In a field full of glitz and glamour, Celebrity Stylist and Director Sophia Banks has not only garnered an impressive resume, she’s taking her years of experience and moving forward with new and exciting adventures in the world of storytelling through fashion.
Originally from Australia, the now LA based Banks says her love for fashion began at a young age. By seven years old she had her hands on a copy of Vogue and despite the fact she didn’t grow up surrounded by designer labels, knew it was where she was headed.
With a degree in both fashion and business, the future entrepreneur began her career as a stylist in Australia after living briefly in New York City. “I missed America so much and I knew I needed to come back,” says Banks. “I came to Los Angeles for two weeks, thought it was a cool place, and while I didn’t know anyone I thought, let me give it a shot.”
With a sixth sense for seeing trends before they hit, Banks has found success in a myriad of areas; from owning her own boutique, creating a clothing line, helping brands like Rebecca Minkoff launch their own line, to styling some of the biggest names in Hollywood (think Priyanka Chopra, Nicole Richie, Cameron Diaz, Gwen Stefani, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Kristen Chenowith, and Rachel Zoe), Banks is now stepping behind the camera to bring her creative visions to life.
1. You create not only a look but an image for your clients; what is that process like?
I’ve been doing this a long time and for me it’s a very detailed process. I spend a lot of time with the client discovering who they are, what type of career they want to have, how they want to be perceived to the public. Next, we create vision and mood boards to get a sense of the style they’re looking to achieve and then focus on bringing that out. It is as much strategic as it is executional.
2. You are responsible for creating actress Priyanka Chopra’s look. How did the collaboration come about?
We met at a shoot and her publicist asked if I wanted to start working with her. She had just come to the states so it was about building her up here and I was able to be a part of that journey. When it comes to styling you should have a clear understanding of both design and marketing. I had a vision of what I wanted to do with her and thankfully everyone agreed. As we built up her image, I also built a great friendship along the way; I love and adore her.
4. You created a huge buzz with Priyanka’s 2016 Oscar’s dress; how did it feel when your vision became such a huge success?
It felt amazing! But there is a lot of work that goes into moments like that. It can take many years to figure out what works and what doesn’t and when it works it’s nice to have those acknowledgments.
5.You’ve said that when you first saw the dress you knew it was “the one.” How can you tell?
It’s an instinct and based off of years of knowledge and experience. I can go into a place that has 150 dresses and pick the top three that the client would chose themselves. It’s knowing cuts, body types, shapes, tone – it’s possible to get there but that’s based off thousands and thousands of hours of experience. As an entrepreneur, I think anyone can be good at anything, it just depends on how many hours of work you want to put in. I am always learning and staying on top of my craft.
6. While it’s exciting to have these stand out moments, have you experienced times when you thought things might not go off as planned?
Absolutely! I always say high risk, high return. You’re playing a big game dressing someone for the Oscars. Whether you do it well or not people are going to know about it. The day of the show we were fixing the lining of Priyanka’s dress just hours before the carpet.
I’ve had instances where shoes break right before show time so you must be prepared for the worst and have backup plans in place. I am very calm under pressure and to do this job I think you have to be a problem solver. Between my assistant and I we have every scenario covered; we’re ready for anything.
Sophia Banks(R) and Jessica Gomes(L)
7. Your success as a stylist and a designer has opened up a whole new area for you as a director. How have you married the two together?
I’ve been conceptualizing campaign shoots for years and it’s something I’m good at. At one of these shoots someone I was working with suggested I explore directing. It’s actually something I’ve always wanted to do. I took night classes to brush up (I went to film school at 19) and began shooting fashion campaigns for brands like BMW, Ford, Christian Siriano. Pam & Gela, Cheeky Plates for Target, and right now I’m working on new spots for Anine Bing and TOME.
I love creating beautiful things and with directing I not only get to style the talent but conceptualize and tell a story. I never expected my career to go in this direction.
Everything I’ve done up until now makes sense; it’s the next step for me and for fashion. There’s a shift in the world of fashion; they’re changing the way in which they reach their audience. Video content is an important and powerful way in communicating with an audience.
8. What do you love about your career?
I love to create – whether it’s an idea for an Oscar gown or a story for a campaign, it’s about taking an idea and turning it into a psychical thing. For me, that’s an amazing feeling.
