“Sassy, classy and badass-y”, Made in Chelsea’s Sophie Hermann is the great-granddaughter of Mustang Jeans founder Luise Hermann, and fashion runs in her genes. German-born Sophie speaks no less than 5 languages and studied Fashion and Fashion Business in Milan before bringing her own designs to London. Today Sophie takes no fuss from anyone after a dark time in her life left her stronger and more sure of herself than ever, and as a recurring star on the show, she puts her public presence to use trying to empower women to stand up for themselves and for others, and to be unafraid to call oneself a feminist and an individual in a world of glamour and expectation. We give her the Deutsche Qualität stamp of approval as a very BOLD woman.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF GROWING UP IN GERMANY AND SOME OF THE EXPERIENCES AND INSPIRATIONS THAT YOU HAD THAT CONTRIBUTED TO THE PERSON YOU HAVE BECOME?
It sounds so cliched, but my mum has been my biggest inspiration. She’s got a PhD in art history and specialised in Spanish Renaissance, and so she’s an amazing sketcher and artist. She taught me how to sketch from a very early age and she schlepped us to every museum in the world, every gallery – which obviously as a child gets a bit tedious, but that really implemented all of these amazing art memories and knowledge about that in my brain. Since I was very little and she dropped the Vogue on my lap, I’ve been obsessed with fashion. My mum would take us shopping and let us choose what we wanted as well – not like how you would normally dress your child by just telling them what to wear – we would do it together, and then I started designing when I was about 8 years old.
Because we lived in a very small town, there weren’t many places to wear what I made, so, every winter holiday when we went to Saint Moritz, I was so excited because I could dress up for New Years Eve. I designed dresses for my sister, my mum and myself for the occasion, and then mum would bring it to the tailor, and we would get it made from scratch. That’s how it started and that’s what I always wanted to do.
Fashion design has always been there in front of me. This goes hand in hand with my great-grandmother Luise Hermann who founded Mustang Jeans! My father sold his share of the company in the ’90s – which I was like “why dad!” – but I’ve always had that in my blood. My father is also a textile engineer so, even now when he goes shopping with me he looks at everything so intensely like, “is that a double locked such-and-such” and there’ll be some poor sales girl standing there shwitzing, trying to help but like, dying.
I’ve never met my great-grandmother, she was too old, but I love the stories about her. She built such an empire after the whole credit crunch in Europe in the ‘20s, when her husband lost a lot of money, so she had to become a sewer. Not long after that, her son – my grandfather – got taken by the Nazis when he only young, to fight in the Russian war. Apparently, he won a football game with the Russians and they basically let him free because of that, and so he walked back to Stuttgart! I’m not sure if that story’s true, but I’ve been told that my great-grandmother Luise was sewing one day, believing that he was dead, until Rolf came up behind her and covered her face with his hands, and she turned around and there he was! It sounds like a beautiful movie, but I guess everything at that time was so extreme that everything was a movie moment.
WHO DO YOU LOOK UP TO MOST IN LIFE WHO INSPIRES YOU?
I mean, now I get inspired by so many girlfriends of mine, even the youngest ones. One of my closest friends is only 20 and she reminds me so much of myself when I was that age. I’m literally 12 years older than her, so sometimes I’m like “no, you don’t have to do that”, like trying to give her advice, but people have to go through their own things. It’s taught me that everyone has to have their own experiences and you have to do the same yourself, no matter what others might say. We all have to make mistakes to live, you know? “C’est la f***ing vie”.
But on the other hand, I also have friends who are like 50, so I really take inspiration from a lot of people but not just of the whole, from little parts that I then morph into my kind of Frankenstein’s bride.
WHY IS THE UK SO SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND WHEN YOU’RE HERE WHAT DO YOU TAKE FROM GERMANY THAT YOU’LL ALWAYS KEEP WITH YOU?
When I moved to London, my boyfriend at the time and most of my friends lived here. I wanted to open my own fashion brand, which I then did for a while – Sophie Hermann London. That was mostly body suits, but then I bought like 3km of denims to work with, and I also made dresses and coats. I wanted to move to London because I imagined at the time when I was studying Fashion and Fashion Business in Milan, it would have been difficult to establish your own brand amid the old fashion houses like Gucci, Pucci and Shmoochi. A lot has changed in Milan since I was there, it’s become a lot cooler and a lot more open to new brands, but at the time it was probably easier to build your own fashion brand in a land where the atmosphere was much younger and quicker. It was less conservative in London. Another reason I wanted to move here, and I think this deep down is the true reason I moved, is because I watched Little Britain. I thought that if a country can have that kind of humour, I need to live there. I am basically Bubbles Devere. And that wheelchair character – like when I broke my foot last year on MiC and little Miles was running around pushing me everywhere.
What do I take from Germany? I love Germany, but I especially love Germans who live abroad – those are my favourite Germans. They kind of like get it; they’re not so close-minded because they take on the best from the countries they live in. Also, I do appreciate a good sausage, but I HATE currywurst, it gives you diarrhoea for like 3 days. No thanks. I like the Weisswurst; I’m from the south. I like Weisswurst, I like Blutwurst, I like Wienerwurst – I like all the Wurst.
