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Badass Bitch of the Week: Sophie Theallet

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Badass Bitch of the Week: Sophie Theallet

The outspoken designer will not be dressing Melania Trump, and penned an open letter explaining why

BY KATHARINE K. ZARRELLA

PEOPLE  -  NOVEMBER 18

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Photo: BFA.com. View more at BFA.com.

A new series in which we celebrate the women who make our world go round.

Honestly, thank god for Sophie Theallet. The designer is one of the few truly outspoken voices in the New York fashion scene, and last night, she posted a poignant open letter explaining why she will absolutely not be dressing new First Lady Melania Trump. “As one who celebrates and strives for diversity, individual freedom, and respect for all lifestyles, I will not participate in dressing or associating in any way with the next First Lady,” she wrote in her letter. “The rhetoric of racism, sexism, and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s presidential campaign are incompatible with the shared values we live by. I encourage my fellow designers to do the same.” 

Theallet has always used fashion as a platform to promote social change. For instance, her first runway show for Spring 2009 featured an all black cabine, a choice that represented her longstanding advocacy for diversity. “It was right before the elections,” she told Fashion Unfiltered back in April, “and the idea of having the first African American family in the White House was my dream. That said, we never mentioned anything about it; the point was to show all the beauty, grace, and shades of the girls of color. This was not a business or political decision as much as something purely from my heart.” Theallet went on to dress Michelle Obama, calling the opportunity “a highlight and an honor.”

For Fall 2016, the French-born Alaïa alum went a step further, casting models of all shapes, sizes, and races in order to celebrate not just women, but humanity. “We have always been honored to have diversity on our runways and in our ad campaigns,” she told me after the show. “For me, it is natural and normal…We are reflecting and celebrating the world of 2016.”  

Theallet has often proudly proclaimed that she does fashion on her own terms. “I celebrate the women that I love and I believe in our brand's vision. For me, fashion should be a place for new ideas, freedom, and equality—a place that celebrates all cultures and diversities,” she recently explained to FU. Indeed, Donald Trump and his administration are in direct conflict with that statement. 

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A photo posted by sophie theallet (@sophietheallet) on




Ahead of the election, the fashion world came out, guns blazing, in support of Hillary Clinton. Anna Wintour was a fierce campaigner for the candidate, and publications including Vogue and publicly endorsed the former Secretary of State. Designers created and/or wore clothes praising Clinton or denouncing Trump (like R13’s Spring 2017 “Fuck Trump” print). However, since Trump’s political upset, numerous journalists have pondered whether designers will dress Melania as they did Michelle. The New York Times’ Vanessa Friedman went so far as to ask, “Is Fashion’s Love Affair with Washington Over?” But thus far, most designers have remained either silent or disappointingly diplomatic on the question of dressing the incoming First Lady. Carolina Herrera told The Business of Fashion, “You’ll see everyone dressing Melania. She’s representing the United States.” Meanwhile, in the abovementioned Times story, Joseph Altuzarra, said, "I don't want to not dress people I disagree with."

There seems to be a pervading fear amongst the fashion set about getting too political, or, at the very least, about closing a potentially profitable door. (Case in point: A Vogue rep backpedaled in BoF, and wouldn’t rule out covering Melania in future issues.) As disheartening as that seems, it’s kind of understandable. In her letter, Theallet even said, “I am well aware it is not wise to get involved in politics.” Perhaps that’s why some fashion figures have chosen not only to stay quiet, but to decline interviews because there’s just “too much going on,” as a representative for a prominent figure told me during an event this week. God forbid someone actually say what they’re thinking.

I get it. I do. But, as Hilary Shepherd wrote in her insightful story about why the media’s normalization of a Trump presidency is shameful, fashion’s captive audience makes it the perfect platform to, as Theallet has done, speak out. And the failure to embrace fashion as such is a huge missed opportunity. (It’s worth noting that Fashionista today came out with a stellar story detailing why it will not be posting any fluffy Melania fashion pieces.) 

Particularly because Sophie Theallet is an indie label, the designer’s choice to voice her opinion is not just admirable, but brave. “As an independent fashion brand, we consider our voice an expression of our artistic and philosophical ideas,” Theallet wrote. “…As a family-owned company, our bottom line is not just about money. We value our artistic freedom and always humbly seek to contribute to a more humane, conscious, and ethical way to create in this world.” 

Theallet closed her letter by stating, “Integrity is our only true currency.” Powerful words from an exceptionally strong woman who, by the way, happens to be, ahem, an immigrant. With her own business. That she chose to set up in New York, rather than Paris, and thus contributes to the growth of the American economy. Sadly, many members of our industry aren’t afraid to abandon their ideals in order to make a buck or gain visibility. But Theallet has integrity in spades, and for that reason, we name her our Badass Bitch of the Week.

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Photos: Courtesy of Acne Studios

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BY ARIA DARCELLA

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Photo: Courtesy of H&M