A game-changing approach to embellishment
Young designer Sophie West, winner of the 2015 Royal College of Art Swarovski Award, has produced a collection that breaks the mold: it’s an unpredictable clash of bold colors, fabrics and techniques melded together to create something utterly original, dashing & luxurious.
“I love creating my own textiles—it’s how I start a collection,” says Sophie West. From mock croc, fake leathers and fused plastics, to appliquéd velvet, embroidered chiffon and zebra faux fur, her clothes and accessories pack a serious punch. “For me, the textiles are the easy part—although choosing the right combinations of fabric and colors that interpret my vision can take months of sleepless nights.”
Born in Hertfordshire, UK, Sophie attended the BA course in Fashion Print at Central Saint Martins in her early twenties, before spending time in New York and Paris, where she worked for Balmain and developed a passion for embroidery and fabric manipulation. Since then she has deepened her handcrafting skills by working with the likes of Marni, Versace, Proenza Schouler and Balenciaga.
Two years after graduating, she completed an MA in Womenswear at the Royal College of Art, emerging last June with her luxurious debut collection. “Taking time between my BA and MA helped me focus on my aesthetic,” she explains.
Her influences come from family: “My grandparents died when I was very young, and my idea was to create a ‘treasure chest’ of their Seventies home.” Looking through old family photos, her imagination was fired by the Toby jugs, mismatched wallpaper and carpets: “I imagined there would be a green velvet sofa in a plastic cover, antimacassars, and a clashing fake fur rug. I love the idea of exploring what taste is, so I wanted the ‘over-decoration’ of my grandparents home to feature on my garments.”
Sophie admits to having “a sparkle addiction”: “A lot of my research featured Seventies transparent glass ashtrays, and I wanted to re-create this by using similarly colored and shaped crystals. In fact, I made a new fabric by lacing and crocheting them together with plastic.”
Since 2009, Swarovski has collaborated with the Royal College of Art, which offers practical assistance and education in the decorative art of crystal embellishment to its students. Sophie’s clever technique of combining sheets of printed plastic with Swarovski crystals bagged her the 2015 RCA Swarovski Award for her beautiful execution and innovative application of crystals.