PUBLIC RELATIONS COORDINATOR, CREATOR OF PERSONAL UNIFORM
Written and Photographed By Kelley Mullarkey | Video Produced By Sean Stillmaker
From its industrialized atmosphere to its highly decorated streets, lined with boutiques, teahouses, abandoned buildings and multi-colored murals, Berlin, Germany proves to be the perfect habitat for Sophia Schwan, the uber imaginative force behind the blog Personal Uniform.
Soft-spoken and genuinely original, Sophia embodies what it means to truly be yourself, free of trends and social norms, no matter where she happens to be living in the world. Combining a personality that conveys intrigue and femininity with a deliciously positive outlook on both life and style, Sophia is the most delightful addition to a city already brewing with underground creativity and innovation.
In today’s society where almost everyone appears to be blogging about fashion, it can be difficult to decipher whose voice is attempting to please the masses and whose is out there critically analysing fashion from a fresh and unique perspective. Thanks to the booming success of Scott Schuman’s blog, The Sartorialist, the blogosphere is overflowing with trend hungry followers and an abundance of amateur street style photographers (some good, some bad).
Nowadays, anyone with a disposable income can hop on a computer, take ownership of a URL and be considered “fashion.”
It is people like Sophia that bring substance to the table when discussing the ongoing debate surrounding the purpose and place of bloggers in a world centred on fast fashion, digital socializing and our obsessive need for consumption. With her writing, Sophia ponders the relativity between fashion and news while still maintaining a fun, engaging and witty attitude.
Most recently, with a post entitled Democratising or Diluting, Sophia elaborated on the history behind the elusive Masion Martin Margiela and the brand’s new collaboration with H&M expressing her concern that “not enough people understand that they are buying a piece of MMM history with the release of his re-issued designs.”
Peppering new ideas in wherever she can, Sophia generates new angles to ponder – i.e how Marni got her to reconsider her distaste for mathematics.
A lover of masculine fashion (sleek lines, suit trousers and minimalism) Sophia introduced the world to the concept of “husband’s sleeves”. Having coined this funky term, Sophia began referencing the addition of husband Alasdair’s “magnificently stiff and oversized” shirts and sleeves that have slowly crept into her wardrobe, which she herself finds to be an interesting stylistic revolution.
Having lived in various places around the globe, Sophia credits much of her sartorial evolution, inquisitive nature and inspirations to her worldly experiences. Sophia was born in Wiesbaden, Germany and spent time residing in Stuttgart as a child. Wanting to expose their children to how other cultures around the world live, Sophia’s parents made the decision to relocate to New Jersey, located on the east coast of America when Sophia was 11.
While stateside from ages 11-15 and moving from New Jersey to Minnesota and back, Sophia learned fluent English. She began taking an interest in literature and writing, enrolled in poetry classes during the summer and paid extra attention to the distinctions between American and European cultures and values.
“I developed an intimate relationship with observation and aesthetics while living aboard. I also realized how beneficial it is to be integrated in other cultures. ”
Curled up on an oversize chair in her spacious Berlin flat, dressed in her favorite ASOS tweed jumper and emerald green moustache loafers from Zara, Sophia explained to Sean and myself (while we stuffed ourselves with plenty of cake and coffee) the events detailing her first encounter with fashion.
“I was very little when I discovered what I believed to be fashion. I remember painting half of my face red with my mother’s lipstick and digging through boxes I had found in the basement filled with the kimonos my grandmother had purchased while on vacation in Japan. I put one on and wore it all day long. I was always intrigued by the aspect of cultural identity.”
Growing up, Sophia experimented with all forms of visual self-expression. Obsessed with Marilyn Manson and the grungy music surrounding the 90s while in middle school in America, Sophia set out to challenge authorities. Dressing in gothic attire and pieces acquired from the nearby mall’s infamous Hot Topic, Sophia refused to conform, even if she only could resort to store bought items at the time.
“For me, at the beginning I used fashion as an immature form of self-expression. I was trying to prove a point but at that age, children are still really developing exactly just how to do that. I chose to use clothing.”
When I pressed Sophia for an example, she pushed a few strands of her long curly blond hair away from her face and humoured me.
“I wore a corset to school and lied to the administration saying that I had back problems. I went to a really strict school and felt suffocated. Dressing differently and dressing to showcase my musical inspirations gave me a sense of personal relief.”
What I love about Sophia though is how much she values her parents’ support and the role they played throughout her entire adolescence.
“I love that my parents let me live that phase of my life out, and did not try to interfere. As a young person struggling to find their own individuality and identity the last thing you want to hear is no.”
At 15 Sophia moved back to Germany where she attended a very liberal boarding school close to the Swiss Border. There she went through what she refers to as her “acid ballerina” phase, a time when she wore a massive amount of neon and perforated leather. After graduation Sophia moved to Scotland to study publishing with a focus on journalism at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. During her time at university Sophia spent a semester living in The Netherlands, took up photography and began blogging.
After coming to the realization that she would rather use journalism as a creative outlet verses a full-time job at the moment, Sophia made the leap into public relations where she currently works with an expanding range of lifestyle and fashion clients alongside running her blog.
When you examine Sophia’s personal style today, a concoction of a love for exaggerated layering, menswear, obscure footwear and loads upon loads of versatile jackets, it is hard to imagine the path it has taken.
A self-confessed shoe hoarder who appreciates the unconventional vision of designers like Ann Demeulemeester, Raf Simons, Dries von Noten and Masion Martin Margiela, Sophia is not ashamed to admit the sacredness that these pieces of art represent to her. Interested in literature, surrealism and architecture, Sophia’s collection mirrors her inspirations, straight down to her Nicholas Kirkwood Picasso flats.
“Fashion is such an intimate form of expression. Making the decision to sit down in front of a computer and share your opinions with the rest of the world puts you in a very vulnerable place. But it is also very empowering.”
Whether she is sourcing inspiration from the unpredictability of Berlin, random street side occurrences or the current slue of PR projects that fall into her lap, Sophia is always armed with her own personal uniform, one that challenges us all to ask ourselves what we are trying to say when we get dressed each morning.