[Originally posted on January 2009]
Since completing her studies in Paris, Berlin and New York in 2000, Sophie Toporkoff has been active in graphic design and art direction in a wide range of fields in the worlds of fashion, music and contemporary art.
As an editorial designer, she created the fashion magazines Agenda and Rendez-Vous. She has also collaborated with the Colette shop in Paris, Nike, BeamsT, 2kbyGingham and also Versatile and Set record labels, designing their sleeves. Her work in the art world ranges from commissions for museums and galleries such as Palais de Tokyo, Deitch Projects or Galerie Kamel Mennour, to collaborations with artists such as Stephen Shore and Jota Castro.
Could you please let us know more your background and career? Was it always your dream to pursue a career as a creative director and artist?
When I was a child, I was this typical artsy student drawing all the time during the classes. So I came naturally to the idea to study arts. But it was not at all what my parents had in mind. So I had to pass a deal with them: when I would pass my first degree in law, I could then choose on my own what I really wanted to do! So that’s what I did and after this first law degree, I went to art school! After being graduated, I started right away as freelancing, contrary to all my teachers’ advices who thought anyone should start in an agency. But things came naturally. I started designing record sleeves for friends who were musicians, it was the big time for “French Touch” then! Then, one thing lead to another…
Could you please let us know more about the beginning of Rendez-Vous and Agenda magazines? What are the usual first steps to create a magazine?
The idea of starting Agenda came from the friendship with then-publisher (Alexandre) and editor-in-chief (Sophie). We were already working sometimes together, and during a discussion, we realize that Paris terribly lacked a cool community-based magazine. It seemed easy for us to start it, with all the connections we had amongst our talented friends in writing, photography, illustration, design… We had so much fun!
Rendez-Vous started by realizing that Agenda missed too many Parisians! But this time, Sophie (the same as the Agenda’s one) and I wanted to be the publishers of our own magazine. And, though not wanting to put aside this community-based spirit, we wanted to enlarge our horizons. And the ones of our readers. So we’ve always tried to give new and unexpected content, to talk about politics as well as culture… This Rendez-Vous project is, in a way, more ambitious than Agenda.
How do you find working in Paris? Why did you choose to live there in the first place?
I obviously decided to “stay” in Paris more than “choosing to live there”. And this is a really cool place to work. There are great companies here, and a nice spirit. The fact to know most of the people working in the same fields as mine is sometimes a little stifling, but when you think about it, it’s mostly encouraging and positive.
Could you please tell us more about the project “The Babushkas”?
When we had to choose a name for the publishing company we started with my partner Sophie for Rendez-Vous, I came up with the name “Babushka Editions”, in order to honour my russian great-grandmother, my babushka. And as we were two Sophies, I designed the company logo with those two little figures. Later, I thought of extending this concept into giving them more life, telling the story of who they (we) were: a “couple” of girls who like to dance, listen to the Daft Punk etc. And I gave them characters according to our real ones: Lil’Oshka is me (I’m really short!!, wearing usually sneakers) and Big’Oshka is the other Sophie (she’s tall, wearing high heels). And the shop Colette was a great support in launching a series of stickers (with Domestic) and other products with our dear Babushkas.
What would you suggest to a person that wants to undertake your career?
Make promises to yourself about what you want to do and why you want to undertake this career, and try to stick to it. If you’re not able to follow your first instinct and you feel you’re giving up on the creative side, if you’re not ungry anymore, this is not a big deal, but you should consider to change your career.
Do you like to collaborate with other artists? Why?
I really like the balance, will the variery of my works, between doing my 100% own things and collaborating with artists, so i don’t feel frustrated when I work with other artists, it’s even the contrary. My really great pleasure with working with artists is when I art direct them for a special project I chose them for: I love leading them to give me the best of what they have to give. It’s sometimes a complicated process, but they’re very often surprised and happy of the result.
What is your favorite food? And do you have a favorite place to eat out in town?
Don’t start talking about food with me, you won’t be able to stop me! I love food so much, as much as I love to cook, actually. It’s about every kind of food. But to give you an example, I ate for lunch one of my favourite food ever: this amazing thing called boutargue, some dried tuna eggs compressed in a wax pocket. And I’m right now as I’m answering this interview cooking some chopped liver for tonight’s dinner.
What is the nicest place you ever visited/travelled to? Why?
I don’t know about the nicest place ever, but the last one was Jamaica, during last Christmas holidays, and that was AMAZING! Good music (mostly dancehall) everywhere, all the time and very loud… what else can you ask for?
Who is the woman you’d like to see featured/interviewed here?
Please interview my very talented illustrator friend Alexandra Compain-Tissier (www.alexandracompaintissier.com).