Architect and designer Sofia Mantoni made her home in Spokane with her husband and five children a little more than a year ago, coming from Utah and before that, Argentina. Over the last five years or so, she and her family built a new clothing brand. And about three months ago, they opened their first brick-and-mortar store, LO Boutique, at 11921 N. Division (the LO stands for ladies outfits).
Although she considers herself new to the fashion world, Mantoni has now been accepted to show eight of her designs at New York Fashion Week as one of only 10 designers selected from thousands as the "Ones to Watch." A goal she'd only planned to achieve a decade or more into her clothing design career will now become a reality on Feb. 8.
In the middle of a hectic schedule finishing her new designs and preparing for the weeklong trip, Mantoni sat down with the Inlander to talk about her passion for design. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
INLANDER: How did you get interested in switching over to clothing, since you're an architect by practice?
MANTONI: In Argentina...when you study in the university the first two years are kind of common between fashion design, industrial design, graphic design and architecture, and then you kind of specialize. But I've designed clothes forever. I recall like when I was 12, I would tell my mom, "I want this, can we go find it?" So I pictured something in my mind and we'd try to go find it and it didn't exist. My mom knew how to sew, so I said, "Can you make it for me?"
How long have you had LO Boutique for?
The store we opened two-and-a-half months ago. We've been online for almost five years. I had to learn how to do pretty much everything. So even though I knew how to make clothes, and design runs through my veins, it was a learning experience throughout those five years that took us where we're at now.
Tell us about getting accepted to Fashion Week.
So I was already designing for fall 2020 ... and I decided to apply for the Fashion Week and I told my husband, "Yeah, I don't know if I can do that." And he said, "Take a shot, I'm pretty sure you're going to get in."
"OK, whatever, I'll do it." And so I took that shot and surprisingly, for me — not for him, because he wasn't surprised — they called me.
Could you describe the type of designs you like to do?
Minimalism is something that I would use in whatever it is I do in every design, be it architecture, furniture or clothing. I like minimalism. I try to do a lot of [styles] so there's streetwear, there's activewear, there's casual-wear, and then there's partywear. We try to do exclusive limited runs of the design. So once those are gone, they're gone for good. And we produce as much as we can here in the United States.
How does it work with going to Fashion Week and using models?
They provide models, makeup, hair styling, and you just take your outfits. There is a fitting day, there is a rehearsal, there's cocktails, there are several things going on. We're going like eight days there. I'm taking my two oldest daughters with me. I'll probably be pairing with people that design shoes, because I don't design shoes. But I do design the jewelry, and then I'm also pairing with some people who make bags. It's pretty neat how they have it, like, prepared for you. They put you in touch with the people that do bags, the people that do shoes, and you just talk to them and tell them, "I need something to go with these colors."
After Fashion Week, what would your next big goal be?
My husband is a strategist more than me, but I do know we're looking to open three more stores this year and then go from there. We want to be a huge brand all over the world and have stores all over the world. ♦