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The Australian Style Queen Opens Up Her Fabulous Life

August 13th, 2011

 

 

It sounds like a dream; styling some of the world’s biggest stars including Kirstie Alley for Dancing with the Stars, Kristin Chenoweth (Glee, Wicked The Musical, Broadway) for the final Oprah season and having Blake Lively wear your designs, but for Aussie fashion icon Sophia Banks-Coloma, it’s is all in a days’ work. With ten years of fashion experience in New York, L.A and Australia, Sophia is a formidable force in the fashion industry, with many labelling her the Aussie Rachel Zoe.

With international success as a highly established creative director, designer and stylist, and a wealth of acknowledgement in the industry; recognised by Forbes as one of its Top Ten Undiscovered Designers on the rise in 2009, and Harpers Bazaar Style leader two years running, it seems the world is her oyster.

Sophia’s fascination with fashion began at just 10 years of age when she enrolled in fashion drawing classes. Even after leaving school and moving to New York to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Sophia always knew her passion lay in fashion.

Sophia became co-owner of award-winning Hollywood hotspot Satine Boutique, styling celebrity clientele including Nicole Ritchie, Scarlett Johansson, Michelle Williams and Rachel McAdams to name a few. Sophia and business partner Jeannie Lee would also frequently provide internationally renowned stylist Rachel Zoe with their key fashion tips and trends.

Sophia’s style is influenced by her global travels and, with Sophia’s strong Australian roots, the Satine showroom regularly showcased Aussie designers including Sass and Bide, Fleur Wood and Camilla and Marc.

Sophia’s mantra is simple: “Buy what flatters you, not just what is trendy. If you are uncomfortable in it, don’t buy it; otherwise that is exactly how you will end up looking – uncomfortable.”

In 2008 Sophia, keen to put her skills as a designer to full effect, launched contemporary label Whitley Kros. The label has since established itself as a celebrity favourite, worn by the likes of Katy Perry, Blake Lively, Taylor Swift and Kate Hudson, and featured on U.S reality TV show ‘The Hills’. Testament to Sophia’s eye for detail and the brand’s innovative designs, Sophia was a semi finalist in the Ecco Domani Fashion Award and her collection was selected as a Mercedes Benz highlighted fashion show – a huge accolade for a designer.

Sophia is currently involved in the costume design for a new film by Academy Award winning Director Barrie M.Osbourne (Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Matrix and the new Great Gatsby) starring Amber Heard (Drive Angry 3D, Rum Diaries), Kellan Lutz (Twilight) and Shiloh Fernandez (Red Riding Hood). The film ‘Syrup’ is due to launch in Australia in 2012.

As with every successful person, Sophia has her own influences:

“I hugely admire Haider Ackermann and Riccardo Tisci for their great designs, Hubert Givenchy for creating the best dresses ever seen this century, and Coco Chanel for being such a rebel! In terms of style icons, I love Cate Blanchett for her elegant beauty and Charlotte Gainsburg for her effortless style. It could be said that all of the above have acted as a collective muse for my various fashion projects!”

With luxury fashion houses including Dior, Chloe, Cartier, Roland Mouret and J Mendel already lined up to provide the wardrobe for her latest venture, it seems her admiration is reciprocated, with design houses clamouring over themselves to be a part of her projects.

What an amazing woman and a fortunate opportunity to delve into the world of one of the worlds best stylists.

This is the incredible Sophia Banks-Coloma…

Sophia on Work

What projects are you currently working on or have in the near future?

I just finished the movie ‘Syrup’ in New York, designing all the wardrobe. It is an amazing project staring Amber Heard, Kellan Lutz, Shiloh Fernandez and Britanny Snow. It was a great project to work on – the director overheard me doing an interview for MTV and decided put me in the movie as the TV host interviewing one of the actors!

I am also working on dressing a number of celebrities for the red carpet and some image revamps for various new clients.

You are currently working on a movie starring Amber Heard, is this your first movie and what was your reaction when you found out?

Yes it was my first movie, and it was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. When I was pregnant I would watch the Devil Wears Prada and would think if I had the opportunity to work on a movie like that I would do it. A year later I was sitting with the director of ‘Syrup’ at the Chateau Marmont discussing the movie and he asked me to work on the costumes.