Marriage can be a tightrope act: when everything is in balance, it is bliss and you feel safe, but once things get shaky, you are unsure about next steps. Add outside forces into the equation like kids, work, finances or a personal crisis and now there's a strong chance that you'll need extra support to keep you from falling.
My husband and I are no strangers to misunderstandings, which are expected in any relationship, but after 7 years of marriage, we were really being tested on how strong our bond was and it had nothing to do with the "7-year itch"--it was when I was diagnosed with PTSD. As a survivor of child sexual abuse who is a perfectionist, I felt guilty about not being the "perfect partner" in our relationship; frustrated that I might be triggered while being intimate; and worried about being seen as broken or weak because of panic attacks. My defense mechanism is to not need anyone, yet my biggest fear is often abandonment.
I am not a trained therapist or relationship expert, but since 2016, I have learned a lot about managing survivorship and PTSD triggers while being in a heterosexual marriage, so I am now sharing some of my practical relationship advice to the partners of survivors to support my fellow female survivors who may be struggling to have a stronger voice in their relationship. Partners of survivors have needs too during this process, but before those needs can be met, they need to understand how to support their survivor partner, and it isn't always an easy path to navigate.
To my fellow survivor sisters in romantic relationships, I write these tips from the perspective of giving advice to your partner, so schedule some quality time to talk with your boo and read these tips together.
I challenge you both to discuss if my advice resonates with you or not! Ultimately, it will help both of you develop an open line of communication about needs, boundaries, triggers and loving one another long-term.
1. To Be or Not to Be Sexy: Your survivor partner probably wants to feel sexy, but is ambivalent about sex. She was a sexual object to someone else and that can wreak havoc on her self-esteem and intimate relationships. She may want you to find her sexy and yet not want to actually be intimate with you. Talk to her about her needs in the bedroom, what will make her feel safe, what will make her feel sexy but not objectified, and remind her that you are attracted to her for a multitude or reasons--not just because of her physical appearance.
2. Safe Words = Safer Sex: Believe it or not, your partner's mind is probably wondering while you are intimate (yep, she isn't just thinking about how amazing you are, ha!). Negative thoughts can flash through her mind depending on her body position, things you say, how she feels, etc. Have a word that you agree on that she can say if she needs a break. It could be as simple as "pause," but it needs to be respected and not questioned so that she knows when it is used, you won't assume that you can sweet talk her into continuing. This doesn't have to be a bedroom only rule. Daytime physical touch or actions could warrant the safe word, as well.
3. Let Her Reconnect: Both partners need attention in a relationship, but sometimes a survivor is distracted. Maybe she was triggered that day, feels sad or her defense mechanisms are up because you did something to upset her and you didn't even know it (and she doesn't know how to explain what happened). If she is distant, ask her if she needs some time alone. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn't, but acknowledging that you can sense some internal conflict will go a long way. Sometimes giving her the space to reconnect with herself before expecting her to be able to focus on you/your needs is just what she needs to be reminded that she is safe and loved in this relationship.
4. Take the 5 Love Languages(r) Test: If you haven't read this book yet or taken the test, please at the very least take the free quiz to learn your individual love language. My top love language was Touch and Words of Affirmation before remembering my abuse and thereafter it became Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation. Knowing how your survivor partner prefers to be shown love goes a long way and it will in turn help your needs be met, as they might be different.
5. Be Patient: I know it might be frustrating at times and you can't possibly totally understand what your survivor partner is going through, but patience goes a long way. If your survivor partner is going through the early stages of PTSD, she feels like a lot of her emotional well-being is out of her control. Panic attacks are scary and there are triggers everywhere in society. For example, studies have shown that sexual references are made anywhere from 8 to 10 times during one hour of prime time television (source: Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media). My husband is now on high alert when we watch TV and film. He quickly paused a Game of Thrones episode when we started season 2 because he realized a potentially violent sexual scene was coming up, and ultimately we turned it off and never watched the series again. He didn't make a big deal about it and I was relieved.
6. Courage to Heal, Together: The Courage to Heal book has been around for many years and it supported me well during the onset of my first flashbacks of my abuse. At the back of the book is a partners section for couples to read together. I highly recommend it so that you can try to understand from a psychological, physical and emotional stand point what your survivor partner is grappling with and how the two of you can support one another on the path of healing and enjoying life together.