Can you imagine Tina Sparkle – as in the glamorous dancing queen from Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom – as a shoe? If you’re picturing crystal fruit embellishment, glitter, and hot pink satin, then you’re halfway to recreating Sophia Webster’s AW18 presentation, I Don’t Need a Mango to Tango.
Known for her ability to produce some of the most captivating displays that London Fashion Week has to offer, season on season, this year the British designer transformed the Hotel Café Royal’s opulent Pompadour Ballroom into a pop-up dance floor complete with a giant spinning disco ball, sequin curtains, and a pair of dancers tangoing beneath a glittering Coca-Cola billboard. The set-up even included an impressive collection of Sophia’s own dance trophies to accompany the frills, tassels and feathers.
Amidst all the camp action, we grabbed five minutes with the designer who has decked the feet of Rhianna, Solange, and Kendell Jenner (no mean feat), to discuss her latest tour de force.
Can you talk us through the inspiration behind the new collection?
Me and my sister danced when we were younger, and Strictly Ballroom was one of our favourite films; we used to watch it over and over again. I was kind of waiting to do a presentation and a collection around the film and this was the time that I chose to do it.
How do you go about adapting a film into a shoe and accessories collection?
There are lots of elements from the film – the costumes, the feathers, the embellishments, glitter – and there’s a character called Tina Sparkle who has this amazing embellished fruit outfit, so I did a pair of shoes just inspired by that outfit. They’ve got a band made of crystal fruit – they’re probably one of my favourite pieces in the collection.
What about your own dancing experience. How did that come into play?
Well, the costumes are very similar to the sort of things that I used to wear. I did freestyle disco dancing, so there were a lot of really sparkly outfits and lots of hair spray and diamantes all over your face. I’ve always been drawn to very sparkly material and vibrant colour palettes, so the collection was inspired by that as well.
Can you talk us through your creative process when it comes to designing a new collection?
I’ve changed the way that we work. We brought the critical path forward by six months about a year ago, so you have to work everything out straight away at the beginning of the collection, so everybody knows what they’re doing and there are no last minute crazy rushes to get things done.
I pick an inspiration which could be an artist… or it could be anything! And then I’m like, “That’s the focus.” There might be other things that come into it, but we start with a main theme and then pull different things into it.
What’s your favourite design for AW18?
I love the caged bootie with crystal embellishment and the marabou toe – Iris I think it’s called – that’s my favourite. That was the first one I designed.
And you’ve got a capsule collection with Coca Cola as well?
Yeah, that’s outside!
How did that collaboration come about?
I worked with Coca Cola a few years ago, and actually in the film one of the main scenes is in front of a big Coca Cola billboard, so I thought it would be good to partner again. It’s quite authentic to the movie. They’re great to work with – they just let me do what I want!
And what are you doing next? Can you have a rest or are you already working on your next collection?
I’m already working on AW19! You have to be really organised these days. It’s not like when it was just me and I could do what I wanted! We’ve got a big team now with lots of different departments, so we’ve got to have real structure.