Before her death in October 2019 from cancer, the designer Sophia Kokosalaki had been producing a jewelry line. It was hand-cast in Athens by a master goldsmith, and like much of the ready-to-wear she made over her two decade career in fashion, it drew on her Greek heritage filtered through the edgy East London vibes of her adopted home. Now, her partner Antony Baker is restarting the eponymous collection. “One of the things Sophia said before she died was that she wanted me to keep the brand going for our daughter. It’s what she wanted.” Stelli is now nine, and enough time had passed that Baker felt ready to take on the jewelry project.
Kokosalaki and Baker met not long after she graduated from Central Saint Martins. He had a production agency and financed her first show in 1998. She paid him back and they spent the next several years as friends before falling in love and agreeing to work together. Baker managed the business side of things and Kokosalaki did the designing. “I was very much asked my opinion, and probably ignored most of the time,” he laughs. “But for the 20 years we were together we had the same—exactly the same—taste.”
Sophia Kokosalaki, fall 2002Photo: Shoot Digital for Style.com
To look at the emerging generation of women designers is to be reminded of Kokosalaki, whose design vocabulary blended goddess dressing with would-be military armor. Few designers could balance the delicate and the tough, the classical and the cool as persuasively as she could. I’m biased, I wore a Vionnet dress of Kokosalaki’s design to my wedding in 2007. But I’m far from her only admirer. “Watching what Sophia did was mind-blowing to me as a student,” Kim Jones told my colleague Sarah Mower, when she wrote her tribute to Kokosalaki in 2019. “That incredible, elegant warrior-woman thing she did.”
The new jewelry is very much in keeping with the collections Kokosalaki was creating in the 2010s. Made in gold-plated sterling silver with freshwater pearls, the earrings, pendants, and bracelets lift their symbols—anchors, sails, shipbuilding tools, and mollusk shells—from the Greek myth of Odysseus. “I have thousands of research images that she left me to draw on,” Baker says. He’s emphasizing earrings in this launch collection because Kokosalaki loved earrings, though these have been scaled down from the shoulder dusters she preferred.
Photo: Rachel Lamb/ Courtesy of Sophia Kokosalaki
“I struggled with the idea—do I do it myself or work with a designer? But I felt that if I worked with a designer, I would have had to tell them Sophia’s taste all the time. If I did it myself—if I could do it myself, I wasn’t sure I could—I would know exactly. She’d be behind me saying, ‘I don’t like that,’ or ‘Oh, that’s great.’ I know exactly how she would do things. I have her in the back of my head constantly.”
Stelli had her own advice to give as her dad prepared to launch the new collection. “She told me to make sure my hair was combed before this interview,” Baker jokes. His strategy is to start small. “I don’t want to push it too much until I know it will work, but there’s a huge amount of goodwill for Sophia,’ he said. “There’s been a lot of talk about doing exhibitions in Greece, but to be honest, I’m not quite ready for that. I want to concentrate on what she wanted me to concentrate on. It’s very important for me that this is about her. It’s her brand and her name and I will try to make it as true to her as possible.”
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