Doesn’t it feel like every summer arrives with a new dress, one that defines the season? Finding its way into the suitcases, wardrobes, and then across the newly bronzed shoulders of the most “in-the-know” of shoppers, the perfect summer dress is a frock that carries itself to and from any scenario with a real sense of effortlessness—because that’s what you need more than ever as the temperatures continue to rise. A dress that breathes; is simple in make, yet statement-making in effect; and rotates with ease from poolside to rooftops to your own front stoop. It only makes sense, then, that the stylish wayfarer Sofía Sanchez de Betak has unearthed the dress that is poised to become this summer’s pièce de résistance—giving last year’s winner, the Ukranian vyshyvanka, a run for its money.
Like the vyshyvanka, de Betak’s custom tunic has bucolic roots. A few years ago, while summering along the idyllic Spanish island of Mallorca, the globe-trotting Argentinian creative found herself amongst the stalls of a local marketplace and instantly under the spell of the abstract paintings of Spanish artist, Letita Aragon. Commissioning a free-flowing, slipover tunic with Aragon’s geometric designs splashed across the front, the tissue-thin tunic became a mainstay in de Betak’s vacation wardrobe. “At the beginning I thought it was too big, it’s not flattering, but then I wore it the entire summer, nonstop!” she explained. “I found different ways and moments to wear it.” Pulling one end of its wide, open collar over to one side, de Betak flashed a tanned shoulder; cinched at the waist with a leather belt, it was ready for a dinner out; and left loose, its relaxed look lent itself to aimless days spent at the beach.
The following summer, de Betak requested 10 more hand-sewn pieces to be made, all of varying length and print. She rotated them day in and day out, simply changing her shoes. Perfect for jet-setting—“Now I just wear this with a big sweater and or a poncho, and it’s perfect. You arrive dressed for the occasion!”—they have traveled everywhere with her, working seamlessly into any environment, and drawing considerable outside interest from friends and noteworthy stylists along the way. Soon after, Aragon revealed to de Betak that she was suffering from cancer, immediately inspiring the creative to have 100 more dresses made, with the profits intended to help pay the artist’s medical care. It wasn’t a purely philanthropic effort, de Betak is quick to explain, she was motivated by Aragon’s obvious talent. The process was quick. Says de Betak: “I went to her studio and we did a back and forth over the ideas, and by the end of the summer, we had the 100 dresses.” In an effort to galvanize interest and funding for Aragon, de Betak decided to feature them on her own website, Under Our Sky, where 13 unique and one-size-fits-all styles emblazoned with patterns inspired by the Mediterranean, are sold in batches and then replenished.. The result is a retail experience that feels measured and intimate: When one sells out, she explains, that’s it, making the piece truly one of a kind. “The fabrics are random and I like that. You feel like it was in her studio for two weeks, sitting on her desk, and it has that real feeling as an artist.” To perfectly complement the dress collection, de Betak has also designed a collection of subtle stone and crystal-cut earrings that blend in with the easy, yet glamorous world de Betak’s dresses come from.
Trickling out to customers, the dresses have already found themselves new homes everywhere from France to New York, and inspired de Betak to continue working with local artisans along her travels. Up next? A dress made from Kenyan kikoy fabric that she’ll be developing out on her upcoming trip to Lamu island off the coast of the East African country. It would seem next summer’s essential dress is already in the works.