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Sophie Hulme Interview

All-Things Sophie Hulme

Nestled in the heart of North London, inside a converted toy factory, stepping inside designer Sophie Hulme’s studio is a little like being a kid in a candy store. Awash with her timelessly-chic designs in their seasonal colourways, collections of fascinating vintage trinkets next to her covetable bag charms and moodboards of inspiration and ideas, not to mention her cute canine side-kick Alan the beagle, it is the perfect snapshot of Sophie's delightful world.

And with exciting things to come from her brand - including her new pop-up shop in Harrods - we chatted to the designer about all things Sophie...

Her Love Affair With Bags...

“Ever since I was really young, I’ve always been interested in making things. I used to create things out of cardboard boxes and was obsessed with drawing, so I think the route towards design was there before I even realised it. I’ve always been obsessed with items you can keep things in - from lockets to vintage match-strikers. I loved to collect little leather cases, boxes, purses and wallets, they’ve been such source of fascination for me.

“I went into the creative field thinking I wanted to be a fine artist and then discovered fashion in college and fell in love with it. All the pieces just fitted together perfectly. I realised it was a creative and aesthetic thing, like fine art but it’s also really practical and you have so many interesting parameters in which to design. 

"And then, for any milestone events I would always go and buy a handbag. So, in lots of ways my path absolutely made sense. I feel there’s a real beauty to handbags, they have that emotional connection for women.”

"I feel there’s a real beauty to handbags, they have that emotional connection for women."

Her Style Icon...

“It has to be my grandmother. She was amazing because she always wore a full outfit. She was of that generation that never owned a pair of jeans, but instead would always wear a shirt that matched her wide leg trousers and had a matching bag. There was a way of dressing that I think we’ve stopped doing. She would also buy things that were timeless, so she built her wardrobe out of great pieces. 

“Then there was my mum in the '70s when she travelled around America. She would do full outfits from top-to-toe, and she made a lot of the pieces herself. Both were really inspirational to me. I wanted to take that approach with my design and make things you could pass onto your children, things that would still be cool in years to come and that are beautifully made. For me, it’s about valuing things, the art of building a wardrobe.”

The Sophie Hulme Woman...

“There are definitely certain elements that inform the way I design. I’d say the Sophie Hulme woman is quite effortless, she is very much herself. But overall, I love to look at how people wear my bags. We have a wide spectrum of customers and there is a cross-generational appeal. I prefer to see it as a beautiful piece of design people can wear in their own way rather than prescribe a look to them. It’s not like years ago with those aspirational, somewhat unattainable adverts. With social media now, it’s a conversation with the Sophie Hulme woman, I’d love to learn from them and have that closeness to them. Launching our e-commerce shop recently has given us great insight into our customers.”

On Britishness…

“My family background is very British, but I’m also a real Londoner - all my closest family live in North London. I don’t feel it’s a conscious thing to make my design overtly British, it’s just that all my inspiration, my childhood has been very grounded in the culture. The charms I design have a lot to do with memories so naturally I pick a lot of very London things for that, like making a chip fork gold and a referee whistle because I grew up around Arsenal.”

On Charms…

“The charms started because, when I first did handbags, everyone was tiring a bit of the It bag and how you needed to have a new one every six months. I liked the idea of being a little less trend led and building up a collection of bags. When I was younger, my grandmother gave me a gold bracelet and every year, gifts me a new charm for it. I love that experience of adding to it - and how the first ever charm I received is no less valuable than the most recent one. So that’s what I wanted to do with the bags - you would get a charm with every bag and start to build a collection of them.

“In terms of how I create them, we have great fun with taking things that you undervalue every day and making them in gold to suddenly make you re-look at them - like the gold chip fork or the gold cocktail stirrer - things we all have memories of but we’d never keep the plastic ones. They are culturally-embedded objects and I love how they all have stories for everybody in different ways.”

What’s Exciting About British Design…

“What’s really incredible about London is that there is a real hub of designers, illustrators, artists, architects - which can really help the creative industries have a cross-disciplinary approach. The way we present collections or shoot them - that can be very inspired by illustration, even great florists, and talking to architects and artists about how to execute things.”

On Inspiration...

“I spend a lot of time in vintage fairs, markets and stores. I like my inspiration to be three-dimensional but I do also go to galleries and exhibitions. The collection usually begins with a group of objects I’ve discovered, and there are often several ideas all running together. Then, with the bags themselves, I like to make mock-ups of them, to really test out each angle in a way you just can’t do on paper. Then comes a lot of testing out different shapes, sizes and handles. That’s how I like to work to get an all-round feel of things.”

Her Personal Style…

“Overall I am quite minimal in my personal style but I like to play with fun accessories and I collect a lot of antique jewellery. In terms of how I dress I buy a lot of vintage - there are such amazing finds to be had - I tend to go for the more timeless items that I then pair with a modern piece. There’s always a boyish edge to my style, which definitely translates into my designs.”

On Her Harrods Pop-Up…
“With my Harrods pop-up shop, I’m really excited to see all my bags from a new perspective, experience a new moment for my brand from the eyes of a consumer. It is such an incredible space to showcase the collection.”

Discover Sophie Hulme's pop-up shop at Harrods on the Lower Ground Floor, or shop the Sophie Hulme collection now with our edit below...

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