Taken from the Winter Issue of Wonderland.
“I’m like, in the hills,” Sofia Richie says in her warm, valley-girl tinted accent. Her voice trails off. “Can you hear me now?” Whether she’s referring to Beverly Hills or the Hollywood Hills, I don’t know. I’m imagining her padding around a palatial, ice-white mansion barefoot trying to get reception, or hanging off of the edge of a bed the size of a small island, waving around her cell. Either way, she’s surely in an infinitely more glamorous set of hills than I am (Notting Hill, not the posh bit), pulling at the coiled wire of the Wonderland landline trying to hear her.
“It’s so hot, I’m actually about to lay out,” the 18-year-old bemoans once we reach a stable connection. After two unsuccessful days trying to reach her, I’m expecting to meet a media-trained teen with little to exchange other than vacuous niceties and weather chat. More fool me.
Richie was never going to be allowed to fade into banality. Daughter of Lionel Richie and Diane Alexander, the spotlight’s been following her since birth and being sister to Nicole during The Simple Life years didn’t exactly dim the glow. Surely the best babysitter ever, though? “She used to take me to fairs and all sorts of things,” Richie enthuses. “It was bizarre! It was definitely a weird life, going out and seeing her with a million paparazzi.” Now a model, (you might have seen her pouting for PrettyLittleThing’s new campaign on the underground recently) Richie has her own set of paps to deal with, a necessary evil that comes when you complete your first shoot with Teen Vogue aged 14.
“That was huge to me,” Richie exhales, settling with ease into our allotted half an hour. “I always knew I wanted to be a fashion designer when I started modelling, so I think that was just the first step that I needed, shooting with companies and magazines that would get me closer to designers.”
“I was so nervous, I went to bed at like 7pm,” she snickers with way more retrospective wisdom than your average 18-year-old. “I woke up so early and put a face mask on, it was so extreme.” Four years later and her inexperience has melted away, most notably taking to the runway last season for Kanye West’s Yeezy show at New York Fashion Week, a step closer to the artistic side of fashion she repeatedly gushes over during our conversation.
“It was really fun to sit and listen to [Kanye] talk and hear his creative side of Yeezy,” Richie says, explaining the 90 minute wait spectators were subject to in the baking heat before the September show. So that’s what was going on backstage. And the widely-publicised list of (frankly ridiculous) demands ‘Ye had outlined pre-show? “You know what,” Richie stifles a giggle. “It’s so funny that you actually say that, he literally was like, ‘Go out there and have fun!’ All he wanted was us to express his clothes the best way that we could, there weren’t really any guidelines to walk in… He was just kind of like, ‘Alright, you guys look great, kill it!’”
“It’s not that serious,” Richie says in the kind of tone I can only liken to a verbal eye roll, somehow managing to make her wit shine across a 5,500 mile phone line. “At first, I felt like I was a fish out of water,” she admits, softening. “I did not feel like I fit in whatsoever. Now, I get it, I understand it, I understand the people, I understand the meaning, I understand the models, I understand the people sitting and watching.”
Much like polymath West, but to a much less polarising effect, Richie’s tried her hand at alternate outlets. Wouldn’t you pop into the studio every now and then if your father was the king of crooners? “That was when I was younger and I was heavily in singing lessons, my dad would just sit with me and coach me through things…” she reminisces. “Those are definitely moments I’ll never forget. He has the best advice and he’s the greatest, but then, yet again, he’s my dad! So, it’s not like you’d take the advice like a regular teacher at school would give you, it’s like, ‘OK Dad, yeah, yeah, yeah!’”
So, like most teenagers, there’s a hint of a rebel in Richie, but there is a family figure she’s willing to listen to. “One of my closest friends in the industry would probably be Paris…Hilton,” she politely adds to clarify, as if I, a teen of the noughties, need clarification.
“It’s really nice to have her kind of, as like a sister, because she’s been through it all and she gives the best advice and she wants the best for me and she sees how my path is going. She’s really rooting for me and giving me the best tips, how to avoid certain things and how to be the best version of myself that I can be.”
The most valuable lesson Richie has been taught thus far? “Just be myself, honestly.” A pivotal epiphany for any young teen, but already winning herself international campaigns, Richie knows the value of her selling point. “Being myself is what attracts people,” she says decidedly. “Not really caring and having fun.”