Meet Sophie West. Growing up in rural Hertfordshire, the 27-year-old designer currently splits her time between her home in North London and a design job in Italy.
Moving to London at the age of 20, she attended the BA course in Fashion Print at Central Saint Martins, alma mater to the likes of John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Riccardo Tisci. After graduating she lived in New York and Paris where she worked for Balmain and developed a passion for embroidery and fabric manipulations. Since then she has worked on embroideries for clients such as Marni, Versace, Proenza Schouler and Balenciaga.
She then applied to the MA programme in Womenswear at the Royal College of Art. “I really didn’t expect to get in due to my textile background, I was very surprised to receive my acceptance letter”, says the designer. Describing her Masters experience, Sophie confesses: “I feel like I struggled through my first year. Having been out of education for 2 years it was hard to settle back into the projects, huge work load, sleepless nights and stress”. However, she found her feet for her MA collection and successfully graduated last June presenting a dashing and luxurious collection.
Sophie’s family was the inspiration behind her MA final project. She was particularly influenced by the memories of the interiors of her grandparents’ home, Vera and Joe. Speaking fondly of them the designer reveals her creative trigger: “Having both died when I was very little I wanted to imagine and create my own memory of them, the home they once lived in and the objects they once used. I was inspired by old family photos showing the over decoration of their flat. Toby jugs spilling onto every shelf, a mismatch of wallpaper and carpet. At Christmas the ceiling would be completely covered in tinsel and the walls plastered with Christmas cards and decorations. I imagined it would smell of smoke, with ashtrays on every table. There would be a green velvet sofa covered in a protective plastic case, possibly with antimacassars on each arm and a clashing fake fur rug on the floor”.
For the more artistic and visual influences the designer explains how photographs by Katerina Jebb, Eddie Chacon and a series from photographers Tania Shcheglova and Roman Noven provided an initial mood. Although, what truly set the tone were images by Lukasz Wierbowski whose photographs are defined by the interiors of homes from the 70s where time seems to have stopped and everything has been somewhat preserved. “When you look at these images you feel like you are looking into a treasure chest of the past. This is the mood I wanted to create. Creating my own treasure chest of my grandparents’ home, evoking feelings of nostalgia”, says Sophie.
To bring that 70s vibe to life and considering how popular synthetic fabrics were at the time, Sophie decided to use a mixture of plastic materials. She used plastic yarns for the crochet in collaboration with fellow RCA textiles student Lauren Maun. Sophie’s innovative use of sheets of printed plastic joined together with Swarovski crystals won her the RCA Swarovski Award.
“For me the fabric and materials are what make the garment special, I wanted every garment to have different fabrics and techniques. I want people to think ‘what is that fabric, how has she achieved that?’ I want the observer to be intrigued. I wanted the over decoration and slight tackiness of my grandparents home to feature on my garments with the fabrics being almost a bit too much and therefore questioning the taste level”, explains the designer.
The essence of Sophie West’s collection is the combination of bold colours and the odd and unexpected mixture of fabrics and techniques. From mock croc, fake leathers, plastics, bonded, embossed, fused and plastic appliquéd velvet to embroidered chiffon and zebra faux fur with lurex brush, you can feast your eyes on eclectic and unpredictable combos. “I love to create my own textiles and fabric, this is how I always start a collection. The shape comes later once I have decided on fabrics and colours”, adds Sophie.
Sophie’s love for textiles led her to push the boundaries of design and researched furniture and sofa construction. She studied the layering of materials and techniques used to create the perfect soft padded curves for the arms. She took these techniques to the next level and used them to construct her jackets. Taking her experiments further, she also traced a section of her sofa and draped the sofa’s arm pattern around the body to create the silhouette which formed the basis of the skirts and dresses.
Sophie West’s ingenious designs are certainly something to look out for. In the meantime you can indulge in her collection. Just let yourselves be wrapped by the warm hug of exuberant animalier prints and faux furs embellished with precious embroideries.
To discover the full Sophie West collection, please get in touch with her here.
This Sophie West editorial was produced by
Photography / Sarah Brimley
Hair and Make Up / Doey Drummond
Models / Brianna B & Paige @ Wilhelmina Models
Photography Assistant / Michelle Long
All Garments and Accessories / Sophie West
Crochet / Made in collaboration with Lauren Maun
All Crystals sponsored by Swarovski