Sonia and Claudia Rocha are the sister design duo behind childrenswear line Wolf&Rita. Designed and produced in the historic town of Guimarães in Northern Portugal, the women launched the line in 2012. Their father owned and operated a shirt factory for 35 years; and when Sonia and her husband moved back to Portugal after living in London for a few years, her father asked if she would work with him for a bit. Well, she never left. After graduating from fashion school in Porto, Claudia moved to Spain and was designing for a line under fashion giant Inditex. With children of her own, Claudia had the idea to start a childrenswear line and convincing her sister wasn’t too hard. Together they launched the eco friendly, 100% made in Portugal, Wolf&Rita. The brand is now carried at over 50 retailers around the world.
Your family seems very involved in the brand- can you describe everyone’s role?
Claudia is the designer of the brand. Carlos (Sonia’s husband), is the photographer of Wolf&Rita campaigns and helps with the design. Sonia deals with sales, finance and production process. In each campaign, all our models are kids from our friends and our own kids.
The factory has been in your family long before Wolf&Rita – is this where the collection is produced?
Wolf&Rita’s headquarters and production takes place in our own father’s company. The collection is fully conceived in the sewing unit which has opened doors in the early eighties. The woven products are all manufactured there, all the jersey, knits and accessories are manufactured in local specialized units, all locally based.
It seems so many European children’s brands have an ethical angle – this is not the case in the US – why is this element such a vital part of the business for Europeans?
We live in Guimarães, located in the Vale do Ave Region, which is historically known for the textile industry. We have suppliers for fabrics, trims, accessories and manufacture very close to our company, so there is no reason for us to outsource this anywhere else. The best brands in the world go to Premiere Vision or other fairs to outsource materials, for us is just a matter of a 10 minute’s drive. We really want to want to support the local industry by creating jobs and make our little contribution our country’s economy.
What’s the working relationship like between the two of you?
We do quite different parts of the work but complementary. We get along very well and help each other whenever necessary. We are sisters, so we know each other really well.
Wolf&Rita has grown at an enormous pace- how do you keep up with the demand?
To be really honest, with a lot of work, effort and time investment. We can’t say it has been an easy road but for sure it has been very rewarding.
Do you both have families?
Claudia has one daughter called Irene, 3 years old, and her husband works in architecture field.
Sonia is married to Carlos, which is responsible for all the images of Wolf&Rita and they have two kids: Rita and Afonso. You can see both kids and also Irene in the Wolf&Rita campaigns.
What’s it like raising children in Portugal? What’s an average day like for you?
It is relatively easy to raise children in Guimarães, the place where we live, as it is small city and everything is close by. We start work at 8:30am after leaving the kids in school and usually leave work at 6:30pm. Either the father or grandmother picks the kids from school and then it’s time to prepare the meals, kids homework and try to find some family time. As school and activities are 5 to 10 mins away we get to take them to swimming pool and tennis lessons during the week. We are lucky to be able to have homemade food everyday as we have lunch together at our mother’s place.
How do you stay inspired?
For the collection themes, we normally get inspired by different creative fields: movies (usually independent and author movies), lots of music, style magazines, art exhibitions, etc. We also find travelling quite inspiring. For example, when we go to Paris or New York we always try to see some exhibition, visit some trendy areas and shows, but also just walk on the streets and get inspired by people on the streets. For example, next week we´re going to Japan and hope to go and get inspirations for next SS19 collection.
Tell me about your personal styles? Do you ever consider a womenswear collection?
Claudia: high waist, minimal, plain and dark colors. I love small details and accessories. I do think that the difference is in details such as shoes, belts, bags, hats and glasses!
Sonia: minimalistic oversized shapes. Black, white and grey. Nordic brands.
We have had a lot of requests and have decided to launch a womenswear collection for a few styles we design for kids. This has started in SS17 collection and is going very well. The feedback has been fantastic.
I’m obsessed with Portugal and want to visit so badly! What advice do you have for a first-time visitor?
Well, the main cities are Porto and Lisbon but Portugal is really becoming a strong touristic destination and more and more cities are changing and they are worth a visit. Our hometown is really nice to visit and only 40 minutes drive from Porto, so you can book a flight to Porto and then make a small detour to Guimarães. You won’t regret it!