You’ve achieve incredible results for many of the brands you have worked for, landing them in major magazines around the world – how have you managed such success?

I never look around and say ‘gee I am so successful’, I am always striving for more and trying to do more things so I don’t really think about it. Right now I am thinking about two new film projects and a some fabulous new clients.

For 10 years you have been working with Hollywood’s A-List, who are the ones you really loved working with – or even loved to hate?

Kirstie Alley has been great, we started working together at the beginning of Dancing With The Stars show and it was great to see her weight transformation.

I loved Amber Heard on this latest movie, she is so beautiful, graceful and elegant – a real old Hollywood star, I am sure she will be getting an Oscar soon.

You travel a fair bit between the US and Australia, how do you manage?

I have travelling under control, especially with my daughter. We even ship our bags ahead…. We have a whole travel plan.

You are married to Marcus Coloma, who appears on hit shows like CSI and One Tree Hill, how long have you been married and how did you meet?

 

My brother’s friend, Nick Bosher (creator of beached whale) was staying with us in the USA and he went to an acting class and met my husband. They hit it off and decided to go for a run and he brought Marcus over – the rest was history.

Does Marcus ask for your fashion advice all the time?

All the time….. When he was filming Syrup in New York, he would call me and ask, ‘What am I wearing to this premier?’- I’d say the Black Jacket, Blue tee, and the Brown boots- I tell him what to wear all the time.

He says he can’t shop or get dressed without me.

How do you maintain a life balance between work and home?

I have to turn off my phone and on Sundays we have a family day. I’m also lucky to have a studio at my house, so I have Coco around me all day and she can come say hello whenever she wants.

My husband and I like it best if we are working together as then we get to spend lots of time together- otherwise we have date night.

My Mother/Father always told me…

My father and mother both always told me to there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do and that I could never really lose, by reaching for the stars. They showed me anything was possible, they live life, they take risks, they are adventurous and always changing …. That has given me the guts to do things most people would think are crazy and brought me here to this point now.

Sophia on Food

Which foods and drinks most excite your taste buds?

Chocolate and coffee. I live for these things. I can not get enough chocolate.

How often do you eat out and cook at home?

I am sad to say we don’t really cook at home, only occasionaly. We had someone cooking for us a little in Los Angeles, before we left so we could have family meals. But the last three months have been in New York…..I don’t know if anyone in that city actually owns a frying pan!

What is one of your best cooking tips?

Hmmmmm…… wear heels, so if your food tastes terrible you will look good.

Sophia on Fashion

Being a leading fashion stylist, working with names some people could only dream of working with, you need to look the part. What would you normally wear to feel comfortable, but also look fashionable showing your experience and authority?

I have to say that in New York I did have to learn to adjust my style, as wearing killer heels on set for 12 hours was not going to be easy. So for long days I wear wedges or platform sandles… YSL has a really comfortable pair of sandles.

I do always try and look good, I wear cropped trousers to be casual but always with some heels. I have to admit I suffer for fashion a little, I had to do a interview on the set for WWD and I had just bought a new Celine outfit- wool pants and shirt- but yes I still wore it in 100 degree heat.

I love hats, and will always wear one if my hair is not done- that’s my cheat.

 

Fashion must-have’s?

Cropped pant trousers look so chic with a shirt tucked in and a great heel. Plus burgundy nails.

Which celebrity wardrobe do you think is spot on?

 

Amber Heard, Dianne Kruger and Cate Blanchett.

What is your favourite piece of clothing or accessory?

Right now my burgundy Celine Bag, my Birkin bag, a new Celine outfit and a navy lace dress by The Row.

Sophia on her Home

Who or what influences you most in home décor?

I design my house like my wardrobe which is good and bad. I love wallpaper so have lots of it . I also try and go a little more classic as I will have the urge to decorate my house yellow or burgundy for the color of the season and then want to change it about six months later.

Do you have one feature in your home you love most?

The front entrance has yellow wallapaper with birds on it and the dining room has black wallpaper, which I think it really mysterious.

Do you think rules in fashion also apply to the home?

