Known for creating the infamous affordable 'It' bag, Sophie Hulme is a brand that is no stranger to the fashion industry. Her bags are at the forefront of functionality and engineering, but what is her story?
q: Why have you chosen to design bags in particular?
a: I love beautifully designed objects and handbags are a great example of this, the function is also incredibly important in handbags so it’s a nice challenge to create something entirely functional but still new and exciting. When I was younger I was always used to make stuff and I was always interested in objects and the human figure. I studied Fine Art in my foundation year at university and part of that was fashion. I realized I really enjoyed it! I’d never really thought about being a fashion designer before then. My graduate collection was really well received and so I took it to a trade show, and it got picked up… then I had to produce it! So it all started from there!
q: Instead of branding and logos, you make functionality and engineering the priority, why is that?
a: The Sophie Hulme brand has always been about beautifully designed pieces. We always think about the functionality and longevity of a bag. I like to make sure all the elements add to the function of the bag as well as the form - this makes them more timeless. I just want to make them well designed objects that aren't trend led so they can't date. We also try to put our own spin on the bags, often by reinventing a classic, so they feel unique!
q: What is your main source of inspiration when it comes to designing?
a: I go on lots of research trips to vintage places, flea markets and galleries. I collect all sorts of objects which influence my designs- such as vintage leather writing cases, antique charms and action man uniforms. But I also really love to find inspiration in the ordinary and the recognizable- especially with the charms. I like to make ordinary objects in gold to give value to things we often take for granted- such as chip forks and straws! I then sketch through various ideas. The main work on shape is done through 3D mockups in the studio - this means we can make the proportions perfect and also experiment to come up with interesting new dimensions.
q: What is a a Sophie Hulme woman in your eyes?
a: I have noticed that quite a wide variety of women (and some men) buy my products - I find it really exciting that they appeal to different people and I love to see them styled in ways I hadn't expected. I love seeing people making the objects their own. I don’t like to dictate a specific ‘Sophie Hulme Woman’. I like that the bags have quite a timeless look that can be worn by all different types of people of all ages. I love seeing people with my handbags. No matter who they are, I’m always immensely proud when I spot someone on the street carrying one of my designs.
q: How do you go about sourcing the best quality materials for your bags? Is there a certain quality that you look for?
a: I mainly source leathers from trade fairs and also through recommendations. I had a very experienced product manager and a raw materials developer in house who worked full time on this as the quality of raw materials is really important to me. I developed lots of new articles with our tanneries to make sure they look and perform how we want and fit in with the brand. I also did various surface treatments - such as print, embroidery and laser cutting. We pick high quality leathers to ensure that there is as little wastage as possible, panels are then cut by hand from these skins, ensuring that all the relevant panels are colour matched per bag- as of course there is variation in such natural product. The panels are then stitched together by hand on leather machines. The raw edges of the leather are then trimmed down, polished and painted to ensure a clean hardwearing finish on the seams. All the metal plates are riveted on with metal rivets for strength.
q: If you could pick one bag to use everyday, which one would it be, and why?
a: That would be like choosing a favourite child!
Designer Spotlight - Sophie Hulme
Ever looked at a bag and thought, 'That, is exactly what I need'. Well that is every Sophie Hulme bag to us. Each design draws on the classics, but is also reinvented to look timeless. Sophie doesn't follow trends set by the industry, instead she likes to move in her own direction and set her own rules when it comes to designing.
Making it an affordable luxury brand also played a huge part in Sophie Hulme's success. Her designs are high-fashion, stylish, classic, elegant, well-made, architechtural... The list goes on, but most importantly, it's affordable - making it accessible to everyone.
There isn't a 'type' when it comes to the people who shop Sophie Hulme, it's like the saying 'one size fits all', her bags are made for literally everyone. Whether you are a woman, a man, young or old, her designs will suit you and whatever your style is.
10% of all sales go towards The Ehlers Danlos Society and Kleine Levin Syndrome Support.