Sofía Sanchez de Betak Piles Travels Into Collection, Book


PARIS — Sofía Sanchez de Betak has been up since 4 a.m., following a 12-hour flight from Japan. She is bare-faced, her hair is damp and she is wearing a tent dress made from old bed sheets.

It’s her first day in her new temporary Paris digs — she and her husband, show producer Alexandre de Betak, are staying in his Paris office while their home is being renovated — and she is still finding her bearings. Despite all this, she looks effortlessly gorgeous — a walking affront to any Instagram filter.

An art director and graphic designer by training, the Buenos Aires-born influencer known as Chufy — with 123,000 followers on Instagram — is something of a professional globe-trotter. Her innate sense of style has led her to work with brands including Barneys, Chloé, Chanel, Hogan and Zara.

Now she has parlayed her passion into her own fashion line, also called Chufy, which she designs with local artists and artisans from around the world. The first collection is comprised of around 25 clothing and accessory designs, in addition to 15 pieces of jewelry, with prices ranging from $495 for a shirt to $2,890 for riding boots.

The first collection is launching today with an event at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, where she will also be signing copies of her new book, “Travels With Chufy,” published by Assouline. The line will also be carried by Colette in Paris, The Webster in Miami and Houston, and Matchesfashion.com in London and online globally.

Over a glass of coconut water, Sanchez de Betak talked about going geisha, her love of King Charles Spaniels and how to survive without Internet.

WWD: When you are constantly on the move, is it important to maintain a routine, or do you prefer to let the day surprise you?

Sofía Sanchez de Betak: When I’m in the city, I try to stick to my routine: I work out in the morning, I cook my breakfast, I do my work, I have my meetings, I see my husband, I go for dinner, we cook. But when we’re traveling, it’s as we go. I never work out, I never do anything by the book. I like getting lost. Even if I plan and do my homework, at the end, the best part of traveling, I think, is what comes out spontaneously.

WWD: In terms of social media, what is the first thing you check in the morning?

S.S.d.B.: Instagram is the only one I really use, though I’m not as much a consumer of social media as most of the people around me think.

I do it, I work with it and I like it, at maybe a certain time of the day, but once the day starts, that’s it. I’m working, I’m doing, I’m exploring, my eyes are open — I’m not on my phone, only when I have a dead moment. So that’s pretty liberating. I’m not addicted at all to social media.

WWD: So does your team post for you when you are offline?

S.S.d.B.: No, I keep it very personal — all myself, and no planning and no strategy. Maybe it would do much better if I did, but I think it would lose the spark, the special side of it, if I really used it as a strategic tool. I think also that’s what people like about my Instagram. That’s the feedback I get from the comments: how spontaneous and how lively it is.

WWD: In your book, “Travels With Chufy,” a lot of the pictures are yours. When did you start photography?

S.S.d.B.: I wouldn’t consider myself a photographer. It’s more like part of the travel experience. I’ve always been a gadget person — like I would always have a little camera with me when I was little. The oldest place I visited is 15 years ago, and I had a pretty nice camera back then, so thank god the pictures are decent, and there’s a lot of pictures from my husband or from friends. We kind of dug around for the book.

WWD: So this is a bit like an intimate photo album of the places you’ve visited?

S.S.d.B.: I actually see it more as a curation of very special places that are different, that are local, that are run by the owners and family-run, that have a history, so that when you stay there, you feel that you connect with the place you’re at.

That’s what I loved about all these places: that they go deeper than any other hotel. When I go to a five-star hotel, I feel very disconnected to where I am. Like getting English toiletries in Okinawa — I’m like, “I’m in Japan. Give me a Japanese brand!”

WWD: What kind of content gets the most response online?

S.S.d.B.: It’s me doing an activity, or wearing something special. When I post certain landscapes or objects or things like that, they don’t get as much interest.

I think it’s a shame. I keep posting whatever I feel like, but yes, the images that are more lively and with a person in front are more successful. In general, I think people always go for that, not just my followers. I follow places or animals or restaurants, and that interests me, but that doesn’t interest everyone.

WWD: What kinds of places and animals do you follow?

S.S.d.B.: I follow King Charles Spaniel dogs, because my mom has two in Argentina and I miss them a lot. My mom is not a very big Instagrammer, so I just follow other dogs that I find cute, and then I follow a lot of people that just shoot beautiful places.

It always gives me ideas of where I’m going to go next.

