At Barneys this weekend, we met Sophia Kokosalaki, the 33-year-old Londoner who has taken on the daunting task of resurrecting the legendary French fashion house Vionnet, which invented the bias cut and was favored by Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, and Greta Garbo in the twenties. Vionnet shuttered its doors at the beginning of WWII in 1939, which means Kokosalaki’s collection is the first to emerge from the house in 68 years.
How long would you say you’ve been preparing for this?
Really, a designer would say, “all my life,” because as a design student in college, you always look at Vionnet. It’s the first thing you do. She had such great ideas. But, really, the deal was finalized in July.
What was Vionnet’s biggest contribution to fashion?
She’s known for liberating women from the corset. But her aesthetic never dates. It’s very modern and very specific to the woman’s body. She’s my favorite designer, so of course when they ask you, you just jump. I was so happy.
Are you taking influence from the twenties?
I’m trying to take elements. I used original embroidery designs, or the lines of the cut — always something from the past because it’s Vionnet and you have to respect it. You can’t just go in and do your own gig.
And what is it that you’re trying to do?
I want to liberate women like she did. I never use corsetierie or boning to hold the bust. But in reality, that’s what women in 2007 want — an amazing bust. But Vionnet was never about that. It would be sacrilege. So that’s an intellectual, theoretical, but practical problem I had to face. —Jada Yuan
Watch a slideshow from the Vionnet launch party at Barneys New York.