Yes but on a different scale. There are fashion rules, such as certain things make you look larger. In houses certain things will make a room look smaller and clutered and others will make it feel larger and spacious.

Sophia on Lifestyle

Where did you grow up?

Australia.

Where is your favourite place to relax in Australia and the US?

Anywhere in Australia- I love it. But mostly Sydney with my family and Palmbeach.

In the USA – Big Sur in northern California, Florida on the beaches and Palm desert at a spa.

What car(s) do you drive, best thing about the car and why you bought it?

Lexus Hybrid- I love big cars and I really wanted a Range Rover as that is my favorite car, but I bought the Lexus for the environment.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Handbags

Where would your ultimate holiday destination be?

The Maldives. I’m actually going to be going soon and I am so excited it is to a new resort – I just have to find the time to go.

 

The one thing I can’t leave home without is…

My iphone, lip gloss and a great handbag.

If you could be a fly on the wall of any celebrity home, who’s wall would you like to sit on?

The royal family.

Three pet hates?

1. Airport Security

2. Dropped Phone Calls

3. Changer over time for the taxi in New York when it is raining – fashion disaster.

The Specials – A Very Special Series Of Very Special People

September 24th, 2010

As most of you would know, Vimeo is another video search engine, like YouTube. Vimeo currently has a range of videos which are finalists in a few different genres, one of them being ‘Series’.

The finalist for this is “The Specials”, a reality video series of life inside a special needs home in the UK. There is a big house in Brighton, with 5 Down Syndrome adults living together with the cameras following them around capturing everything on their day to day life including love, heartache, new flatmates, dealing with all the things “normal” people deal with.

I have now become addicted to this series, I think it’s absolutely remarkable and these guys just constantly make me laugh. They are funny, sweet, cute and so kind to each other (sometimes!).

Please check out the video below, these are episodes 1 – 3.

Be sure to check out the rest www.the-specials.com

The Incredible And Inspirational Heroes – The Spartan Sparkles!

June 28th, 2010

I was recently watching an episode of Oprah, saluting headline making heroes, who have made valuable contributions to their communities. Watching the show brought tears to my eyes and I immediately felt compelled to contact the group you’re about to read about.

The Spartan Sparkles cheerleading squad is run by two spectacular cheerleaders from Pleasantville Iowa, Sarah Herr and Sarah Cronk which is the first of it’s kind in a high school in America. The Sparkles are aged 8 to 15, all born with a range of disabilities from Down Syndrome to Autism.

Sarah and Sarah work with this team of beautiful young girls, to help build their self-esteem, grow and become part of a team. Having a Down Syndrome sister myself, I understand the struggle children with disabilities face every day with not being accepted into a normal community, and making friends the way people without disabilities do. Sarah and Sarah have built a solid bridge for these unbelievably inspiring children, who are now part of a world they were once never part of.

The interview below was such a precious moment for me, and I value people like Sarah and Sarah who have so much time, patience and love for the people they have met and made amazing friendships with.

I’ve also attached the segment with Oprah below, please watch it and have tissues ready.

It’s with great pleasure to introduce you to Sarah Herr and Sarah Cronk, the real heroes of our World…

Please explain exactly what Sparkles is and what it’s all about…

Sarah Herr: It is a special needs cheerleading squad cheering in a high school setting, but it is about so much more. It is about accepting people who are different. We are able to make a difference in these girls lives and see them grow. In return they have made a huge difference in our lives, taught us so much about ourselves, and helped us learn lessons that most people don’t have the opportunity to, let alone high school girls.

Sarah Cronk: The Spartan Sparkles are our high school’s cheerleading squad including students with disabilities. There are currently 10 Sparkles and 8 varsity cheerleaders who serve as their coaches. All of us cheer together at our school’s home football and basketball games.

What was the drive behind you wanting to create such a unique concept to include people that are somewhat forgotten about?

Sarah Herr: Well it started with volunteering at the special Olympics, and I was so moved when we worked with the athletes that it made me want to make the connection with the special needs community more permanent. I had seen all-star teams with special needs squads perform so I went to my coach with the idea of starting it in our high school and with the support of my coach the journey began.

