Montreal-based Designer Sophie Theallet Talks Wardrobe Staples and Starting Again

Photograph provided by room 502.

The designer’s Room 502 label recently launched a new six-piece collection.

Since leaving the bustling New York fashion scene and her very famous eponymous label several years ago, Sophie Theallet – whose designs have been worn by figures including Michelle Obama, Jada Pinkett Smith, Kate Winslet and Meghan Markle – settled into a new life with a new line based in Canada.

“Being in Montreal and doing room 502, I found my freedom,” she says of her rekindled sense of purpose and ease, one that informs the basic wardrobe brand she launched. with his partner Steve Francoeur last year.

Room 502, named after the apartment number the couple shared in Manhattan’s infamous Chelsea Hotel in the ’90s, introduced a new, limited-edition six-piece collection this summer, titled Series 2. La range of clothing includes a Nehru collar shirt dress named after famous choreographer and dancer Blanca Li, and a poet-style blouse that comes in printed and solid black fabric. Imbued with a presence of sensibility – these aren’t the hype looks that many designers are supposed to produce every season – the 502 room offerings certainly speak to the times we live in and give a practical but thoughtful touch to its look. cupboard.

Montreal brand
Photograph provided by room 502.

“It’s about making sure that every time you buy something, you’re going to keep that room for a long time,” says Theallet of what influences the creations of Room 502. “This is not a statement by fashion, it’s not about being fashionable. I believe in fashion that is more like a uniform. Something you wear but don’t think too much about. [But] you know, when you wear it, you will feel good and you will feel strong.

Considering the client list she’s had over the years both in her previous brand and in Room 502, Theallet knows a thing or two about dressing strong women. And her early career alongside icons like Jean Paul Gaultier and Azzedine Alaïa not only instilled in her the power to dress, but also the importance of craftsmanship and conscience.

It was during her time as Alaïa’s “right hand man” that she met Maximiliano Modesti, a fashion entrepreneur and founder of the Kalhath Institute in Mumbai. The Institute focuses on educating artisans in traditional craft techniques like cinderblock and embroidery, and has an incubation center and also offers an artist residency program.

Montreal brand
Photograph provided by room 502.

“He preserves the expertise of Indian craftsmanship, ”Theallet notes the great effort of the Institute in explaining why the pieces in room 502 are created in collaboration with the artisans of Kalhath. “I want to make collections with people I respect and love,” she says, adding that the emphasis on ethical practices is nothing new in her work. “In my old brand, I used beautiful, pure fabrics like cotton and silk. I love using fabrics from small batches. »Continuing this conscientious way of working, the collections in room 502 include fabrics, production and work certified as fair.

Theeallet and Francoeur’s conviction when it comes to making clothes with purpose is also evident in the philanthropic angle of Room 502; a portion of the brand’s sales go to Epic, a New York-based nonprofit that works with underprivileged young people around the world. “It was an easy choice for us to give to Epic,” says Francoeur. “This gives a chance to [young] people who got off to a bad start. “

It probably resonates in a different way for him and Theallet, as they also get a second chance at happiness and fulfillment with their move to Montreal. “Being in the industry in New York with my old brand, I had an obligation to produce so many collections,” says Theallet of the traditionally fast-paced fashion operation. “It was too much; you don’t have time to live anymore. You work, work, work. And in the end, you don’t have much in return.

Now, in addition to working on room 502, Theallet says she meditates every morning and takes time for daily walks across the mountain. “I listen to music – Tibetan monks singing to jazz and Jimi Hendrix – I read, I write,” she says of her more positively structured schedule, which also includes space for artistic activities like sculpture and painting. “I’ve never been so productive,” she notes. “[And] I do things that I have never tried before.

Montreal brand
Photograph provided by room 502.

This element of novelty – that is, the opportunity for designers to forge a unique, personal and healthier path in the fashion world – is also increasingly present in the industry in general. Although COVID-19 has turned some aspects of its usual operations upside down, Theallet chooses to think promising, rather than pessimistically, about the future of fashion. And she highlights the fact that large conglomerates like Kering are offering its brands the opportunity to break away from the traditional promotional cycle as a point of positive change.

“What are we going to do with where we are at?” She wonders how COVID set up a much-needed bubble burst from the fashion fixation with celebrity and continued production – one that it says she, erased a lot of creativity and created a lot of burnout. “COVID is something that has happened now, but what was going on before COVID in fashion – the industry has been going in the wrong direction for a long time.”

It’s very possible that other creatives will look to Theallet’s current call for inspiration as they move forward as well; and those interested in more pearls of wisdom from her and her veteran fashion colleague Veronica Webb can tune in to an upcoming interview between the two via The Alliance. French, scheduled for November 12. “We’ll talk about her time in Paris,” says Theallet, who met the model while working with Alaïa in one of the most intoxicating places.

But if there is one thing Theallet could offer the weary world now – something decidedly different from the glamor of Parisian couture or the lingering buzz of New York – it’s that she fostered resilience and a new perspective in stepping back, taking stock and moving forward in its own direction. “I’m busy the way I want to be busy,” she says. Who could ask for anything more?

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