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Rupert Everett was the first to phone his friend Sophie Theallet Tuesday morning to congratulate her on winning this year’s CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award.
In fact, he tried repeatedly to reach her during the actual awards, but she was having too much fun to see who might be calling. Having been friends for more than 20 years, both relocated to New York at the same time. An ardent supporter, the actor has been known to take friends to her runway shows and he footed the bill for a suite at Robert De Niro’s Greenwich Hotel so Theallet could show her collection to buyers for two weeks.
This story first appeared in the November 18, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
With her latest accolade, it’s safe to say Theallet won’t need such generosity in the months ahead — but that doesn’t mean she’s going on a spending spree with her $200,000 prize. Aside from enhancing her boho-luxe label with knitwear, the French-born designer has no immediate urge to break the bank, save for hiring an employee or two. The way things stand, her three-person operation consists of herself, her husband and business partner Stephen Francoeur and a seamstress. The trio works out of the couple’s two-bedroom Brooklyn Heights apartment, which is also home to their son, Leon.
Elated as she was to have been honored and to have her “American dream come true,” Theallet said her only indulgence will be the “wonderful” lunch she had Tuesday in Little Italy with her husband and toddler. “It’s been three years since we have taken any holidays because we do everything ourselves. Now is not the moment. The moment now is to work. I prefer to concentrate on my collection.”
Most work days start at 9 a.m. and run until midnight, excluding a two-hour break to spend time with her son. “I can work a lot. That’s fine with me. When you do something you really like, it’s not work,” Theallet said.
Francoeur, a former model who now handles business operations, seems to share her work ethic. “He’s very concentrated and really makes things happen,” she said.
The same might be said of Theallet. After attending Studio Berçot in Paris, she designed a signature collection for Printemps, which sold out. She then joined Jean Paul Gaultier for four years before moving on to Azzedine Alaïa for 10 years. After relocating to New York in 2005, she designed the Motu Tane resort line with François Nars. Theallet said she consulted for Diane von Furstenberg and Rachel Roy before launching her own collection three-and-a-half years ago.
Theallet said Manolo Blahnik once again will provide the shoes for her next runway show at the Altman Building in February. The duo may collaborate on footwear, which will be sold in stores, she said. Theallet’s upcoming show will be Ojala produced, with such other repeat performers as lighting designers Thierry Dreyfus and Henri Scars Struck handling music.
This year, First Lady Michelle Obama helped raise the designer’s profile by wearing her dresses to widely publicized events such as Sen. Ted Kennedy’s funeral. Theallet continues to stay in contact with Ikram Goldman, whose Chicago store has gained international acclaim now that she is better known as Obama’s stylist. And Theallet readily admits she has benefited by the association. “For sure, dressing Michelle Obama has helped me a lot. First of all, I have a lot of respect and admiration for her as a person. I hope to continue to dress her.”
Theallet will select a mentor — another perk to winning — in the coming days, but she would not reveal whom she is gunning for. “I want to make my business grow. I’m going step-by-step and will wait for advice from people in business in America. I am here to learn from the best.”