We caught up with our graduate, Sophie Mannion to explore her Fashion and Accessories Design career following GFW 2015. Sophie tells us how working for a commercial brand can be challenging, but also rewarding, because of its social impact. Climbing up the career ladder sometimes means progressing less with the hobbies and crafts, but the designer is very hopeful that being “hardworking, determined and have a strong personal design handwriting” will result in amazing future opportunities.
Which university did you attend, and what is the most valuable thing that you learnt there?
I went to University of Brighton. It taught me to work hard and to go crazy with my ideas, as you can always edit it down. I feel that university is the one opportunity to be as creative as you can, with no one telling you that you work has to be commercial!
Graduate Fashion Week provides a platform for emerging fashion graduates to showcase their work regardless of the specific discipline. Which area of the industry have you chosen to pursue, and what informed this choice?
I work in Fashion and Accessories Design. Studying Fashion Design at university obviously led me into this and it’s an area I really love.
Tell us a bit more about your career journey since showing at Graduate Fashion Week.
Since showing at Graduate Fashion Week in 2015, I started working at Skinnydip as an Assistant Designer. I’ve been there ever since and have worked my way up - I now design handbags and have recently started heading up clothing which is a new product area for the brand. So far is going really well!
How have you found life in the industry?
Working for a high street store is a real change to the more high end companies I previously interned at. Price is a huge consideration and the turn around is much quicker. I enjoy being involved in every stage of the process from research, design, through to product development and seeing the finished product. Working alongside buyers and merchandisers is interesting, as it gives me a very rounded view of the industry from a more commercial aspect.
Do you explore any political, social or historical notions through your work? If so, what messages do you hope to convey?
The company I work for does a lot of work alongside LGBTQ+ organisations and charities. We always do a collection for Pride, raising money for different people each year. Within my own work history influences my designs; I'm really interested in old crafting techniques, but unfortunately I don't get much time to explore this these days.
Where are you hoping to be in five years time?
In five years time I would love to be working more on clothing, that is what I am really passionate about. Maybe somewhere where the margins aren’t so tight so I can go a bit more OTT with my designs...
Many say that the industry is undergoing a huge change, with sustainability, diversity and responsibility becoming huge themes. Do you have any opinions on these movements?
I think sustainability is a huge issue, I do find it hard to justify working for a high street retailer where the aim is to encourage people to keep buying more and more, I think the industry as a whole needs to step back and look at the impact we are having and come up with better ways of working. I also think diversity is incredibly important. Not just in campaigns; I think it is so important to have a wide range of people behind the scenes in all aspects of the business. If you want to appeal to all members of society, they should be properly represented within every company.
Lastly, to any students that are reading this in admiration of your career-what advice would you give to the students hoping to showcase this year?
The advice I would give to any students just graduating is to not jump into the first job that comes along, think about the area you want to go into. And although it’s a bit of a cliché, it does help to be hardworking, determined and have a strong personal design handwriting.
Words by Eva Kubacka