Sarah Cronk: Every year, our squad travels to the Iowa Special Olympics and puts on a cheerleading workshop for the athletes. Two years ago after the event, all of us were inspired by the experience and wanted to make our connection with the special needs community more permanent. Also, a few of the original Sparkles coaches have siblings with disabilities so they were quick to jump on board.

How has it been perceived by the public?

Sarah Herr: Our community has been very accepting and has been behind this program from the beginning.

Sarah Cronk: Our community has accepted the Sparkles with open arms and hearts. At the first game the Sparkles cheered at, the entire crowd cheered louder than they ever had before. They haven’t stopped cheering since.

What challenges did you face initially to start up the team? Are there any challenges now you face to keep it going?

Sarah Herr: Some of the challenges that we faced in the beginning was adults trusting that we stay interested in the project. Once they saw how dedicated we were they had full trust in us. Our age will continue to be a challenge for us but it is also a benefit in many ways.

Sarah Cronk: At first, when we approached our school with the idea of starting the Sparkles, they were a little bit skeptical. It’s very rare for a group of teenage girls to feel so passionate about a cause like this. They worried that we would only be interested in running the Sparkles team for a few weeks and then leave the girls behind. We also had some issues in the beginning with funding, but thanks to DoSomething.org and the Bettendorf Rotary, we earned grant money to pay for our first year.

What have you learnt from the girls in the group that have a range of disabilities?

Sarah Herr: I have learned so much about leadership through teaching cheers to organizing events. I have been the person in charge of the whole squad with many distractions multiple times and it really taught me how to prioritize and deal with problems that a typical teenagers experiences don’t allow them to.

Sarah Cronk: The Sparkles have taught me more than I ever could have imagined. I have learned so much about determination and perseverance through adversity. They have also helped me learn to see the person and not the disability, and to accept and understand the unique gifts in everybody.

What do you think the girls in the group have learnt from you?

Sarah Herr: I have seen major improvement in their self confidence. Girls that before would barley talk to people they knew were giving hugs to people they just met. Girls who wouldn’t walk in front of a group of 15 people were on stage in front of thousands. They have grown so much and I hope that I was able to help with that transformation.

Sarah Cronk: I think that being on the Sparkles team has taught the girls to feel more comfortable with themselves. One of the girls on the squad used to come to practice in various wigs, making us call her by different names of celebrities (like Hannah Montana.) I remember the first day that she came to practice without a wig, and was happy to just be herself. Moments like that that remind me why I do this.

What are some of the valuable skills you think they have learnt from you, which they could have never learnt in a life skills group or special units in school?

Sarah Herr: I feel that we treated them more like equals then special needs girls. This helped their self esteem so much because instead of them viewing themselves as special needs they viewed themselves as average girls, which is the way they should be treated.

Sarah Cronk: Our program is different from many other special education programs in that it is completely inclusive. Our Sparkles practice and cheer side-by-side with typically developing peers. Therefore, the Sparkles program teaches them how to socialize better with people without disabilities and better prepares them to function in social settings later in life.

Where do you both see yourself in the next 5 years and would you still like to be doing something like what you are doing now – or do you have other career paths you’d like to pursue?

Sarah Herr: I hope to be in medical school in 5 years. I want to help in medical research for autism. I would also still like to be involved in the Sparkle Effect and have it not be abnormal to have special needs cheerleading at a high school.

Sarah Cronk: I five years I see myself studying English and psychology at a small liberal arts college. Although I will no longer be a Sparkles coach, I hope to still be running The Sparkle Effect and still supporting squads across the nation as they start their own Sparkles squads.

What are your 3 pet hates?

Sarah Herr:

1) I don’t like people who give up, I am very stubborn that way and won’t stop trying until I succeed.

2) I don’t like people who don’t want to learn more. I’m not saying everyone has to be a nerd like me but everyone has a passion and theirs always more to learn about it.

3) I also have problems with pessimistic people. I am very optimistic and I don’t understand when people are not.

Sarah Cronk:

1) I hate the sound of people eating or chewing gum. (Or really any other sounds that mouths make)

2) I hate it when I can hear what other people are listening to through their headphones

3) I hate it when people call things are “gay” or “retarded” as an insult.

