We talked to Tokyo based Sophia Watanabe about
her life as a mother, designer and founder of Sophia203.
Get to know her and her passion for asian handicrafts!
Imagery: courtesy of Sophia203
Swimwear season is approaching: what kind of feeling does this evoke in you? Personally, I must admit I feel lukewarm about the beach in 2017! I had a baby four months ago, not mentally nor physically ready for a bikini!
Phylyda celebrates diversity & body positivity: what image comes to your mind in relation to diversity? A beautiful image. I’m a strong believer that diversity should be celebrated in all Fields. I think It would make the world a much more interesting place.
What are you most proud of, what’s your greatest achievement? Besides having my two children, I’m proud of the fact that I started a workshop and a company in a very complex country. We can therefore promote and work for the preservation of the beautiful art of embroidery. Wonderful handicraft which is made in our studio every day. We are basically keeping a bit of textile history alive in every piece we do. That makes me proud.
Is there a woman who has made a difference in your life and what’s the story behind that? I had several inspiring women in my life, but there is one in particular that changed the course of my life quite drastically. After high school, I met jeweler Marie Helene de Taillac. I became her au pair for a year, travelling the world, and got an insight in her business. I was supposed to go back to study law in Sweden after my leap year, but inspired and encouraged by de Taillac, I enrolled in the French fashion school Studio Berçot.
Today, it often seems like the way we look has attained such an overly deOning role on how we are perceived as a person. What does skinny mean to you? What does curvy mean to you? I think I could be seen as both in the view of different eyes and cultures, and that it’s important not to forget that. That's why I like diversity as it opens people’s minds, to see beyond “just” skinny/curvy.
What’s your relationship to your appearance? An old cliché, but I think with age, I’m kinder to myself, and I’ve become a lot less obsessed with appearance, especially after having two children. You put less focus on yourself, which in my case, is a good thing.
What piece of advice would you like to give to your sisters and female friends? Be nice to each other, and be kind to yourself! I think we could achieve great things if we were in fact nicer to one another…
Fashion is often relegated to the mundane, brushed off as superficial. In light of the recent events, you created the Pussyhat pins to make a statement. Can you share your philosophy and position with us? I felt a strong need to speak up, and to contribute. This is our way of helping, our way of saying that what is happening in the world right now is not ok. I have a small platform, but a platform nonetheless, I wanted to use that to help in the only way we know how. Now is not the time to be silent.
That's such a great point! As a woman, mother, entrepreneur and designer, what’s your background, what’s your journey? A long story short; I grew up in Sweden, went to school in Paris, then moved to India for 8 years, after that a short stint in Stockholm and now Tokyo! Being in India made me fall in love with various Indian handicrafts. I quickly understood my desire and curiosity to explore these beautiful crafts. That was the starting point of my company Sophia 203, a small studio that works on hand made accessories and custom made pieces. Luckily we have been able to keep our little studio busy, and we are celebrating 5 years this year! When I have a little bit more time, ( ie. when both the kids will go to school) I would love to explore the Japanese handicrafts. My latest obsession is their handmade washi paper.
How do you gather confidence, what makes you confident? Knowledge and a glass of wine!
What makes you laugh? Being in India! Things are done with such lightness and in our eyes in very quirky ways. Not anywhere else will you see a goat on a motorcycle, as the same time as they are transporting a 3 meter long ladder going full speed on a highway! I love that things are not taken too serious, that there is a “manyana manyana” attitude and that anything is possible!
When and where do you feel most at ease? While walking on the beach with my family at our country house outside Tokyo. I think water has a very calming effect.
What are you reading right now? Peppa Pig goes to the dentist. ;-) The last book I read myself was crime Auction; “Tusenstjarnor” by Kristina Ohlsson. Like the rest of the world, I’m also swept away by the “Nordic noir” wave of literature that has seduced country after country.
And it's really inspiring to me You are a swedish designer and a mother, working between Japiur and Tokyo: how do you achieve a certain balance between the different roles in your life and what kind of difficulties have you experienced on your path?It’s not the easiest thing I’ve done, but it’s working out better than I imagined! For this stage in my life, it's the way I have to do it in order to keep doing what I love, and to be with the people I love at the same time… The balance between the two is not very easy to maintain, but since my baby is so little still, I’m not too strict on myself either. I try not to get stressed, as it doesn't make me more productive.
How do you feel beautiful? When I’m in a good mood & inspired, usually happens after a FaceTime phone call with my friends or family. Since I recently moved to Japan, I’m into discovering & understanding Japanese handicrafts and the culture around it.
What’s your favourite indulgence? Massage, we have a man who comes to our house once a week to massage me and my husband. It does wonders to your body.