Sonia’s paintings in Portugal and Spain continued to develop her interest in light, dynamism and colour. In her studies of flamenco singers, for example, movement is emphasised by the concentric circles expanding from the figures.
After the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917, Sonia no longer received funds from her family in Russia. Soon afterwards she put painting aside to concentrate wholeheartedly on applied arts, both to pursue her ongoing interest in the field and to create an alternative source of income.
In Madrid in 1918, Sonia opened Casa Sonia, a fashion and design shop selling simultaneous accessories, furniture and fabrics, and undertaking commissions for clothing. The shop was a great success, particularly with the city’s aristocracy, and there were subsidiary branches in Bilbao, San Sebastian and Barcelona.
Sonia’s involvement in fashion led to several design projects for Vogue magazine. Her friend Sergei Diaghilev, the impresario of the Ballets Russes, had helped Sonia set up the shop and now commissioned her to design the costumes for his production of Cleopatra at the London Coliseum. Costume for a slave 1918–36 in particular seems to fuse Sonia’s diverse interests in dance, applied art and abstraction.