The first time I heard about Sofie, must have been about 8 years ago. We had a mutual friend and every now and then she’d tell me about Sofie, although to me she was just this apparently fabulous interior design student, and I had no idea who she actually was and what she looked like ( this was pre-facebook, oh how times have changed.)
Just like me, she lived in Barcelona and London for a while in her early twenties, and it was in the latter city we finally met for the first time, strolling down Hampstead High Street with another mutual friend. We became Facebook friends (within a mere 3 years, it had become all the rage), and I sporadically picked up on her adventures abroad until this year, when she moved from Berlin to my own hometown Antwerp.
Since a few months, Sofie and I have one more thing in common, because she has jumped into the deep end and started her own online shop. Her e-store Phyt sells airplants a.k.a epiphytes, a type of plant that originates in Central and South America and is marked by the fact that it doesn’t need soil to grow. The plants have been quite popular in the US but difficult to get a hold of in Belgium, until now!
When the Lily and the Lady Pop Up store reopens on wednesday november 18th, you’ll be able to discover Sofie’s Phyt plants in store with us if you want to see and/or feel them before purchasing them online!
Phyt has become an instant hit, and if you ask me, it’s not only because of the product, but also because of the sympathetic lady behind the brand. Time to pick her brain! (And when you’re done reading this, there’s more about Sofie’s home here!)
Q:Hi Sofie! Can you tell me who you are and what you do?
A: I’m an interior designer with a love for plants and design. Recently I started my own webshop where I sell carefully selected air plants and their accessories.
Air plants remind me of myself, because I moved around and feel at home in many different places. They literally “phyt” everywhere, and don’t need any soil because they have no roots.
Q: You started Phyt after discovering air plants on a trip to California in 2014. What is it that draws you towards these air plants?
A: The fact that they can just live on their own, they don’t need any soil because they have no roots. It kind of reminds me of myself, because I always travelled and moved around a lot so I feel at home in so many different places. These air plants also literally “phyt” everywhere, you can hang them or put them on a shelf and they will just keep on living and growing.
Q: Are there also other elements of California that speak to you? Or was it mostly the product?
A: Ever since I made that roadtrip through California, I feel like I found the one place where I felt right at home. The incredible nature, the vibe, the sunsets, .. For example Los Angeles is such a big city and still everything is so relaxed and laid back. I thought California would be all about burgers, but there are also so many nice places where you can eat healthy or shops where you can discover the latest new design products that are completely ecologic or handmade. Thinking about it really makes me want to book a flight and go back!
Our lives are getting more and more digital, and I think people really feel the need to have ‘natural’ products in their home.
Q: How is your adventure going so far? What would you say is the biggest obstacle you have encountered until now?
A: It’s going great, I had so many positive reactions already! Our lives are getting more and more digital, and I think people really feel the need to have ‘natural’ products in their home, like plants. So in that way airplants are a very grateful product to work with, because they are not known yet in Belgium, easy to care for and add a unique green detail to your home.
The biggest obstacle until now was actually making the decision of just going for it. Some people thought I was crazy for giving up my fulltime job and becoming self-employed. And to be honest, I’ve had some panic moments already, but I haven’t regret my decision for a single second.
Q: In your work, who/what inspires you?
A: Before I started my webshop, I did some serious thinking and research about what my ideal shop would look like and how I myself would like to receive a package. No clutter or advertising, just clean pictures with a strong focus on the product. The webshop from Voostore was a big inspiration. They also add that little extra touch (like a handwritten ‘thank you’ note with your order) which can really make the difference.
I’m also a huge fan of the blog Freunde von Freunde, they make small documentaries about creative people and their homes across the world. It’s really inspiring to read all these stories and it makes me want to step up my game as well.
Surround yourself with the right people
Q: What is the best advice you have gotten so far regarding your work?
A: “Surround yourself with the right people”. When you’re a starter or self-employed, your life will be all about your work. So choose the people you work with wisely, because they are probably the ones that you will see or talk to the most. I would rather do a project with an enthousiast, friendly young creative person than with a bigger brand where I don’t feel any connection with. It’s hard sometimes but you have to stay true to yourself and your brand, otherwise there’s no story to tell anymore.
Q: You’ve worked in many different places in Europe? Can you tell me something valuable you’ve learned from every place (Barcelona, London, Berlin, Brussels and/ or Antwerp)?
A: When I graduated, I didn’t feel like starting a job and settling down right away. I wanted to travel, explore and see the world. My first stop was New York, where I did an internship with an interior architect. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. I didn’t know anyone there and it gave me a lot of confidence to be on my own in such a big city.
After that I went to Barcelona with a scholarship and worked together with a product designer. I had to really think “out of the box” and use my imagination, which I probably hadn’t done since my childhood.
One year later I moved to London where I worked together with another product designer. We designed a lot of new products (one of them even got an award from the London Design Museum) and we were also on TENT London, which is one of the bigger design events in the UK.
The next year I decided to move back to Brussels because I wanted some security after all these freelance jobs. So I started working at La Fabrika, which is a design showroom in the heart of Brussels. It was the secure job I wanted, but I had the feeling I was wasting precious time every day I couldn’t be creative.
When I started looking for other jobs, I finally found my ‘dream job’…in Berlin. I had to make the decision within 3 weeks and once again turn my life around. In Berlin I worked for one of the biggest start-up in online e-commerce at that time, called Fab. After a while, Fab became Hem and the whole company changed. It was a real rollercoaster to work there and I had so many different experiences.
But after 2 years it was enough and I was completely drained. I wanted to do something for myself and start my own company. I had always said that I would move to Antwerp if I would come back to Belgium, because it’s the one city that is so similar to Berlin. The start-up scene, coffee bars, vintage shops, fashion designers, .. So that’s what happened and here I am!
Q: You are an interior designer, can you tell my readers your favorite café’s/ restaurants with great interior design or shops you can’t not stop by whenever you’re there?
Voostore – Berlin (shopping + best coffee)
Kauf dich glücklich – Berlin (shopping + waffles and ice cream + accessories)
The recollection – Antwerp (exclusive design products + piet hein eek)
Wunder Kammer – Antwerp (super small boutique with the cutest stuff)
La Rosa Negra – Barcelona (super eclectic decorated Mexican place and the biggest mojito’s for 4 euro)
Mido Cafe – Hong Kong (coffee bar where you can sit for hours and looks like a movie scene, right next to Temple street market)
Q: How do you envision the future of Phyt in let’s say, 5 years?
A: I want to make a lifestyle brand out of Phyt that focusses on the physical aspect of each product. It would also be great if I could combine my love for interior design together with the plants and do some bigger design projects with Phyt. And I would love to have at least one reseller in every city of Belgium and abroad of course, that would be really awesome!
Discover Sofie’s air plants in the Lily and the Lady pop up store from 18/11 until 24/12
(note that the plants are only available for purchase online :))
Want to see more? Read all about Sofie’s interior on the beautiful blog Au Pays des Merveilles today!