If you’re a regular reader of Charlotte’s Fancy, you might have noticed Sophie & Lili dolls popping up in my gift guides and handmade picks, because I adore them. The dolls are one-of-a-kind designs printed on high quality quilters cotton which are personalized with a name or message on the back. Just the other day, my daughter Rosa said, “This doll was my favorite Christmas gift” and on most nights, both girls fall asleep hugging their dolls.
So, today, I’m very happy to share my interview with Jennifer Vallez, the talent behind Sophie & Lili.
Tell me about the process for making Sophie & Lili dolls and what tools you use.
I sketch ideas on paper but most times, I draw right in Illustrator and then send the designs off to be printed digitally. I cut the dolls individually and choose a backing fabric that will look cute. I use my Husqvarna sewing machine and hand sew them closed and also hand sew the name tags on back.
How does having two daughters impact/influence your designs?
Ever since I had my first daughter, I have been buying handmade dolls and softies for her. Etsy was/is a big influence in being able to find unique things.
I went to school for fashion design but, I kind of gave up on that dream a year into college. I had no interest in the kids market back then. My first daughter Sophie was definitely a driving force in starting a clothing line. I started a little girls clothing line in 2004 and added knit dolls (made in Peru) in my Fall 06 collection. They weren’t 100% what I had envisioned, but I couldn’t find a manufacturer to make woven dolls at the time. Then I had my second daughter and it was all too much to juggle. The dolls seemed a natural transition. I love to draw and I love the idea of designing my own textiles. It just kinda worked!
And my daughters love to add their 2 cents to my designs. They have about 20 dolls each at this point.
Where else do you find inspiration and who are some of your favorite designers?
I take inspiration from all over – fashion, graphic design, textile designer, etsy crafters, etc. Some of my favorite designers are Rosa Pomar (artist/crafter), Heather Ross (textile), Denyse Schmidt (quilter/textile), and Orla Kiely (textile/fashion).
Which designer would you most love to meet?
I would love to meet Orla Kiely, Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Furstenberg and Betsey Johnson. I was obsessed with Betsey Johnson since I was about 9. My parents would take me to the city [New York] for my birthday, and we always stopped in her store. When I went to Fashion Institute of Technology, I got to dress models at 2 of her shows. It was the first and only fashion shows I ever went to. Her clothes are not my style anymore, but she has such a young energy about her. Her drawings are what got me inspired me to explore fashion illustration!
What are the challenges of juggling your full time job with Sophie & Lili?
Working full time in a deadline-driven ad agency is challenging enough! Sophie & Lili takes a backseat so, I work at night and on weekends. It’s definitely a juggle between work and home life.
What would you like to do with Sophie & Lili that you haven’t been able to do yet?
I just started making hair accessories and have so many ideas, but not enough time to execute them. The dolls and hair goodies are keeping me plenty busy for now!
What advice would you give to other handmade artists?
Advice? I started the clothing line with NO idea what I was doing. My practical side would say do your research and have a business plan. Wait! I don’t have a practical side!! Ha! I would have never started my business knowing how it *really* is though. I had no plan, just a gut feeling it would work. I am not a huge risk taker. I feel like I got kinda lucky – and also, I am extremely resourceful. If I want something to work, I won’t take no for an answer. A small peeve of mine is when I get emails asking for my sources. I am all about helping you out, but you should also do your homework. You’ll get farther if you figure these things out on your own!
Many thanks to Jen for letting me feature here on Charlotte’s Fancy. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her over the last few months – I feel like I’ve known her for years. Also, I’ve heard that she wouldn’t mind getting a box of Sprinkles cupcakes for Valentine’s Day, or any day, really (wink).