Meet Maria Leoni-Sceti, the brains behind the brand - Sonia Petroff. Come behind the scenes with us to learn more about Sonia herself and how Maria took her beautiful archived pieces and brought new life to them.
q: What are the first words that come to mind when you think of Sonia?
a: Independent, creative, fun, stylish.
q: Why, in your opinion, is Sonia’s collection so captivating?
a: Sonia’s collection is so captivating as it spans over 40 years, so it not only evolves over time, but also the designs are influenced by the various countries and cultures she lived in or travelled to. These influences are beautifully blended and essential to the designs, making them so unique and timeless. Being a free thinker with a colourful life has allowed her the freedom to use her imagination without any constraints. At the same time, given her jet-setting, privileged background, the pieces are bold and fun, yet always extremely elegant and timeless.
q: Being left with her pieces must’ve been such an honour and a privilege. What were your first thoughts upon receiving them?
a: My first thoughts were that I only wish I had gotten to know her better while she was still alive!! I had no idea what a cool and fun person she had been when she was younger. I only met her in 1988 when I started dating my husband, just in the period when she was retiring, so I only knew her as Auntie Sonia. Auntie Sonia was amazingly chic until the end, but was completely nonchalant and low key about her designer days. Only when we inherited her old trunks and vintage pieces a couple years ago did I fully realise all that she had done.
q: When was it when you decided that it was time to bring Sonia’s designs back into the world?
a: My first thought was to make a beautiful coffee table book of her wonderful pieces for the family to remember her by. So then I was connected to Vivienne Becker, who not only said that she would be delighted to help write the book, but more importantly, that there was potential to do so much more. Another dear friend who has worked in luxury for years wrote me a business plan on how to get started, and the rest is history.
q: What is your design process like?
a: I first choose 3 to 4 pieces (which are usually belts) to recreate exactly as the vintage pieces have been made. From these base designs, I create 3 or 4 pieces (necklaces, bracelets, bags for example) keeping the main feature of the original design, but giving them a contemporary edge, whether it’s as cuff earring, for example, or adding on braided leather to a necklace. This way they have a vintage feel to it but with an added contemporary edge, making them timeless.
q: How similar is your own style to Sonia’s?
a: I think we both have the same idea of making the designs timeless and ageless. Timeless in that when a piece is elegant, it never goes out of style. Also, the premium made-in-Italy quality, I hope my pieces will be in wardrobes 20 or 30 years from now. Just like Sonia’s are. Ageless in that they look amazing on women of all ages, which is what makes them so special. Sonia and I also love using colour, especially two contrasting colours, which don’t obviously pair well until you see them together!
q: How did you find out about Curated Crowd?
a: I first found out about Curated Crowd through my dear friend Ketty Maisonrouge, who is based in New York City and a Professor at Colombia University. She teaches a course on how to create luxury start-ups and she connected me to Ada when Ada first brought Curated Crowed to London. Fast forward one year later and wonderful Lainey Sheridan-Young reconnected us, and this time to work together!
If you haven't heard of the amazing Sonia Petroff and Maria Leoni-Sceti yet, now is your chance to get to know her!
Sonia was was a highly respected accessories designer in the 50s to the 80s. She was fearless and bold, unafraid to experiment and try new things. She was a trend setter and trailblazer far ahead of her time, who gained notoriety with her RTW designs for Valentino, Balmain and Nina Ricci.
Just like her life, Sonia's designs were full of life and vibrancy. It took you on a journey that led you through an Italian Wonderland of nature through her eyes. It encapsulated the essence of nature, showing you its wonder and beauty, enormity and elegance all at the same time. It impossible not to love her pieces.
After her passing in 2015, her entire 800-piece jewellery collection alongside unsold work, her diaries and prototypes were left to her nephew and his wife, Maria Leoni-Sceti, whom we interviewed. To take on this resposibility of carrying on the brand in Sonia's name is incredibly brave - one of the lovely attributes they both share.
As Maria mentioned in her interview above, her initial plan was to create a coffee table book in her memory for all family members. However, after much deliberation with others, she realised there was so much more she could do. The brand 'Sonia Petroff' was hence born.
Maria's designs not only captures the beauty and elegance that was a huge part of Sonia's own designs, but also adding in a modern element that makes the pieces timeless and suitable for everyone. Her aim is to have these jewellery pieces stand the test of time, for them to be passed down for generations without it going out of fashion.
We, at Curated Crowd, have nothing but admiration for both Maria and Sonia, for creating jewellery and accessories that are unqiue and ageless.