Born: Sybilla Sorondo in New York City, 1963, to Polish/Argentinian parents; moved to Madrid, age 7; moved to Paris, 1980. Family: Married Enrique Sirera, 1992; children: Lucas. Career: Apprentice cutter and seamstress, Yves Saint Laurent, 1980; returned to Madrid, 1981, making made-to-measure clothes for friends; introduced first collection, Madrid, 1983; signed production/international distribution agreement for women's ready-to-wear, 1985; presented first collections in Milan, Paris, New York, 1985; head designer, Programas Exterioras SA, Madrid, from 1985; opened Sybilla boutique, Madrid, 1987; signed with Italian company Gibo for women's ready-to-wear, 1987; began producing knitwear with Italian company ICAP, 1988; began producing women's shoes and bags with Farrutx, and carpets with Vorwerk, 1988; agreed to exclusive license in Japan with Itokin, 1989; opened new shops in Paris and Tokyo, 1991; opened 20 in-store shops in Japan; launched second line for younger people, with 20 shops, called Jocomomola, autumn/winter 1993-94; left fashion for several years, then returned with new Noche line, 1999; also designs housewares, accessories, and costumes for Blanca Li ballet company. Exhibitions: 50 Años de Moda, Cuartel de Conde Duque, Madrid, 1987; Le Monde Selon ses Créateurs, Musée de la Mode et du Costume, Paris, 1991. Collections: Museo de la Moda, Barcelona; Musée de la Mode et du Costume, Paris; Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. Awards: Premio Balenciaga, Best Young Designer of the Year, Spain, 1987; Prix Fil d'Or, France, 1987. Address: Callejon de Jorge Juan 12, Madrid, Spain.
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I guess people try to dress up in a way that represents themselves. Somehow we all "paint" our skin with clothes, copying an inner image of ourselves. If you're able to get to this point, you can forget what you're wearing, you can overcome your own image.… At this moment the peace and serenity you show outside can be considered elegance.
Sybilla has been widely acclaimed as the most exciting designer to have emerged from Spain since Balenciaga. She was born in 1963 in New York City, the daughter of an Argentine diplomat. Her mother was a Polish aristocrat who worked as a fashion designer under the name Countess Sybilla of Saks Fifth Avenue. When Sybilla was seven years old, her family moved to Madrid, and she considers herself thoroughly Spanish; her clothes, she has said are also very Spanish—"not olé, olé," but Spanish in the classical sense.
She served a brief apprenticeship in Paris at the couture atelier of Yves Saint Laurent, but recoiled at what she regarded as the "snobbish, cold, and professional" aspects of French fashion, saying, "Paris scares me. 'Fashion' is too serious. In Spain, you can still play." Like filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, Sybilla is a member of the post-Franco generation that launched a creative explosion in the 1980s. "We were the first generation after Franco died, and we tried to be different and creative," recalled Sybilla. With success came greater professionalism. In 1987 Italian fashion manufacturer Gibo began producing Sybilla's clothes en masse in Italy.
At the end of the 1980s Sybilla became famous for creating what she called "weird and outrageous designs"—such as sculpted dresses with wired hems. But there is also a soft feeling to many of her clothes, which derives both from the colors (tobacco, pumpkin, pale green) and from a tendency toward biomorphic shapes. "The dresses of Sybilla remind you of when you were a child and your mother would tell you fairy stories," commented Almodovar actress Rossy de Palma. "But in her dresses you live that, like a dream."
Once the celebrity maga (sorceress) of the Movida, Sybilla withdrew from media-centered fashion for seven years, then returned in 1999 to a quiet alley off the ready-to-wear center of Madrid. For her new Noche line from her bridal and couture shop, she produced chic but subdued elephantine pants and free-form, easy-wear dresses. Stressing red, green, violet, blue, olive, champagne, black, and terra-cotta, she gowned her models in feminine sweeps of silken, gauzy layers above Minorcan platform sandals and wedgies. Fashion analyst Barbara Barker of Fashion Click quoted her statement of intent to make clothing "as easy to wear as pajamas."
Selling largely in Japan with an eye to outlets throughout Spain, Sybilla kept before her the tastes and needs of Generations X and Y. The sculpted crêpes and silks for long and short ensembles expressed a womanly vulnerability beneath a quiet show of self-confidence. Her media extended from her own daywear, Louis Vuitton bags, and vases for Alessi to candles for Cerabella and film costumes for the Blanca Li ballet company. With a mounting interest in the home, she intended to encompass flatware, place settings, carpets and rugs, and lamps.
updated by Mary Ellen Snodgrass