Sia is perky. "Hi sweetie," she says over the phone. She wants to know how my day is going, which is a bit embarrassing because the highlight was that I ate McDonald's. But the Golden Arches aren't beneath the famed singer/songwriter (and now shoe designer, which we'll get to in a minute). She wants to know what my favorite order is.
Talking chicken nuggets with the "Chandelier" singer gets even more cringeworthy when I ask what her day is like. "I worked out," she says cheerily in her Australian-accented patter, "because I think I'm gonna play a personal trainer in Lena Dunham's new TV show." The fries seem to sit even more heavily in my stomach. "It will be very, very silly. I don't even know what it's called. I don't know if I'm allowed to talk about it. I've probably just blown something, but she won't care."
We skip from the perils of dog ownership ("poop for two weeks") to her interest in psychology and a prank she pulled with Khloe Kardashian. But what we're really here to talk about is her shoe collaboration with storied French designer Repetto. ELLE.com talked exclusively with Sia about the inspiration behind her beautiful, colorful collection, available online today.
Repetto by Sia Soft ballet shoes
Repetto shoes were one of the first things I ever wanted to spend proper money on. Do you remember the first time you came across the brand?
Sia: Yeah—I'm friends with Beck, the musician. He had a girlfriend called Marissa Ribisi, and she had these green Sophias, the ballet flats. They were so amazing. I wanted them very badly, but I could not afford them. I saved up, and then I got them, and I just found them to be the most comfortable. I felt really special whenever I was wearing them, like I was super-duper fancy.
Maddie [Ziegler] is my little honey pie, avatar, surrogate daughter, and she's a dancer. I've come across them more because they really are dancing shoes. And since then I've actually developed an appreciation for how comfortable they are. So it seems like the right collaboration for me, because I have tried to return contemporary dance to the mainstream. I think I wear maybe five different types of shoes, that's it, and they are one of them.
Repetto by Sia Zizi oxford shoes
The tag line is inspired by a mantra: "I love you, keep going." Why did you want that message connected to the collection?
I've been studying meditation with a meditation teacher, George Haas, for about three years, it's actually his saying. A bunch of us from his class, we all got a tattoo that says, "I love you, keep going." You know how life is hard, and it's hard for everybody. Everybody is going through something. Especially now in this day and age of technology, primarily people are lonely, and they're projecting an image of, "I'm a participant in life!" But the truth is those images that we project are usually lies. Everybody's suffering in their own small way.
"You know how life is hard, and it's hard for everybody. Everybody is going through something."
So I guess that saying meant a lot to me because I was suffering when I started working with George. I started spreading it more, saying, "I love you, keep going," because it meant so much to me. I asked him, "Do you mind if I put it on my Twitter? Do you mind if I'm making it my catchphrase and I'm spreading it around the world? Do you mind if I put it on these shoes?" And he's like, "Not at all!"
We're gonna open a center called the I Love You, Keep Going Center that's going to be about attachment repair. It's based in meditation protocols, but also in attachment theory. I'm into psychology.
Repetto by Sia Sophia ballerinas
So if somebody's wearing these shoes, they're going to think, "Oh, Sia's got my back."
Yeah, I love you, keep going. Lena and I are going to go—we're studying psychology this year. We're going to classes together.
Early in my career, there was a fan on my forum who had these electric blue shoes that I am sure were Repettos. He came to a show, and happened to be at the same place we were having dinner before the show. He came over and introduced himself, and he lifted up the sole of his shoe and he had written my name on the sole of his shoe. I just remembered thinking it was so sweet. I am a bit sentimental.
So you've designed a few styles for the collection.
I just drew them! I drew them on my iPad! The Sophias are my favorite. I wanted to make them more ostentatious, but we gotta keep them affordable, I don't want to out-price anybody, and we found a great compromise.
I started with the tuxedo [for the demi-pointe ballet shoes] because that was a dream shoe that I wish had been created, that I wanted to wear everyday—with the little shirt collar and the buttons. I liked that it was just a little bit messy and a little bit off.
The Sophia was a more collaborative experience. I got to choose everything! They sent me all the possible colors in the rainbow. They made eight or nine samples, there were so many I'm totally in love with. But we could only choose four in the end. There's the black and white ones—that was a commercial choice, but also they are the ones I wear the most.
