Fragrant white-pink trellises twisting their delicate flowers over a country house… A woman sits beneath them as their sweet scent envelops her, honing the silk in her hands, threading it through most careful fingers…
Feminine delicacy, precision, a floral burst of joy – these are all images that float up to meet me when I think of Sophie Pittom. Started in 2017 by the eponymous young British designer, this is a truly artisanal brand that is carving out a path in the fashion industry for luxurious, one-of-a-kind pieces championing embroidery and embellishment.
Handmade from vintage lace or luxury end-of-line fabrics sourced from designers such as Sophie Hallette, Sophie Pittom explains that each piece is created with sustainability at its core: “I felt that there was a gap in the market for a brand that offered luxury, embroidered pieces but in a sustainable and ethical way. I was inspired to create one-off embroidery designs for every garment that paired perfectly with an ethical way of working as we only produce small collections with a limited number of runs. It keeps it exciting and every piece is totally unique!”
So was running a luxury ethical fashion brand always on this designer’s horizon? “I have always wanted to run my own business since school, but I was keen to get a few years’ experience in the design industry before doing so. I am still working in the industry now while my brand grows…” Sophie, who runs the business with her mother, Samantha, says it’s a partnership that works perfectly: “We LOVE working together! The best thing is that we have the same values and vision for the brand but also different strengths. My mum is incredible at hand-embroidery and has a great eye for colour combinations. My strengths are creating the silhouettes and machine work so we make the perfect team”.
Based in Warwickshire in the historic town of Leamington Spa, Sophie takes inspiration every day from her surroundings, particularly the area’s celebrated architecture and stately homes dotted amongst its rolling countryside: “I am hugely inspired by [their] interiors – I love the grandeur and decadence they have”. And it’s an enthusiasm that extends far beyond the walls of Sophie’s studio: “When I am not designing, I am working on my house! I am currently renovating my lovely Victorian house as interiors and all things DIY is another huge passion of mine. This is also what has led me to create some home-ware pieces with our signature embroidery… a limited edition collection I am excited to release later this year.” This interiors influence can really be seen in the intricacy and elegance characterised in each piece – like a modern tapestry, Sophie weaves her embroidery of colourful patterns into a creation of wearable luxury – clothing and items perfect to be worn whilst wandering romantically through a country house, brushing blush-coloured silk against your skin as you pass through its echoing rooms…
But this isn’t the only source of inspiration feeding into these designs. The floating, unfitted Kara T-Shirt Dress with Chiffon Overlay and faintly androgynous Charlie Sweatshirts speak of another layer to the vision: “Other influences come from menswear… I love to mix delicate feminine embellishment with relaxed silhouettes that inspire the casual pieces in my collections”.
These ‘relaxed silhouettes’ teamed with layers of lightweight fabrics and softened explosions of colour give the impression of an effortless, endlessly chic atmosphere around the brand, but head designer Sophie speaks openly of one difficulty encountered so far: “I think the biggest challenge of being a sustainable brand is making people aware of how you are sustainable and the impact this has. For example, our pieces will always be a slightly higher price because we source the highest quality organic cotton and then spend many hours creating our embellishments in a way that creates the least possible amount of waste. We try to be as transparent as we can about our production process so customers can see they are buying a quality piece that will last as long as you look after it for”.
This is a challenge being played out on the global stage as ‘slow fashion’ designers look to shift consumer perceptions around price points and the benefit of purchasing longer-lasting items. Yet there is a chasm of difference between the slower production of sustainable fashion brands and the much faster turnover and throwaway culture of the high street stores. It is a difference that needs to be learned from and a transformation that is long overdue. Indeed, Sophie herself explains that she would like to see “a big change in seasonal fashion and the seasonal buying format. We are proud to be a ‘non-seasonal’ brand to encourage slow fashion and re-styling key pieces to be worn multiple times through all seasons”.
So what’s next for this pioneering young brand? “I would love for us to be involved in another pop-up shop opportunity. We did one last year and it was a huge success as I love getting feedback from customers and people can really appreciate the hand embellishment work up close which is lovely to see”. With so much attention to detail that goes into each piece, it follows that some of the best interaction the brand can offer its new customers is to see and feel the designs in person. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next pop-up so I can attend myself and I think it’s fair to say that Sophie Pittom is now well and truly on my wish list. Now about that country house…
In Love&Light, MM XXX