Today we’d like to introduce you to Sophia Kunju Herrera.
Sophia, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I’m an independent fashion designer originally from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Almost six years ago, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design to start my career goal to become a fashion designer. Twenty-two years ago, me and my family’s lives changed dramatically; the five of us were involved in a horrific car accident with a drunk driver causing me to become paralyzed from the waist down. I have been using a manual wheelchair for 22.5 years now. I’m an independent, strong and ambitious women who strive to achieve my goals and stand for what I believe in. Sure, life has changed for me physically but that has not stopped me from pursuing my career in Fashion Design.
It’s interesting because I’ve always been passionate about art. My passion for fashion design only started in my freshman year of high school and immediately, I knew that it’s what I wanted to do as a career. As a paraplegic, it’s hard to shop for clothes that make me feel fashionable but still practical because there are a lot of things that I have to think about, so as a designer, my goal is to design clothes that are adaptable but yet fashionable and glamorous to wear no matter who the person is, anyone can wear my pieces. In 2019, I earned my bachelor’s in fashion design and am currently getting my master’s in luxury & fashion management. At 24 years old, I’ve already achieved one of my career goals which is to have my designs showcased during Paris fashion week, which will be shown in September 2021. 5 years down the road, I hope to have my brand Sophia Isabel fully launched.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Definitely not. Being a paraplegic has caused some people to question my abilities to do stuff. I have been through discrimination where people would tell me I don’t have the skills to be a fashion designer because I’m disabled and that I knew nothing about the disability community, and I’ve had people just look down on me just because I’m in a wheelchair. This definitely tore my world apart as I started to question myself and my career path. However, I had mentors, friends and family that said to me that I’ve inspired them because I was never one to give up and that I should believe in myself because I have the talent to design and make my dreams come true. Yes, critical criticism and discrimination will come along the way, especially in my situation but I’ve learned from it and never gave up on pursuing my dreams.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a fashion designer. I create mainly elegant pieces such as dresses, pantsuits, jumpsuits, etc. One of my recent collections is what I’m most proud of, which is the senior collection I did during my senior year of my bachelor’s degree, I created a collection that was adaptable for anyone to use no matter if you have a disability or not, while showing the experience of what it was like with my personal experience being a paraplegic, I hand-painted words that have been personally said to me over the years and the aggressive painted lines show the aggression and pain that I hid inside of me.
Funny enough, when I debuted this collection to my professors, they didn’t like it. However, someone in London saw my collection on my Instagram page and contacted me to give me the opportunity to showcase my designs in Paris Fashion Week, which is wild and never in a million years I thought that I would accomplish that at the age of 24. I guess what sets me apart from others is that even though my whole life changed drastically, I still never gave up and always got through obstacles and I made a career out of it by being a fashion designer. I do everything myself from sketching out the designs, making the patterns from scratch, cutting the patterns, to even sewing the whole garment from start to finish.
What was your favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory would probably have to be Disney World. I have family in Mexico, the USA and Malaysia, so it was nice for all of us to fly to Orlando and enjoy a family vacation. And Disney world is just the happiest place in the world. The place is truly magical. It just puts smile on my face. I remember being in the line for space mountain, and I clearly asked my uncle if it was a rollercoaster ride because I hated roller coasters at that time, he told me it wasn’t and I trusted him. Once we got in, my uncle fooled me because at the first drop I knew it was going to be a rollercoaster. Definitely was not my favorite ride in the park, but everything else was just amazing. It is one place I would never get tired of visiting.
- Website: https://www.sophiaisabel.design/
- Instagram: @sophiaisabel.designs, @thesophiaherrera
Jaylon Smith (photographer)