Born: Paris, France, 29 June 1961. Education: Attended the Lycée Victor Hugo, Paris; followed a one-year course in screenwriting, Paris, 1980; studied fashion design, 1981-83, Paris. Career: Launched own fashion line, Sophie Sitbon, 1985; lauded for unusual designs, early 1990s; designed Academy Awards dress for Juliette Binoche, 1997. Exhibitions: Modes Gitanes, Carousel des Sources, 1994. Address: 10 Rue Charlot Paris, 75003 France.
Modes Gitanes, Paris, 1994.
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Fashion, to Sophie Sitbon, is functional. Clothes are not a means of artistic expression but a liaison between proportion and harmony and their sole reason for being is to be worn. Clothes are an individual means of expression for the person who wears them; they send out messages that can describe the complex range of subtleties and distinctions making up the human persona, a signal to other people about the essence of another person.
Sitbon describes her signature look as being seductive. In contrast to sexiness, seduction is subtle and has the power to attract in many directions. She particularly admires the seductive power of writer Tennessee Williams and the complex, often subversive repression of his heroines. Her designs reflect this, being always provocative yet never blatant. Movies and television are another strong influence; Sitbon regards her generation as being more audiovisual than literary. The visual impact of glamorous movie stars and their wardrobes often tell a more potent story than the written word. She sees clothes as a visual medium for reinterpreting the excitement and vibrancy of movies in real life.
Sitbon loves the drama of black and red, colors she adopted as her own: "I love black. I loved it before it became fashionable and I will always love it. Black is perennial," she said in an interview with Joyce magazine in Paris. Her clothes are simple yet dramatic, classic yet eccentric—a stark, black shift dress, suspended by spaghetti straps, is punctured by tiny holes that follow the dart positions of a dress block and is teamed with matching opera gloves. Another shift dress has a scalloped neckline and is splashed with an asymmetrical contrast color shape reminiscent of a Matisse cutout. Always energetic in her approach, Sitbon creates designs that are whimsical yet vital and impudent without being aggressive.
A graduate of the Esmode School of Fashion in Paris, in her final year she was awarded a Gold Medal by a jury of designers including Jean-Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler at the International Style Competition in Osaka, Japan. She produced her own collection in 1985, financed by a Japanese group and manufactured from a showroom in the Marais district of Paris, aiming to provide a simple, high-quality couture look for modern women at affordable prices. Seven years later, she declared herself happy with her design success, although her admiration for movie heroines has left her with one unfulfilled ambition—to direct her own movie.
In the 21st century, Sitbon continues to create clothes for an independent, self-confident woman who is what she is, rather than what she wears. Her clothes are a proposition rather than an imposed ideal. Her customer interprets Sitbon clothes to create her own independent look. "I prefer people to see someone in my designs and say 'doesn't she look wonderful,' not 'she's wearing Sophie Sitbon,'" the designer declared. Though she may not be as well known as some of her contemporaries, Sitbon remains a sought-after designer for such high profile events as the Academy Awards, for which she has produced several show stoppers.
updated by Mary Ellen Snodgrass