Yorkshire’s Sophie Parnaby is fashion’s next big thing
Yorkshire born Sophie Parnaby is set to be one of Britain’s new and emerging designers
Born and bred in Ilkley, Sophie has always loved fashion. Although she can’t pinpoint the exact moment she realised this, she says it’s something she’s gravitated towards since the early days of secondary school. ‘My love for fashion just grew organically,’ she explains. ‘I guess it’s by being inspired by other designers and what they create, but also visiting art exhibitions, that it really grew into something more.’
Sophie chose to study a degree in Fashion Design with Technology at Manchester University and it was over this four-year course that she feels her biggest growth as a designer took place. Despite her final year being cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sophie managed to make one outfit for her collection, Future Mythologies. She presented this to Gok Wan, Christopher Raeburn and Patrick McDowell, and as a result became a double winner of the Graduate Fashion Foundation awards, winning for both considered fashion and fashion innovation.
When she graduated last summer, Sophie decided to focus on starting her own brand. ‘Everything was up in the air because of Covid so I felt like it wasn’t the right time to get a job,’ she explains. ‘It was something I’d always wanted to do, so I just went for it,’ she says.
Building on the collection she started in university, Sophie created another dress, and accessories to go alongside the initial piece and her newly-expanded collection resulted in her being selected as one of six emerging designers to be featured as part of the Graduate Fashion Foundation Digital Designer Profile for London Fashion Week in February 2021.
Speaking about the experience, she says: ‘LFW has always been something that I’ve been a spectator to, and I’ve followed my favourite brands through it. So, it was really nice to actually be a part of it and have something to contribute myself.
‘Particularly after the whole strange year that was 2020, it felt like a really nice start to 2021. It felt fresh and like things were picking back up again. It was a really amazing experience and I feel so lucky to have been part of it.’
However it wasn’t luck that got Sophie there, it was her talent for design. The Future Mythologies collection, for which she won this opportunity, is based on a future scenario based on climate change. As a result of changing atmospheric conditions, animals and wildlife would begin evolving in unique ways. Sophie was therefore inspired by the idea of biomimicry from various species, and merged a range of features to transform the wearer into a surreal hybrid. ‘I was inspired a lot by birds in this project – in particular their wings. I used 3D printing to create feather-like embellishments in new textures, to make it look like a kind of animal armour merging with a human.’
The finished pieces are stunning. Appearing almost like glass, the feather-like forms wrap around the wearer’s body, while still keeping a structural integrity. The Aquila purse, Dione clutch, Vela corset and Icarus dress and all covered in black embellishments, whilst the Pegasus dress is white. For those hoping to get one of these intricately-made pieces, Sophie’s accessories are all made to order, while the dresses are custom only.
Not only is Sophie’s collection inspired by nature, it was also created with the environment in mind. The innovative methodology used for creating these garments harnesses the environmental benefits of 3D print technology, with Sophie’s designs taking waste and making something beautiful from it. PLA filament, a natural-based plastic Sophie gets recycled from local Yorkshire companies, is melted in the printer and deposited onto the areas of deadstock fabric she wants to embellish. Done on a large flat sheet of fabric, Sophie then cuts these pieces out and sews them together. For accessories, she will then also attach repurposed old metal hardware.
‘The whole 3D printing process is a more sustainable way of creating embellishments. So, I wanted my other materials to also be recycled to be cohesive with the rest of my work,’ she explains.
This sustainable alternative to embellishment production methods is extremely significant environmentally, as this manufacturing method makes Sophie’s collection completely zero waste. This is because only the exact amount of material required for the whole process is used – nothing more, nothing less (unlike traditional sequin production, for example, in which punching the sequins out of a film results in around 30 percent plastic waste). This new method dramatically cuts out the amount of plastic which goes into landfill.
Sophie explains her choice to make a zero waste collection: ‘It is important to me as a brand and a designer to find solutions to the environmental issues which arise from fashion industry practices. Being sustainable was always in the back of my mind but I pushed it away as I thought it made you less creative – but if anything I was more restricted previously. Creating sustainable pieces has made me try new things and innovate new process that I never would’ve done before.
‘It’s a creative challenge but such a positive thing to incorporate, and I think it’s something that all designers should push towards,’ she adds.
Sophie is glad that there has already been a massive shift in the fashion industry towards more sustainable design, however she still believes much more can be done. ‘I’m hoping there is a movement towards consumers recognising the importance of buying from smaller brands and emerging designers. There are big commercial companies trying to become more sustainable or start capsule collections which is great, but the small companies are there doing it already – people just need to realise!’
In terms of the future for herself, Sophie has a few things in mind. Having lived in Yorkshire all her life (until moving to London just a week before we spoke) she is definitely a home bird. From an ‘outdoorsy family’, she says growing up in such a beautiful area has given her an appreciation for the environment. She mentions the moors, Beamsley Beacon, Burnsall and Malham Cove as just some of her favourite places to spend her free time, and says she will be visiting home regularly.
She plans to make even more pieces for the Future Mythologies collection. ‘I have a lot of design ideas and I would like to make the whole collection more rounded. I really like the idea of making another dress and experimenting more with colour, because at the minute I’ve just touched black and white. It will be really interesting to work with more interesting colours, prints and patterns, while sort of merging them together. I’d quite like to really shake things up a bit in terms of design as well.’
Sophie also has her first ever overseas customer order which she plans to start in the next few weeks. Working collaboratively with a drag queen in USA, she can’t wait to get started: ‘It’s going to be lots of Zoom calls and consultations to make sure it’s exactly how they want it. It should be a really interesting process, so I’m really looking forward to it.’
Sophie’s designs embrace considered production, whilst acting as a warning against over consumption and waste. Not only are they beautiful, they’re also good for the planet and we can’t wait to see what more she has in store for the future. Watch this space!