Original Capri®

…a fashion revolution created for a modern woman


Audrey Hepburn wore Capri pants in several films, elevating the look to cult status

The heroic story of Sonja de Lennart starts in war-torn Prussia during WWII and culminates in a clothing revolution that would shape the fashion industry forever.

Capri pants didn’t appear out of thin air. They were the brainchild of a rebellious young Prussian girl who objected to society’s dictate that only men could wear pants. And so, just prior to the war’s end, Sonja de Lennart designed a three-quarter length, body hugging pair for her small, 5’1” petite frame. She called them Capri after the picturesque seaside Italian island her family vacationed at during happier times.

In the late 1940s, pants were considered a piece of clothing reserved exclusively for men. That is why Sonja’s first pair for women, a sexy silhouette created with a slit at the ankle, became such a scandal and required courage and, of course, talent. Although such trailblazing film stars as the statuesque Marlene Dietrich wore men's pants, the wide-leg masculine style was a non-starter for the petite Sonja.

What made Sonja’s creation even more remarkable is that she produced a full Capri collection while literally on the run with her two young daughters...

What made Sonja’s creation even more remarkable is that she produced a full Capri collection while literally on the run with her two young daughters, persecuted as they were and caught up in the drama and destruction that battered her home country during WWII.

Despite all the anguish, Sonja immediately went to work determined to feed her family through her talent. She tailored and stitched her first clothing collection consisting of jackets, dresses, skirts, blouses, imitation leather coat and, ultimately, the stylish, chic pants that would become her trademark. Thus, was born the first Capri Collection.

At the time, Sonja’s “bench” for cutting the collection was the floor. Her textiles came from all kinds of conceivable curtains, bedspreads, blankets, and parachute silk, zippers, textiles, and silk threads. Sonja gave her first wide-swinging waisted coat the name, Capri Coat, and its wide-swinging skirt, the famous Capri Skirt – later known as a Rock n’ Roll skirt).

Sonja’s longing for Capri originated primarily from the tales of her family who traveled to this beautiful Island since the early 1900s. Through them, it became for Sonja the epitome and symbol of freedom, peace, and happiness. This yearning also came from the romantic record, “The Isle of Capri,” which was covered by several singers, including a few prominent stars in the U.S.

Music and the tales of family vacations prompted Sonja to name her collection “Capri”. And choosing to wear the body-hugging Capri pants, with sexy slits along the ankles, underneath her big red Capri Coat, was Sonja’s way of making a statement about the role and status of women in Post War European society.
While the Isle of Capri was anything but romantic during wartime, for Sonja it represented the nostalgic love from her childhood and she sought out its warm, sun-kissed shores when it was safe to travel again. Feeling emboldened while wading through the waters in her Capri pants, Sonja decided to cut them shorter and make them a bit tighter – thus was born the Capri Summer Style.

Sonja’s cousin in Beverly Hills, well-known movie producer Arno Bennett, brought the first American clientele to Sonja and made her name well known in the movie circles of Hollywood. Soon after came major movie companies, prominent opera directors, costume designers, and notables from around the world who traveled to Europe to acquire Sonja de Lennart’s designs. Among those were Ingrid Bergman, Gary Cooper, Maria Schell, Curd Jürgens, and Klaus Kinski. Bennett told good friend Gregory Peck about his cousin after learning the actor was set to star in a new film to be shot on location in Italy.

Fortune would have it that the Capri Collection (Skirt, Blouse, Belt) was then used by Paramount’s head designer, Edith Head, for the Audrey Hepburn classic film, Roman Holiday. In fact, it was the iconic Hepburn who ultimately made Sonja’s creation world-famous— it was as if the stylish Capri pants, worn by Hepburn in the movie, were created exclusively with her in mind.
Other Hollywood actresses soon were seen in the suddenly chic Capri pants made famous by the young, captivating Hepburn. From Marilyn Monroe and Mary Tyler Moore to Elizabeth Taylor, Cindy Crawford and Lady Gaga, the silhouette has never gone out of style. Capri pants today are as iconic as any fashion staple ever created.

Sonja de Lennart knew she had a special design with the creation of the Capri pant. Still, she never imagined the scope and breadth of its popularity, nor did she realize at the time what a profound effect the designs would have on women from all backgrounds. The Capri spawned a generation of followers and today is imitated by fashion lovers around the globe.

Yet, there remains just one Original Capri®.

Contact: Howard Ruben, 818.445.4543