Sophia Forero is a gem of a designer! And she is rocking the fashion world! A one-of-a-kind woman who integrates international influences into her stunning bedecked jewelry. This season, she is all about green! Emeralds galore. Elizabeth Taylor’s stone of choice is the inspiration for a new line of beautiful mosaic style work from this true artiste. To wear Sophia Forero’s new collection is to adorn yourself in a combination of history and now. A fresh take on museum-worthy artifacts. All one-of-a-kind. Like the woman who made them.
After speaking with Sophia about her designs, I feel like putting on all my international keepsakes...or more honestly...buying out Sophia's new collection of green!
I first saw Sophia Forero’s rings and necklaces adorning Chicago’s preeminent choreographer Melissa Thodos, Artistic Director of Thodos Dance Chicago, on a month-long 9-city Alaska tour last Spring. Everywhere we went oohs and aahs followed. It was as if Melissa single-handedly brought color to this land of ice and snow by wearing Sophia’s jewelry everywhere everyday at every moment. One morning a garnet ring shined brightly through the cloud covered terrain. Another evening, a breathtaking lapis necklace outshone the aurora borealis sky. And on a sunny afternoon reflecting white from over fourteen feet of snow amidst the mountains in that Northernmost State, an emerald bracelet captivated anyone within a twenty-mile radius. It was like a rainbow of ravishing delight. Stunning. Bedazzling. Nourishing.
There is something intrinsically alluring in Sophia’s work. As if an innate part of her spirit transforms the stones, setting them into their handsome new traveling homes. They come to life on the map of the woman wearing them. A hand. Wrist. Neck. Ear. Transfixing those beholding their beauty.
Her inspiration does in fact come from the glorious cultures of the world. She names her collections after empresses and icons and gathers ideas via anthropological research. “What changed your life?” I asked her. “What inspired you to do this?”
It was a book. An icon. A place. A color. A gift.
Question: How did it all start?
Answer: It was a book. Africa Adorned.
Sophia: I used to look at it every day. I was amazed at how jewels were a socio-anthropological expression of who one was within their society. And I was struck by how that is so true across myriads of societies throughout history—whole tribes don’t wear clothes, but they adorn themselves.
Question: What was your moment of inspiration for the direction of your work?
Answer: An icon. Byzantine – St. Sophia!
Sophia: I remember the moment I was looking at the icon. I was actually in church - standing where I do near the back - and the icon was next to me above me - so at my eye’s view I only saw sandaled feet and robes. I was struck by how the colors in the robes flowed so beautifully together, and I thought, “what if I could make bits and put them together to create one pendant? Just sparkly bits?”
Later on, I found out that the icon was of St. Sophia.
Question: Where is your own heritage and does it inspire you?
Sophia: I used to go to Greece every summer when I was young—from toddler until my twenties - to see my family. I used to watch the Dora Stratou dance troupe- they did amazing folk dances with costumes from all over Greece.
Question: Why do you do what you do? Tell me about your most recent influence?
Sophia: I started being moved by color last year. I created the Axios collection for the red and blue of the colors of the robes in Byzantine icons…I used ruby and blue sapphire.
Question: And why green this year?
Answer: An emerald.
Sophia: This year marked 20 years since I met my husband. One of his first presents to me was a raw emerald- that I haven’t used to this day in a piece because it’s so sacred to me. Emeralds are from his home country of Colombia—to me the green is so vibrant and unmistakable—so vibrant, like the color of the Earth’s blood.
Question: Who did you admire in fashion?
Answer: Elizabeth Taylor. Coco Chanel. Miriam Haskell.
Sophia: I read books about ladies who loved jewels in my early twenties… namely Elizabeth Taylor, Chanel, even Cleopatra (she once swallowed a pearl because she thought it so beautiful and didn’t want anyone else to have it)…
I read Elizabeth Taylor’s biography, anything I could get my hands on about Coco Chanel (I admired her not only for her style, but her guts and her business savvy- and I loved that she started out making hats), anything about Miriam Haskell- my mother had a tea room and antique store- she sold Miriam Haskell pieces she had inherited when she bought the place—I used to wear them while I served tea and coffee…
Question: When did this passion and drive to design jewelry start?
Answer: In college.
Sophia garnered a master’s degree from the University of Chicago in International Relations but elected to pursue jewelry design post-graduation. She has never looked back. And currently lives in Chicago with her family.
Question: What is next?
Sophia: In the spring I will be unveiling a new video blog about adornment around the world - looking at jewels and their meaning across history and cultures. I will be interviewing international craftsmen and women, as well as showing what kind of techniques they use creating them.
Reading Sophia’s blog is like taking an international journey around the world. You meet the craftsmen and women who proudly wear their culture as jewelry. Sophia shares the meaning behind each bead and color and conveys it effortlessly into her own work.
I look forward to following the evolution of Sophia Forero latest line of green jewelry this Spring 2013. And diligently viewing her new video blog in the near future. For now, I will leave you with one of my favorite photos of her work - here is to the power of rings!
Read about the historic influences on Sophia Forero’s blog.
See the newest collections and trajectory of her design work on Sophia Forero’s website.
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Copyright by Jodi Kaplan 2013-2016
Published on Jan 20, 2013