WWD: Your personal style is such an important part of your Instagram presence. How do you pick what you’re going to wear?

S.S.d.B.: Traveling is where I get most of my inspiration. Because I travel to all sorts of places, my style is very varied. I can go from looking like a geisha to looking like a hippie in the Mediterranean, or whatever. I go from one extreme to the other.

I don’t like looking like an American tourist in the middle of the bush. I like blending in and making the moment feel homogenous.

WWD: Where did you get the dress you are wearing today?

S.S.d.B.: This is my first collection, actually. I travel with them all the time. It’s hand-painted dresses [by Spanish artist Letita Aragon] made with bed sheets, so I wear these for traveling and I feel like I’m in my bed when I’m on the plane.

WWD: How did you work on your first Chufy collection?

S.S.d.B.: The Majorcan one [last year] was kind of an experiment. I hadn’t really launched my brand yet, so this was one collaboration with an artist that I really like.

It sold out and we had to do a lot more, so that gave me a bit of a push for the second collection, which is actually the main launch of the brand. It’s an Argentinian collection inspired by the countryside and the gauchos, who are the Argentinian cowboys.

They wear this very particular type of pants and each part of the country has their own style. Then I also worked with artisans that hand-weave ponchos, and instead of making it a regular poncho, I made them into vests.

Then I did ruanas, which are like big ponchos, but open in the front so you can wear them as scarves, and I had them hand embroidered by an artist. I collaborated with different people from around the country.

WWD: Was it important for you to make the first statement about your identity and where you come from?

S.S.d.B.: Yes, I thought it was a nice break for the brand to say, “OK, this is Argentina.”

Next season, it’s Japanese, and maybe in the future, within Japan, I can make 10 collections. One can be kimonos, another can be two-piece kimonos — it can go anywhere. The following one is Kenya, so it’s quite exciting.

WWD: What percentage of your online content is sponsored or paid?

S.S.d.B.: Barely any. I mean, mostly it’s mine. I don’t think I’ve ever done sponsored work. I do have relationships with brands and friends and designers that if I like what they do, I wear it and I promote it if I can and if I feel comfortable with it.

If we do sponsorship, we do a video or a campaign or something, and then I promote it and put it on my Instagram.

WWD: So you don’t try to monetize your site that way?

S.S.d.B.: I find it a bit lame and flat, and also I don’t find it longlasting if you just start selling posts like that. What I do find super interesting is telling a brand, “OK, you want to do something with me? I don’t want to just wear your dress and post it. I think it doesn’t represent me. I’m not a model, I’m not a blogger. If you want, let’s do something interesting, let’s collaborate.” I am a creative, so Roger Vivier, that I did a campaign for, we did a collaboration on a handbag that was called the Tango bag. And after that, I proposed, let’s do an event, let’s do a tango class for 60 people. All the editors were taking classes. Each one had their own instructor. It was so much fun and people loved it.

It was my idea that I really had to fight for, because it wasn’t like the brand said, “Oh great, let’s have editors dance tango!” They were a bit freaked out at the beginning.

My husband helped me produce the event and it was a complete success, and I couldn’t stop posting images, but not because I was being paid.

WWD: So it has to come from an authentic place for you.

S.S.d.B.: Hopefully, yes. In 95 percent of cases, it comes from an authentic place. If sometimes I give in and I do a project, maybe there is a middle point, but mostly it needs to be authentic and I need to love the project that I’m promoting and the brand and the product.

WWD: What is the most challenging thing about creating content, because I imagine that people expect you to be sharing all the time? Don’t you sometimes want to go off the grid?

S.S.d.B.: Totally. Despite sharing so much, I think no one really knows about my life and my everyday, because I share what I choose to share. I share the travels, I share outdoor experiences.

The real things that really happen in my life, they’re private. There’s a lot of people that post their breakfast, their moments with their husband. We keep ourselves to ourselves. When I go on holiday, if we go to a place where there’s reception, I leave [my phone] in the room, I barely bring it out.

We go to Patagonia every year for Christmas and there’s nothing, there’s not even a landline, nothing to communicate with the world. You need to drive 20 minutes to be able to make a call or download an e-mail, and I realize I’m the least addicted person in the entire house. Everyone else is freaking out. My hippie stepbrother is running to the road twice a day to download his emails.

I would like to think I’m quite reserved with all that. If I go to a dinner party, the phone stays in the coat.