My love for Sophomore first began when C40 editor Jill introduced me to the site, and it was love at first sight. I was immediately obsessed with the line that includes dresses, skirts, shorts, tanks and tees. Wanting to find out more, I became determined to interview Sophomore’s creator Chrissie Miller. Sophomore, which started out as a T-shirt line, has developed into a sought-after collection worn by celebrities and hipsters alike. A New York ‘70s-inspired line, Sophomore has everything I love for fall–especially leather! After sitting down for a phone interview with Chrissie, it’s easy to see how she has gone from a graphic T-shirt designer to an influential creative director of her own line in only a few years.
Q: How did you get the idea to start the Sophomore line?
A: I went to art school, and my boyfriend was a graphic designer so I learned how to use Photoshop and Illustrator and all that stuff. So I wanted to get a job in graphic design, but I couldn’t find one so I just basically made T-shirts, and I learned how to silk screen. Even before we had the name Sophomore, I was selling them and selling the shirts we made at my friend Charlotte Ronson’s store. And then we got all this attention from them and other buyers saw them and wanted them for their store so actually Bloomingdales was our first store. And we didn’t even have a name of the brand yet.
Q: Really? Wow!
A: [laughs] Yeah I just called them Chrissie’s T-shirts or something. So yeah I just did graphics for a long time.
Q: So how did you begin to expand into sportswear?
A: It took off really quickly and basically the way it worked was every time we sold stuff we had more and more money to do things we wanted to do. Like, ok now we have enough money to get an office or now we have enough money to hire someone. I’m not a trained designer so I found Madeleine von Froomer. So she’s like super professional like the real deal, she went to school for it. And for me I’m more into jeans and T-shirts, she’s more into dresses and that kind of thing. And she had been working at Proenza [Schouler] so she had this fancy background. So I asked her to leave Proenza to work for me, which took some convincing. But she’s really happy, and it worked out great. So she’s like the main designer, and I’m more like the creative director of the company.
Q: What was your inspiration for your Fall ’09 line? I took a look at it, and I’m obsessed with the leather shorts and leather skirts!
A: Oh thank you! Well it was a weird thing because you know we weren’t planning on doing leather stuff. But because Opening Ceremony is our showroom, they kind of cater to a more fancy, higher–end audience, so we wanted to offer something more higher end. It was actually the worst time to do it because of the recession, but it worked out okay! We just did leather in almost everything, and the leather shorts and skirts. We just kind of experimented with it. Every season what we’re going to do is use a different material. For Fall ’09 we did leather for Spring ’10 we are doing oxford. We try to incorporate a new fabric every season.
Q: So do you show in any fashion shows? How do you market your clothes?
A: You know, no, it’s funny we are more of a contemporary brand. People kind of think we are high end because of Madeleine or whatever, but I just kind of think for those contemporary lines it’s not a good idea to show for fashion week, that’s more meant for the high-end stuff. I’m sure you know, you’re overwhelmed with all this new stuff like Alex Wang and Chanel, and I feel like we get lost in the shuffle. So what we do is a party in Paris during Fashion Week in Paris. We do a party at La Barone. And we are going to do something off-season so everyone can see what we’re doing.
Q: How many stores carry the Sophomore line in the US?
A: I think we’re up to 40, but it’s not enough for me!
Q: Would you think about coming to the Midwest?
A: Well the thing is that the showroom is in charge of all that, like for a designer to do their own store stuff is kind of impossible. So they help us with that. But yeah I want it to be a wider distribution kind of thing. So we’re working on it. Are you from there?
Q: Yeah we are based in St. Louis, but I checked online and the nearest store that carried Sophomore was in Ohio.
A: Oh really? Yeah we are definitely trying to get more stores. But we sell our stuff online too!
Q: So what’s coming up next for Sophomore and Chrissie Miller?
A: Well we’re working on doing a collaboration with Keds. We’re going to do sneakers, which is really cool. We are doing a leather sneaker to go with the fall stuff. Then we’re going to do another one for spring. And we just finished Spring ’10 which is really cute, and we did a video lookbook this time. It’s pretty elaborate-like a mini movie. And that will show in Paris for Fashion Week!