What do the parents and siblings of the girls in Sparkle think, and do they tell you about any developments they see in their children as a direct result from Sparkle?

Sarah Herr: They are so sweet to us and are very grateful. Every sparkle parent has told me how their child has grown so much because of this and they are shocked that simply cheering could do this. It is amazing to have their support and I will be forever in debt to them for helping start such a amazing program.

Sarah Cronk: The parents of the Sparkles have reported increased physical fitness, self-esteem, and confidence since they joined the squad. One Mom even expressed an improvement in her daughter’s grades since she became a Sparkle.

If there was one thing that you’d like to educate the general public on when it comes to interacting and dealing with the disabled community, what would it be?

Sarah Herr: To think of how you would like to be treated. You would not want people to make fun of your disability or to not believe you could accomplish something because of it, and they don’t either.

Sarah Cronk: It’s not about doing someone else a favor. When we open our arms and our hearts to people with disabilities, we all benefit. We all have something to learn from each other’s unique gifts and talents. I have learned more than I ever could have imagined working with the Sparkles, and I’ve also made some of the best friends I’ve ever had.

Tell us about your experience on Oprah and with meeting Miley Cyrus and performing on stage with her at her concert?

Sarah Herr: The whole trip was unreal. I loved meeting Miley and being on Oprah was remarkable! However some of my favorite parts was hanging out with the girls on the bus playing iSpy and seeing them enjoy meeting Miley.

Sarah Cronk: The entire Oprah/Miley experience was so incredible. It didn’t even resonate that it actually happened until several months afterward. What was most fun about it for me was being able to witness the whole thing through the Sparkles’ eyes. I could tell the entire time that they were having the time of their lives, which made everything so much more exciting for me. Not to mention Oprah treated us extremely well and kept us in the most beautiful hotels and served us with surprise after surprise. Miley was also very generous with her time and did very well with the Sparkles.

What was Oprah like? Have you had contact with her since?

Sarah Herr: Oprah was fantastic! She is hilarious and so caring and generous. I have kept in touch with our producer Stacy and we exchange emails frequently. I love Stacy and everything she does for so many people.

Sarah Cronk: Oprah was everything we could have hoped for. She was so kind, generous, funny, and had a very warm personality. We haven’t had any contact with her since, but we will never forget everything she has done for us.

What affect do you think this experience had on the girls?

Sarah Herr: It was great to see their faces light up and meet one of their idols! They were in shock, and so was I, at first. I feel that it brought they team together so much more because they all experienced it together and they will always have that!

Sarah Cronk: I think it has shown the girls that dreams really do come true, which is an important lesson when you’re young, and even more so when you have a disability. They have been denied a lot of experiences that a most typically developing students have, which I think made this experience even more special to the girls.

What do your own parents and siblings think of you and Sparkle?

Sarah Herr: They are very supportive. My little sister who is nine watches many practices and she has asked multiple times why she is not allowed to be a Sparkle. I have to explain to her that the team is only for children with disabilities.

Sarah Cronk: When I was little, my dad always used to tell me, “There are two ways to get into the newspaper: doing something good, or doing something bad.” Now, every time the Sparkles make it into our local newspaper, he always says, “See, remember what I told you?”I know my whole family is very proud of me and what I do with the Sparkles

Can you think of a time you have been so proud of yourself that you had a smile from ear to ear?

Sarah Herr: I’ve always been more proud of the girls when they overcome their fears. That is what always makes me smile from ear to ear.

Sarah Cronk: What really makes me proud is seeing the improvements in the Sparkles. I can’t help but smile when I see them walk up to people and introduce themselves when they used to be painfully shy. Of course experiences like Oprah and Miley have been so fun, but it’s really the little moments that get to me.

Can you think of a time that you thought it was all just too hard and you doubted yourself?

Sarah Herr: No, I have always been determined to make it work and never thought it wouldn’t work. I was very optimistic throughout the whole program.

Sarah Cronk: There are definitely times when being a Sparkles coach isn’t easy. Sometimes the girls have bad days and it’s hard to be patient and understanding. I just always have to look forward and think “next practice will be better.”

www.TheSparkleEffect.org

Watch the amazing segment on Oprah below:

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