Independent Designer Showcase: Sophie Karen
“There is room for us. In spaces where we’re pushed to the margin, I feel more empowered than ever to push back.”
Dawson & Deveraux creative director and co-founder Sophie Karen grew up on the island of Mauritius Island off the coast of Africa. And though she always had an affinity for fashion, the career opportunities in her small country were overall very few and far between. “At one point I wanted to be a lawyer, then a singer, then a ballet dancer,” she says. “The reality, however, was that I really only thought about a career that would pay well and be stable.” In her late twenties, she moved to Salt Lake City where her husband encouraged her to take a few sewing and illustration classes at the Salt Lake City Fashion Institute. It was then that door towards becoming a professional designer opened for her. “From the first time I touched a piece of designer fabric in my first sewing class, I knew I had found my passion,” she says.
Sophie’s designs are distinctly glamorous and sophisticated, incorporating textural elements like sequins, embroidery, and lace to construct looks that are truly remarkable. “As a teenager I would save my money and take my ideas to a family friend who was a seamstress. I never wanted to wear what everyone else was wearing,” she says. “I guess it makes sense that my focus now is on creating custom, one-of-a-kind garments for my clients. They bring their vision, I put my design aesthetic on it, and we come up with something amazing.” No item is ever reproduced, making each one a singular treasure.
When conceptualizing Dawson & Deveraux’s latest collection, Sophie designed colorful, elegant special occasion pieces inspired by the intersection of romance and modernity. She’s driven by a desire to constantly improve and master new techniques, dedicating hours upon hours to a single garment. “I suppose what most people expect from ‘fashion forward’ is something futuristic,” she says. “But for me, it’s actually doing the unexpected. Being fashion forward isn’t just setting trends, it’s breaking them.”
Sophie is also forward looking when it comes to her business model. “When we first started out, I think our focus was on becoming profitable. Having ‘grown up’ a bit since we launched the brand, my focus is more mission driven,” she says. She works to actively disrupt white normative beauty standards, not only by creating clothing for brown and Black women, but also by intentionally promoting them in their marketing. “Luckily, I have no shame in promoting Black beauty,” she says. “There is room for us. In spaces where we’re pushed to the margin, I feel more empowered than ever to push back.”