and owned my own fashion label Whitley Kros, I have appreciation for both high end designers Like Zuhair Murad, Valentino, Balenciaga etc. but also emerging designers. As I consult to fashion brands and am also looking for new labels for my clients, I spend days researching and looking for new designers.
That said I have a special place in my heart for Coco Chanel, not only as a designer but as a rule breaker and someone who pushed the women’s agenda
Husain: Describe a time early in your career where you felt you could say, ‘I made it’.
Sophia: When I was back stage at the Oscars 3 years ago, I was costume designing a dress for Kristin Chenoweth who was performing and styling her looks for the red carpet as she was hosting the pre-Oscar station. I was on the red carpet standing right behind her, that massive amazing red-carpet with all the super stars of the world coming down. It was the year Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway were nominated and I was standing right there as Kristin spoke to them both and many other amazing stars.
I then was in Kristin Dressing room, backstage across the hall was the entire Les Miserable cast, Hugh Hackman, Russel crow etc., all hanging in tithe hallway, Adele just next door it was pretty surreal.
Husain: Last but not the least Sophia, “What advice would you give to an up and coming fashion stylist?
Sophia: First learn everything about the subject, study what other people have done, look at the outfits that make the best dress listed and worse and decide why you think that. Try and dress friends all different body shapes and take picture and decide why or why it doesn’t work.
Look at every runway show for that season on Vogue.com, write down common things you see for each- those are the trends. Use the trends to dress people but never let that overrule one factor- it is always about the actor and never the dress, you must make the actor/ actress shine, and thy.
Husain: Thanks a ton Sophia for giving your valuable time to me. It was indeed a pleasure talking to you. I wish you all the very best in your career and for all the future endeavors in life. Wish to see you styling some more of our Bollywood girls soon.
Sophia: Sure, why not. You’re most welcome Husain, it was a pleasure talking to you too!
You can check out her collection at www.sophiabanks.com.
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