Sophie Albou (born 1967) is a Paris-born designer best known as the founder of the Paul & Joe clothing line. Albou was born in 1967 just a few years after her mother had emigrated to France from Tunisia. Albou's father, Yvan, was also of North African heritage, and she and her older brother, Serge, grew up in Paris.
Albou's parents launched a shirtmaking company called Julien in 1976, and it was thriving by the time the family vacationed in New York City in 1982. There, Albou's mother, Nicole, was struck by the use of a French word, "garage," because in France such public-parking structures were called "parkings." Inspired by the arty New York new-wave scene, Nicole began designing a new line of shirts for an offshoot label they dubbed Le Garage, and its sales soon eclipsed that of Julien. Albou was soon assisting her mother in the design atelier as the venture took off, and the family opened the first of several Le Garage boutiques in Paris in 1987.
Albou was educated at the Sorbonne and the Institut Franšais de la Mode before going to work for the clothing company Azzedine Alaia in 1983.
Married and a mother by that point, Albou named her new company after her two young sons, Paul and Joe. Her parents provided the initial financial backing, while her husband, Franck, joined the company management team as well. Albou started with a menswear collection, but it was her women's line, launched in 1996, that quickly proved a hit. Top retailers, such as Barneys New York and Fred Segal in Los Angeles, began carrying it, and within a few years her small Paris boutiques were a well-known secret among the fashion set as a place where unpredictable yet appealing designs could be found along with carefully culled vintage items.
Albou followed with boutiques in London's Notting Hill neighborhood, and one in New York City, on Bond Street, which opened in 2001. Two years later, she launched a cosmetics line, followed by lingerie and accessories. Her international appeal made her an easy choice for the U.S. mass retailer Target, which invited her to become the third de-signer in its "Go International" series in 2006 for its juniors' apparel department.