When I go to Germany or when mum comes here, she brings me Maultaschen, that’s very specific from the Stuttgart area, it’s like a Swabian ravioli. It was invented during the fasting time, and the clever Germans wrapped the meat in the dough so that God wouldn’t see it!
I love to cook, it’s like one of my favourite things.
I guess what I like about being in England as well is that I can say all of these words like Schatzi and Schlepp, and people love it! Especially when you work on TV, you can really milk that. Heidi Klum has done that for years and she was smart doing that because Americans had no idea what she was even saying but they thought she was funny, even when most of the words she said made no sense in German. My things make sense, but they also sound funny, so that’s where Heidi Klum and I part.
AS A REALITY TELEVISION STAR AND WITH SUCH A SIGNIFICANT SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWING YOU HAVE A LARGE PUBLIC PRESENCE, SO ESSENTIALLY YOU RELINQUISH PART OF YOUR PRIVATE LIFE BECAUSE OF THIS. WHERE DO YOU DRAW THE LINE BETWEEN WHAT’S PUBLIC AND PRIVATE?
I’m not like Kim Kardashian who’s all self-inflicted of course but does live a crazy life like that. For me, I’m still very much the controller of what I post, what I want to post, and I do take precautions. I always save every story; I don’t just shoot it out because that can really get you into trouble on a night out… So, that’s what I do, I save all of the stories and then put them into a nice rendered format and make sure I post it professionally.
Even when things get emotional I still try to put a structure behind it, to think it through and also think about whether it would actually enable other women to stand up for their friends or empower girls in general.
It’s a bizarre world that we live in on this show because you clearly know you’re on TV, so you have to choose your words wisely (which is sometimes gets me into trouble because my tongue runs loose), but it’s reality at the same time, it’s our lives.
CAN YOU SHARE A MOMENT FROM YOUR LIFE THAT’S BEEN PARTICULARLY CHALLENGING THAT YOU’VE LEARNED FROM?
It’s kind of a tough story, but BEBOLD is about empowerment and this made me feel empowered afterwards.
I had a relationship from 20-27, on-and-off for 7 years, with a very abusive German boyfriend who lived here, and I could never get rid of him. In the end, I was still on the show, I found out he cheated on me, then he beat me up, and then I called the police. I never thought I’d get out of that relationship in my whole life, I thought I was going to marry the guy and everything.
It was thanks to my best guy-friend that I managed to get out of it. He called the police together with me and he empowered me for the 2 years leading up to that point to prepare for that breakup. He even hooked me up with my next boyfriend!
I guess that’s one thing I never talked about, and I had my brand with this guy – always a very smart idea… I had to stop my brand then because we invested everything ourselves. It took me a long time to get over everything that happened, but in the long run it made me so much stronger because now I don’t take any s*** from anyone. Even when everyone was warning me, “get out of there, you can do so much better”, sometimes you have to learn the hard way. I’m so much stronger now, and I know exactly what I want and what I don’t want from a relationship. This unfortunately narrows it down to a very small few! But it’s for the best and I learned to never again make myself dependant on a man, not in any kind of way. That’s really something that took me a long time; I’m 32 now, but I mean, better late than never.
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS OR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH FEMALE EMPOWERMENT AND WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEND TO OUR READERS?
Last weekend I went to Cap Ferrat. It was hailing down and I was with these kind of “society” people, and the way the boys talked about women made me want to jump out of the window. It’s so degrading, talking about women like a trophy, it’s disgusting. This really needs to change because they hear it from their fathers and brothers, and none of the women say anything, so they just laugh, and the cycle continues! I’ve got a very strong sense of justice and that kind of behaviour always gets me so angry because whenever I see anyone getting screwed over, even if it’s a boy, I’d stand up for them.
I have found that the higher in society you go, the less people you meet who call themselves a “feminist”, because they always think of feminists as like, women with armpit hair demonstrating at Oxford Circus, who they don’t relate to, which I think is because their husbands are feeding them that image. I think that’s really upsetting because for example I would say I’m a feminist, but in a different way than it’s portrayed. I believe in standing up for myself and standing up for my friends, and it also means calling out other women when they mess up.
YOUR FAVOURITE FASHION BRAND?
Right now, I have to say Zara is killing it. But I also love Fausto Puglisi, Attico and Alessandra Rich.
FAVOURITE MAKEUP BRAND?
Charlotte Tilbury. Always. Love her tutorials, darlings.
FAVOURITE PLACE TO GO OUT?
We’re here! Annabel’s.
Pasta. I like the Wurst as I said, but I love Italian food most. In the summer my favourite thing is sea urchin pasta, and then bolognese in winter.
FAVOURITE THING ABOUT ENGLAND?
So hard to narrow down! I’ll have to say the Monarchy and the humour.
FAVOURITE THING ABOUT GERMANY?
Heimat – it’s an expression meaning Home or Homeland, but it’s about the culture and the feeling specific to Germany. It’s a good word.
ONE WORD TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF?
One word? I don’t know. Sassy, Classy and Badass-y.
THE MOST BOLD MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?
Coming onto a TV show having never done anything like that before. That took balls, and mine are huge.