Illustration: Maya E Shakur for Frederick & Sophie
Location: Vienna, Austria
Think back to the thing your kid-self loved doing. Collecting rocks? Playing dress up? Build spaceships from potatoes and Lego bricks? For me, it was reading books and writing and drawing stories. I happily walked through the Wonderlands, my inner imaginary worlds where gnomes, wizards, dragons, ghosts, dinosaurs, Care Bears, M&Ms, pink ponies, witches, and fairies all lived together. They knew me, and I knew them. I talked to my plush animals and worried about their well-being when I wasn’t home (I apologized profusely to those I couldn’t bring on a holiday. I’m not sure if Happy, my pastel green bunny, ever forgave me). Every Saturday, I spent hours at the local library. Here, you could find me sitting in a corner, all caught up in a pile of books, trying to decide which six — the maximum amount — I would take home with me. Or I’d sit at the kitchen table, writing down stories about the Wonderlands, like a mini-medium bridging the gap between what was and what dreams were made of. In school, teachers often found me dreaming, with my nose in a book, or engaged in pretend-play adventures. I’d be the ringleader in my circus with my friend Roy as its clown (dressed in my mother’s polka dot skirts), and my dog as its fearless lion. I could lay completely still on the floor and stare up at the ceiling, fully engaged in mysteries and pirate battles. I’d sit behind my dad’s Olivetti typewriter and feel the living room disappear. All of sudden I found myself working on a case in my detective agency. My universe was not made of atoms, it was made of the most wonderful words about quests, the infinite possibilities of magic, and hope. To live at the intersection of story and reality simply was an awfully big adventure.
For a moment there, I closed the doors to the Wonderlands. I didn’t necessarily stop believing in them, but I forgot about their sounds and smells. I became a grown-up who helped others find their stories. As a fashion journalist I wrote about designers and their muses, about the history of the fashion houses, and I turned new collections into stories that could not just be seen but felt by readers. While writing I imagined myself dancing the Charleston at the Folies Bergere with Josephine Baker, wearing gold lamé dresses at lavish dinner parties, and having breakfast with Diaghilev, Cristobal Balenciaga and Josephine Bonaparte. As a brand writer, I turned brands and products and stores into flax-golden tales. I was a working, well-paid storyteller, yet, I wasn’t really happy. Slowly but steadily, I started to feel thin, like something inside me was fading, and I didn’t know how to stop it. The thing with the Wonderlands is that even their most well hidden and locked doors are meant to be found and opened again. Without my knowledge, a new story was unfolding itself.
A wise boy once said that when the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about and that was the beginning of fairies. He was right. I know, because Indy’s laughter was the beginning of breaking the chains that locked the doors to the Wonderlands into a thousand pieces. I started to remember. For everyone knows, that when you look at the world through the eyes of a child, you’ll see that magic and wonder still exist.
Stories allowed me to make sense of my life, escape it at times, and create the many worlds I wanted to live in. Watching Indy walk through his Wonderlands, setting his own wonder-rules, showed me the importance of having wings. Looking back, I realize that becoming Indy’s mom was my call to adventure. It made me leave the known limits of my world and venture back into the Wonderlands. Surrounded by gnomes, wizards, dragons, ghosts, pirates, dinosaurs, pink ponies, witches, and fairies, an idea started to grow. What if I would open the doors to the Wonderlands to more people than just myself? What if I could share stories through a wondrous shopping place, where people are reminded of possibilities, play, and inspired to imagine and think the happiest of thoughts? Without them, how could you possibly fly?
I created Frederick & Sophie because I believe in the importance of imagination, play, and story. I believe that opening ourselves up to our Wonderlands can broaden our minds, inspire, add meaning, and ultimately connect us. In fact, Frederick & Sophie could also have been named, The Wonderlands of Priscilla Obermeier. Because, as you know, I write the story of Frederick & Sophie, and it is all fiction. Unless of course for the parts that aren’t.
Frederick & Sophie is a story told through a store filled with products that can play an important part in your own most magnificent stories. Through Frederick & Sophie I hope to remind both kids and grown-ups of their own Wonderlands, that place beyond the everyday, where everything is possible. Even magic beans. Little dog, Toutou, is particularly fond of them. Also, now that I think of it, just a note to those who enter in the early morning: beware of pirates and wooly mammoths. They tend to be a tat bit grumpy before breakfast.
Is Frederick & Sophie the magic formula that will save the wonderlands of all? Or is it just folly to want to add a little bit of pixie dust to a store and try to win the war against reality through toys and other enormously important kids stuff? I don’t know. But that isn’t a bad thing. The truth is, not knowing is the best part of the story. You must keep going, just to see what happens.