A great interview with our Designer Sonya Powell
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When I first heard about the clothing line Snow Sugar, I wasn’t sure what to think. It’s essentially a line for women that ski and snow board, two things I have never done (epic fail). So, I wasn’t sure right off the bat how I could relate to the brand. But then I saw the mission listed by founder and designer Sonya Powell and I was genuinely intrigued. Promoting female empowerment, unity and embracing feminity in the midst of a male dominated arena are all things I can directly connect to. So, when I got wind that Sonya would be in New York to premiere her winter 2012/2013 line, I made it a point to find out more about the progressive ski fashion line. I caught up with Sonya while prepping for her launch party to get the scoop on how she pulled off making snow gear that’s runway friendly, the importance of embracing your femininity and why everyone from Spike Lee to Tommy Lee is raving about Snow Sugar.
Sonya, what inspired you to start your ski fashion line?
Well, it started because I am a skier and I was on the slopes and saw a lot of women looking to be more feminine in their look. For instance, on really cold days I saw girls wearing sweatshirts and when I talked to them they said they wore them because ski jackets were so bulky. Then I saw other girls that would take the ski jacket off and tie it around their waist to have more of a feminine line. I was struggling with the same thing; I felt like a lot of the stuff when I went to buy it, just was really boxy and reminded me of the skater look. I kept coming across it in all the stores, so I really sought out to find something that was fashion forward and allowed me to feel pretty but was functional as well and it just didn’t exist. I couldn’t believe it. After a year to of this I saw the need was there and the technology was there, so why not do something about this? I decided if no one else was going to do this than I would do it and here I am.
Did you know you always wanted to create fashions for the slopes?
I’ve always been a huge fan of fashion but no, I never thought I would be doing something like this. My background is very eclectic. I have been active all my life; I used to be a professional dancer [Hip-Hop]. But I believe that women should always balance beauty with intelligence, and if you let one or the other slip you are just not reaching your full potential. So, besides being active it was also very important for me to stay educated, so I have a Master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology from Columbia University. So, in doing the line it has been this amazing combination of everything coming together. I was also a weather anchor for a while in Bermuda – so I have this diverse background. I think it is always important to reinvent yourself but this is the first time everything has just come together for me and it’s just been a riot. I’m so excited to be in the fashion industry. I absolutely love everyone I’ve come into contact with and all aspects of it.
What is the history behind the name ‘Snow Sugar’?
My maiden name is White, so when I first started the line I was joking around saying I would call it “Snow White.” Obviously, I know I can’t call it that. So, I started thinking of other ideas. I liked snow, and I wanted something to represent femininity. What are girls made of? Sugar and spice and everything nice. So, that’s how Snow Sugar came about.
Who and what inspired your style aesthetic?
I really like designers that take risks. European designers tend to do that a lot, Americans too. But I guess whoever is taking where fashion is and attempting to take it to another level – that inspires me. I’m hoping to do that in the ski and the snow wear world.
What age woman are you creating your fashion line for?
If I had to pinpoint the target I would have to say females somewhere around 25-45. However, our pieces are really about attitude, so you could have a 20-year-old that could rock it and just be real fashion forward. Then you could have a bold/edgy 50-year-old wear it.
What hot trend will we see in your line for 2012/2013?
Sporting Chic is the trend that we are seeing in a lot of different arenas and that’s what I plan to bring into the snow world. Within that, it’s pieces that translate off the slopes. For example, you will see someone on the slope wearing our “Hoodie a la Mode” and you’ll also see that same person a few weeks later in a restaurant or a night club wearing the exact same jacket.
What is the one must-have piece every woman needs to have this ski season?
Definitely the “Hoodie a La Mode,” it’s an amazing piece for many reasons. One is that its cut is great for all body types so it is extremely versatile. It’s something you can wear in the city on a snow day or when it’s raining. If it’s windy it has a hood, so when you put the hood up you feel like you have an umbrella on. You can wear it on a crisp, cold night out or down the slopes, it’s extremely versatile.
Any fashion secrets you want to share with the SNOW audience?
My biggest secret is vinyl and how it can be an extremely fashionable. It’s an incredible product that I think we haven’t ever given credit to the degree that it should be given credit. It is extremely warm, it’s functional in the sense that it is naturally waterproof; it’s thin so it can be fitted, and it gives a leather look without harming animals. When you wear it on a mountain it mirrors a patent leather look but you are able to ski in it and it is absolutely gorgeous.
Are you influenced by any international designers?
I really like Gareth Pugh. He is somebody who I think is really pushing the boundaries and stretching his wings in regard to how far fashion can go forward.
Where is your favorite place to ski?
Whistler. I love Whistler! I grew up in the Northwest and I always see Whistler as like having my own personal ski heaven in my back yard. A beautiful day at Whistler is like no other.
What makes Snow Sugar so unique?
Snow Sugar is unique in the fact that it is feminine but functional as well. A lot of things that claim to be feminine aren’t able to balance the functional side of things. I don’t know many products that do have that equal balance, it’s usually one compensates the other.
Can you talk about the mission behind the line (“bring girls together to encourage one another to strive for the ultimate, while maintaining our true beauty”). Why is this so important for women both on and off the slopes?
To me, the overarching message about Snow Sugar [the mission] is so critical. Something I discovered as I have been designing the clothing is that this is such a bigger subject/issue than just in the snow world. I really would like to encourage women to cheer each other on. We can compete against each other but at the same time support one another so that we can be active but at the same time represent being a female. I think a lot of females feel like that if they are being active in order to be taken seriously they have to take on more of the guise of a male. I think if we all [women] were to come together and say, ‘hey, here we are, we’re women, we’re active, we can compete against you in so many arenas but we can still keep our femininity’ we could change that impression.
I think women everywhere who are in male dominated industries can relate to this statement. Why do you think it is so important for women to embrace their femininity in these industries/situations?
It’s so important more and more today, if you even look at fashion in the past 10 years, on billboards you see ads with women lying on the ground like they’ve been kicked and it just really gets to me. Why do we have to do that? Then in the sporting arena you are basically wearing men’s clothes playing these sports. We are able to compete, so we’ve checked that box off. Now, let’s stand up and still be feminine because that’s part of our job as a female is to keep the beauty here. So, it is a really big mission and part of Snow Sugar to bring women together so that we all strive for the ultimate together, but also keep our true beauty, don’t let that go by the wayside.
Can the line also appeal to those in urban areas, that aren’t necessarily snow boarders? How can it translate to everyday life?
I think it translates 100 percent. The response has been so great in the urban market. We introduced it in Sundance and Spike Lee was there and a lot of his people were there and they loved it. We also had Dead Mouse there, Tommy Lee, just a lot of celebrities who had a positive response to it because they sees it’s fashion forward and edgy at the same time. It’s like runway fashion mixed with Hip-Hop mixed with femininity all together in one. It gives you a cut that shows a girl’s figure but at the same time it is very fashion forward and edgy. These are people that don’t ski and don’t board. We’re looking to put it in a Hip-Hop video. (Laughs)
What’s the future of Snow Sugar?
I hope to revolutionize snow fashion. I’m really hoping to take ski and snow wear to another level by bringing the ski world more into the fashion light. What I’m referring to is what people call the “sport chic” look. So, you are keeping the sporting element but we are all women and whether you are a boarder or a skier, beginner or advanced, we’re women. We don’t compromise our fashion when we are not on the ice or not doing sports. So, why should we have to do that when we are? I am really trying to bring the femininity into the sporting world, starting with the snow and ski world. I want to encourage women to stand up and be proud to be athletic but feminine at the same time
Interview by Navani Knows Navani Knows Snow Sugar