Sophia Kokosalaki: “You Know I’m Not Going To Just Cut Some Holes With Scissors For A Distressed Look”
The Greek-English designer Sophia Kokosalaki took the reins at Diesel Black Gold for Fall 2010, when she presented her first collection for the label’s more grown-up offshoot. The fashion world took note—including Barneys, which picked up Diesel for the first time following the showing. Style.com caught up with Kokosalaki in Tokyo to talk craft, quality, and the persistence of one Renzo Rosso.
You’re new to Diesel Black Gold. Tell us a little bit about the direction you’re taking the label in.
For the first season, I tried to do something that is completely real to the brand. Because we know it’s a casual brand, a contemporary line that always has a sex appeal. It’s heavily based on denim and on leather. I tried to elevate the collection a little bit by using a little bit of work, some craft here and there. For example, if I want to do a sexy dress, my way to elevate it, so as not to look overtly sexual or vulgar or cheap or all this, is to add some craftsmanship to the dress. Immediately, the garment becomes more tasteful—even if it’s a tight-fitting dress at the end.
Were you familiar with the Black Gold brand before you signed on?
Well, to be honest…I wasn’t that familiar. [And] I wasn’t sure that I was right for this job. But also, you know, when [Diesel founder and CEO Renzo Rosso] wants something, he tends to persuade you. I had done a capsule denim collection for myself two years ago. Renzo saw this collection—it was very small, six pieces—[and] he was very impressed. It was something he mentioned all the time. When Renzo is impressed with your denim, for your first denim ever, you get very flattered. So, at the end, if he was sure I can do denim, fine. It’s good to show that also you’re versatile.
How does Black Gold compare with the Sophia Kokosalaki line?
It’s a different product. It’s a contemporary line and it has a different customer, a different price point, a different process, a different way of making clothing than mine. I work in a studio. But in the end, I can also work in this way, I realized. So, fine.
Who is that Black Gold customer?
The Black Gold customer, according to Diesel, is really the customer who used to wear Diesel, who, growing up, became a more sophisticated customer. They need something a little bit more special. For me, I hope that people who did not use to wear Diesel before could look into this collection and find things that are attractive.
Has designing Black Gold changed the way you’re designing for your own line?
No—it’s possible to do two shows in a season. I realize that, sometimes, the more you work, the better work you produce, I guess.
Has it been difficult to bring new life and freshness to denim?
I looked at it like I look at fabric. I like craft, and I like to work with yarn. So, I looked at denim in this way, and forgot that it was denim. I tried to experiment with the structure, with the yarns. We did a distressed denim that looks like it’s three layers, but at the end it’s one fabric. Because you know I’m not going to just cut some holes with scissors for a distressed look. So, having this love of research and doing labor-intensive things with the garments, I brought that to Diesel. They welcomed it. They tried to take it and do it in a special way. So far, they’ve managed to—I’ve been very impressed.
Black Gold has recently become its own entity, businesswise. How will that affect the label?
What is happening now is that the company has separated from Diesel. It’s a good thing—it was one of the initial discussions that we had. We’ll be a different company, have a different structure, a different manufacturing process—made in Italy, mostly, so that we can achieve a nice level of quality. Now we are designing all the visual identity at the moment—the store spaces, the labeling, the campaign.
You’re speaking from Tokyo, where you’ve just presented the collection during Tokyo fashion week. How was it received?
It was fun. People are very open and very forthcoming in Japan; there’s a very big customer base. Japanese people love denim. I also use a lot of Japanese denim—my collection back then, my capsule, was Japanese denim. They also do a lot of research for denim here. Anyway, the show was a big success, there was a big after-party at Le Baron, so you can imagine…I haven’t slept much.