- Published Date
- Written by Carlisha Hartzog
As a designer, once you receive a letter from the First Lady Michelle Obama (a fashion influence in her own, fabulous right), commenting on how elated she was to receive one of your pieces, that pretty much sums up the fact that you have arrived. But please don't acknowledge Sophia Forero, the woman, as a world renowned designer first. First, recognize her contribution to societies across the world, a principle that her brand is strongly built upon.
Her extensive travels have intensified her keen heart, quite in tune with the perils of the less fortunate. The Red Cross of the United States, tsunami relief in Japan, an Orthodox orphanage in Kolkata, India, Loaves and Fishes of DuPage County/Chicago Food Depository and the Chicago CARA program have all been influenced by the work of a brand that strongly believes in its mission-- feel beautiful. Sophia Forero engages in an ongoing campaign with Friends of the Children of Haiti (Fotcoh.org), in which the team creates one of a kind necklaces, crafted with hand-made, Haitian oil drum pendants, and retails them for $500. All of the funds are allocated to the organization's operation, a medical clinic in Cyvadier, Haiti, where regional citizens are treated for free.
When an International Relations graduate student studies South African culture and history for a thesis, and couples that with a strong desire to philanthropically enhance the lives of others - along with a love of fine jewelry and precious metals - you get the aftermath of Sophia Forero, and her name sake brand.
A graduate of the University of Chicago, Forero was inspired by the art and jewelry of the South African culture she intently began studying. "I was immediately taken in by the art, the meaning behind the jewelry, the integral necessity jewels meant to each given group." A dear friend gifted her the book Africa Adorned by Angela Fisher, and it became her creative bible. From there, she began to buy elements of the culture - Tuareg crosses, Ethiopian aluminum beads, and glass beads from Ghana.
While in the Peace Corp and stationed in Hungary, the designer would cross the boarder to the Czech Republic to purchase Bohemian glass beads; she trekked to the former Soviet Union and other countries within the region to obtain a variety of beads - amber, amethyst, cloisonné and lacquer - the perfect pieces to utilize. Her travels turned into expeditions, experiences that allowed her to buy beads from various countries, and then, the making of something great began.
Sophia Forero has been featured in 300 boutiques in the US, Canada and Europe, and the recognition of the brand's mosaic pieces have provoked client loyalty and correlating sales at a record-breaking level. Aside from being worn by the anchorwomen of CNN, NBC WGN and ABC, actresses such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Vivica A. Fox and Olympia Dukakis have been spotted wearing Sophia Forero pieces as well. When discussing next steps, Forero talks about progression, and building long term sustainability. "In May, I am starting a program with Goldman Sachs called 10,000 Small Businesses.
It's a five month, fast paced MBA program of sorts sponsored by Goldman's to help entrepreneurs create a growth plan and a business plan. The cohort will be at Harold Washington College. "I am especially excited to start this, to learn the language of finance and business, so I can help take my brand to the next step." Networking and building the brand are integral components that continue to drive the company's success. "At last market we connected with the buyer of the Metropolitan Opera in NYC - and we are talking to them now about doing a trunk show at their store and creating a collection of pieces that would emulate the featured opera," states Forero. The company will also be attending shows in Las Vegas and New York for 2013, continuing to network and reach out to buyers.
The design process often begins with the mosaic, which inspired Forero while standing by a Byzantine icon in church. Upon getting closer, there was the realization of the many distinct parts that together, create one image. "I thought a texture like that would make a beautiful pendant- within two years, I had the prototype I had imagined in my head" says Forero of the mosaic's inspired beginnings.
Collections are typically started based on color, influenced by the ancient jewelry of the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, and countries around the world. From the concept, precious and semi-precious, faceted stones are sewn onto fabric, which is then set into cast sterling silver or 24 karat gold over brass. The result is an artistic piece of jewelry that withstands the trends of time, and is worthy of passing down for generations
Sophia Forero's most popular items are currently their oversized rings. "It seems like the bigger, the better" says Forero, who is also receiving great response to the mosaic-on-silk necklaces, which can be worn long or short. Next, we will be seeing a new line of mosaic bangles in the spring, perfect for stacking and wearing as the main statement piece of an ensemble. The mosaics will be hand-hammered gold or silver, and will feature everything from emeralds to sapphires to diamonds.
Best of all: this greatness takes place while under the leadership of Forero, who manages to be a wife to installation artist Mauricio Forero, a musician (she plays the piano, guitar, drums and xylophone) and a mother of four that takes her kindergartner to the bus stop every morning. Her last words to me: "Rock and ROLL!!! If that's not inspiration, what is?"