Landing in Paris as an au pair to French jewellery designer Marie-Hélène de Taillac at the age of 18, Sophia Edstrand’s life journey would take many exotic turns. Her work with de Taillac would take her to India, a land that was a complete opposite to her native Sweden. It was while working for de Taillac in Jaipur that Edstrand had discovered an ancient Rajasthani embroidery technique that would become the basis of her brand Sophia 203. Taking inspiration from nature in the form of flora and fauna, the handcrafted pieces are exquisite. Her latest collaboration with Svenskt Tenn in Stockholm was a series of beautiful hand embroidered Christmas ornaments. From Stockholm to Paris, and after 8 years in Jaipur, she lives today with her Japanese husband and 2 children in Tokyo.
Why Paris, and how did you end up working with the French jewellery designer Marie-Hélène de Taillac?
I was working for Marie-Hélène de Taillac as an au pair in my gap year after high school graduation. I had planned to attend law school after the gap year, but de Taillac advised and inspired me to work with something creative. It was always something that I already had in mind, as I was sewing my own party outfits, and making my own accessories in my teenage years. So I applied to the Studio Berçot to study fashion design. At that time, the Swedish fashion scene was very different from what it is today, and I think the Swedish design sense was very different from mine, so I did not see myself fitting into that milieu in Sweden.
How did your love affair with India begin? And when did you decide to start your own brand?
I was introduced to India, and Jaipur in particular, when I was 18 years old, by Marie-Hélène de Taillac. I was amazed by it from the very first moment. I found it unlike anything I had ever seen. I had travelled a lot in my youth, but I had never been to India. This new world and a new possible reality suited me really well.
I was amazed by the handicrafts that I was introduced to, jewellery making, stone cutting, cashmere weaving, embroidery and hand printing. These crafts are the biggest luxury we can have today. I think big high end companies have given us a misconception about how to value luxury. One of the reasons I started my brand, is that in a small way, and in whatever way I can, I contribute to the preservation of these crafts.
We made a Pop up shop at Le Bon Marche in Paris, that was called “Love from Jaipur”. The show was focused on the jewellery of de Taillac, but we also designed products that we wanted to show from India. We wanted to show it in a modern way. One of the products lines that I developed was the embroidery that I had seen in the bazaar that same winter. The products were a hit, and after that I decided to launch my brand.
Why is your brand called Sophia 203?
The number 203 is actually a colour reference in the colour chart that I use. The colour 203 is a very strong fuchsia pink! The number is a reference of how significant colour is in my work.
Could you tell me a little more about the Rajasthani embroidery technique called Zardozi?
The original meaning of the word is “gold work”, which referred to metal embroidery. We use some kinds of metal threads and detailing, but we do not do the entire embroidery in metal. So I don’t think there is a technical term to the embroidery we are doing, as the technique with the raised embroidery we use is quite rare.
You have been fond of butterflies and flowers, where does the inspiration come from for your creations?
Since I was working in jewellery before, a lot of the inspiration comes from vintage jewellery or wanting to transform the traditional jewellery motives and do it my way, to render the embroidery more precious. Now, it is more “l’air du temps”, whatever I’m in the mood for, or want to try. I consume a lot of design books, blogs and art on instagram and the other sources on the internet.
How do you design, do you do several collections during the year?
We used to make two collections a year for the ladies collection and the Little Sophia 203. When I had my second child I wanted to slow down, and travel less. So now we only work on our own events and collaborations with other brands/shops.
What is your design process?
I design in a very old school manner. I draw, or make a sketch on paper and scan it to my master embroiderer Faisal-ji. He will then make a clean drawing, after which I spend hours creating the colour placement with my silk colour tassels. After that, once I’ve approved the drawing, then we make a trial on the “adda”, which is our embroidery table.
At the moment your collection consists of accessories, do you intend to expand into fashion in the future?
No, I would not go into clothing, I’d rather go into homeware. I love fashion and clothing, but I’m not good at making it. I’m not that keen on how fast fashion has become. I prefer to design something that will last longer than a season of 4 months… That’s why I like accessories and jewellery. Something precious that people can keep longer. Homeware or bigger pieces like my wall brooches is something I would love to develop further. People usually don’t change cushions or paintings everyday, so all the work that goes into one piece will be appreciated and kept longer.
You’ve led a very international life. Tokyo is now home, how did you meet your Japanese husband?
Yes I guess I have! I love it that way, but it’s not a lifestyle with kids… When I lived in India and worked for de Taillac, we arranged many events in Tokyo as she has a shop here. Being 24 years old at the time I really enjoyed Tokyo’s night life and had many friends here. Masafumi and I met at a nightclub, through friends, and stayed friends for a couple of years before becoming a couple.
Unlike the minimalistic Scandinavian aesthetic, your designs are bursting with colour and glamour. Is this also reflected in your home interior?
It used to when I lived a glamorous life in India. Now I have to compromise, even though my husband gives me a lot of freedom in the interiors department. We have more of a mid century modern style, quite minimalistic, and no, not that colourful. We have moved five times in four years, so we change our interiors quite often.
What are the future plans for Sophia 203?
We are finally building our website and we are looking forward to more pop up shops and collaborations.