I've been wearing them out to parties recently because I have a pair. It was really funny, actually, I went to the Kardashians' Christmas Eve party, and I wore flats and a little black dress that I designed as well. I was dressed New York in Calabasas, I fucked up. When I first got there, everybody thought I was a waitress. Everyone was being super nice to me, but because I was dressed all in black and in black shoes—and everybody there was in black heels and sequins and dressed to the nines...I started pretending I was Khloe Kardashian's assistant, and it became a gag that we did all night long.
We could find out whether people were jerks or not. She would try to introduce me, and I was acting like her assistant by fluffing up her dress or fixing her hair. Some of them would completely ignore me. Others would be like, "Nice to meet you, Sia," and then completely ignore me. And others would be like, "Hi, nice to meet you, Sia," and were just really nice. And then others would be like, "Nice to meet you, Sia. Wait, are you...?" And then we'd go, "Yeah, ha ha!"
It was so fun and so silly and we had the best night. But then—here's where things got really exciting. Someone said, "Oh my gosh, I'm your fan. Can I take a picture with you?" And I said, "Of course!" We took a picture, and then he said, "Who designed your dress?" And I was like, "I did." And he said, "Really?" And I said, "I designed these shoes too, for a collaboration with Repetto." And he said, "That's so cool. Do you want your own fashion line?"
I said, "Oh no, I heard that it's a terrible thing for a pop star or an actor to do, to open a restaurant or to start a fashion line. It's usually gonna fail. That's like one of the top five things that most business managers say don't do." And a woman standing next to him said, "Not if he's involved." And he goes, "Shut up. Don't blow my cover." And I was like, "Oh, why, what...?" And she was like, "He's the head of Yeezy and Louis Vuitton." And I was like, "Oh!"
I saw a photo from your birthday, which you celebrated with Kim and Kris Jenner and J.Lo. It must be the first photo of you not in a wig in a while. Are you sticking with the wig in 2019?
Oh yeah. The wig is sticking with me. I thought I was going to a bigger party where we would be watching J.Lo's movie, and I had no idea it was just going to be us. I took my best friend Dallas. It was my birthday and I was not going to tell in case they thought I was a creep because I wanted to spend my birthday with them, 'cause I'm such an uber reality TV fan. I also think they're so fun and great. I've met, briefly, some of them in passing at different dinner parties. At the fertility clinic, once. But I'd never hung with them.
Anyway, I thought it was going to be much bigger. And I got there, and then I realized it was kind of a promotional thing, because they were all Instagramming it. I didn't brush my hair or put any makeup on. J.Lo was making a story, and she went, "Come here!" I was eating cake, and I was like, "Uh, I guess I'm not gonna say no." If my face gets shown once in a blue moon, hopefully people won't recognize me.
When I'm wearing the wig, I'm sending the message to people that I prefer not to be approached. I prefer to live a private life. I think that message has been well received—people don't approach me that much anyway.
I just directed my first feature film, and I have to find a creative way to be Sia the director. This is gonna sound like a big wank, talking about myself in the third person. But Sia the brand, the pop star brand, is the wig. Then there's me, the human being, that's little-s Sia who's just exactly like everybody else—who, when their dog gets an anal sacculectomy, slips in poop for two weeks. And then there's gonna be Sia the director. How am I gonna promote a movie?
Maddie, my little queen, was over. We were watching RuPaul's Drag Race. She loves drag makeup and she's about to have a makeup line come out. So I was like, "I wish I could have Valentina's eyes." And she was like, "We could do that. We could probably glue down your eyebrows." And I was like, "Can we practice and see if we could make it look normal but crazy enough that I don't look so much like myself that I wouldn't get recognized?" So we're gonna see what we can do about that.
What's the movie you're working on?
All I can really say right now is that it's a movie about a sober drug dealer played by Kate Hudson. She shaved her head for that role, that's why you saw her with a shaved head for a couple of months. She plays a sober drug dealer who becomes responsible for her severely autistic teenage sister. And the musical takes place inside the mind of this sister, who is played by Maddie.
They all sing. Leslie Odom Jr. plays Kate's love interest. Kate sings, Maddie sings, Leslie Odom Jr. sings. I'm very proud of it. I was very scared that it wasn't going to be exceptional, and I had a lot of shame. What if I can't make it exceptional? And now I'm realizing it's starting to become the movie that I set out to make, so I'm really proud of it.
The Repetto by Sia collection is available now.