Vogue loves her. We love her. Now you can love her, too. Sophie Gittins tells Fash Pack about training at Chloe, meeting Manolo Blahnik, and gaining a surprisingly sweet perspective from insects.
(Can you tell we're getting excited for some fabulous British designing at London Fashion Week?)
When did you start designing?
It’s hard to say when I first started officially but I’ve always been altering things and adding details. Friday teatimes were normally dominated by me attempting some hideously complicated alteration to a dress of some description – I remember painstakingly spending hours stitching lace roses onto some shoes only to change my mind the next day and snip them off again.
Did you ever do textiles or accessories, or was it straight to shoes?
I did textiles at school but it was more the creative process that I was drawn to rather than the subject itself. I was in my final year of school when Cordwainers became part of London College of Fashion and I read about it in class – I remember it really clearly as it was there and then I decided that was what I wanted to do.
How'd you come up with your bumblebee logo, which appears on the soles of all your shoes?
My grandmother owned an antique shop and my mother and father both have a strong interest in antiques, so every house I’ve lived in I’ve been surrounded by antiques. There had always been a bronze and marble bee on my mother’s desk which I’d loved. After researching the symbolism of the bee and bumblebee I found the bumblebee has come to represent achieving the impossible, which I felt had a particular resonance to a luxury shoe brand launching in the midst of a recession!
Talk about some of your favourite projects with Jennefer Osterhoudt with Wunderkind and Chloe.
Working with Jenne was very inspirational. On my first day I was very daunted - I looked through her ‘book’ and it was literally filled with all of the shoes that I’d seen and coveted as a teenager looking through Vogue. I was with her whilst she was at Chloe and so it was fantastic to be able to see how a design house of that scale puts everything together and creates and entire ‘look’.
Do you have any upcoming projects or shows you'd like to talk about? What designer would you love to collaborate with?
I recently collaborated with New Gen designer Hannah Marshall – it was fun to play around with a darker aesthetic as I normally produce more classically feminine designs, but after discussing ideas it became clear that the core values were the same – strong silhouettes, richly contrasting textures and highest quality materials and craftsmanship.
What's been inspiring you lately?
This collection is predominantly based around the early 20th-century Viennese movement “Weiner Werkstatte” which produced work in every discipline, from textiles and jewellery to ceramics and furniture. I was heavily influenced by the graphic prints and strong shapes of their distinctive furniture.
What person would you love to see wearing your shoes?
I love the style of Emilia Fox: very classic but never dull.
Where can people buy your shoes?
I’m realistic that in my first season in the current economic climate I may not get stockists straight away, so I’ve treated my first capsule collection as an exercise to create some designs that I feel are representative of what I am trying to achieve in the future, on a broader scale, rather than angling for commercial appeal from the outset.
What's been your proudest moment in fashion?
I think it’s split between personally, when I achieved my First from Cordwainers – which I had always always wanted to achieve and worked like a Trojan in order to do so, and professionally, when I reached the Finals of Fashion Fringe last year and went to meet with Manolo Blahnik, Colin McDowell and Rupert Sanderson, all of which are tremendously inspiration men who have achieved so much.
What's something you wish you knew from the beginning that you'd like young designers to know?
This is where the London College of Fashion is crucial as they drum into you not to neglect the business side of things – in order to have the luxury of working for yourself and a creative career you have to have had a solid grounding of business knowledge as the two things go hand in hand and one cannot progress without the other.