‘I still feel in my head I almost operate on an opposite plane, I don’t feel like I’m in the industry, I’m just in Planet Soph.’
In recent years, knitwear has undoubtedly taken a chokehold amongst the fashion crowd, from mohair bows to knit hand warmers, everybody wants their hands on the latest crochet trend. One person exceeding the realms of TikTok fashion is London-based 23-year-old Sophie Nancy. From her beginnings as a Depop seller, her brand, ‘Planet Soph,’ has quickly amassed traction. Just last February, Sophie presented her debut show: ‘The Inhabitants of Planet Soph.’ Accompanied by the help of many young creatives, Sophie’s show anchors a conversation to some very real struggles that innovators are facing in getting work experience within the industry.
Meeting Sophie in her studio, you are immediately submerged in heaps of neon wool, ribbons, and rails of fluffy and funky clothes. Her walls are covered in various Planet Soph posters, including the designs for her show, which are all lined up like little Bratz dolls. She’s wearing an upcycled Vivienne Westwood necklace, made by @beadsbyedie on Instagram. Her necklace has the iconic orb in the middle, decorated with various blue and silver beads around the outside. I think that necklace really mirrors Sophie as a designer, taking something well-known, and adapting it in her own whacky way.
Sophie’s studio is based in West London, which is the same location as her fashion show: ‘The Inhabitants of Planet Soph’. Taking place on the 25th of February, Sophie started making the clothes at the start of January. She reached out on TikTok for creative help by making a video which ended up going viral: ‘I had hundreds of emails, so I ended up having to take the video down’ she says whilst laughing.
She confesses in conversation her own frustration with getting jobs within the industry, ‘It was such a horrible cycle.’ Mentioning how she wanted her show to counteract the struggles many young people are faced with when trying to gain jobs in fashion. Sophie explained that her own connections within the industry have been formed through pure chance, as she puts it, ‘deciding to ignore the voice in my head that saying ‘no, don’t reply to that Instagram story.’ This ended up resulting in many a collaboration, including one the brand Not Just Trash. Molly Hayward, one of the designers, explained that ‘working with Sophie was lovely, we both have great ideas so it was super easy, it was lovely to be able to work so fast with someone else and get really creative.’ Sophie really emphasised the advantages of putting yourself out there on social media.
So, when is came to the show, Sophie wanted a celebration of creative talent, regardless of people’s prior work: ‘I wanted to give these people that need experience a favour, they don’t need to have had experience as long as they’re confident and comfortable.’ For many of the team, it was their first job: some models had never walked a show before, and some were in the midst of going between London Fashion Week shows; one model was even gearing up to take her GCSEs this May.
Representation reigned a key priority for Sophie in approaching the show: ‘I really wanted my models to be representative of lots of different people, I didn’t want them looking the same, or to make anyone watching feel like they’re not good enough to wear the clothes.’ Using wool as her main media was similarly another choice to reinforce the extent of inclusivity which she could achieve. As Sophie puts it, ‘I think what really attracted wool to me was how tactile the fabric was, you can manipulate it a lot more than if you’re just cutting pieces out, you get to actually feel the fabric.’ She says, ‘in terms of being an inclusive brand, the knitwear is really stretchy so it’s a lot easier to expand a lot of sizes.’
Despite ‘Planet Soph’ embodying inclusivity, it comes as a result of the harsh antisemitism she experienced growing up. She retells a story of her ‘In primary school, we had to cover our blazers because they had Hebrew written on it,’ she explains, ‘I had to write that I’m White British at the doctor’s, even though I’m not.’ Sophie has always lived in London, growing up in Pinner in North London, but moving to University in Leeds for her Fine Art degree caused a massive culture shock. As she mentions, many people at Leeds had ‘never met a Jewish person before.’
This really harnessed the way Sophie approaches fashion, as she puts it, ‘I have a very don’t give a fuck attitude, but I think that’s because I’ve been in so many situations where I’ve had to police myself,’ she explains.
‘There are so many people out there who didn’t get the opportunities that I had, they just happened to grow up in a different time to me, I feel like I’m doing them a disservice if I don’t take advantage of everything.’
Deciding to put on a whole fashion show as a small business – not to mention in the midst of the cost of living crisis – is a choice which takes confidence, but for Sophie, it was a decision framed by excitement. ‘The Inhabitants of Planet Soph’ consisted of 20 looks, ranging from black velvet bloomers to asymmetrical dresses embellished with fluffy moss–like trims. She explained that the main inspiration came from cartoons, going on to reference Bob’s Burgers and Tracy Beaker, both of which she watches whilst working: ‘my clothes are kind of sketch-like and stylised, like cartoons, but also real, the clothes remind me of pictures and doodling.’
On the day of the show, people were running about left right and centre, as the downstairs of Sophie’s studio block slowly transformed from a lounge area into her fashion-possessed planet. Carpets were replaced with neon star-shaped stickers, the dining table was quickly enveloped with makeup and face paint, and the kitchen doubled as a backstage for the models. Sophie confessed she doesn’t remember most of the day, she was running on adrenaline: ‘I don’t think I was in my brain for 80% of the day. Even now watching the videos back, it’s so weird, so many people there, poking my head out of the kitchen I felt a bit sick.’
Her design DNA is certainly characterised by colour, it has a punk flair about it, a rebellion to the stereotypical crochet and knitwear you might come across whilst scrolling on Instagram. Sophie was particularly strong-minded when we touched on the interrelationship between knitwear and social media, ‘people all have the same machines, recreating the same jumper, using the same wool,’ she emphasises, ‘I think that’s quite boring because it takes the creativity out of it, it turns it into something where you’re just replicating a trend because you want it.’
However, frustrated with the way social media suppresses innovation, Sophie did accept that some people are learning from what they see online, ‘this is how people learn the techniques, then they’ll get round to kind of doing something more creative with it.’ Moving forward, she’s looking forward to seeing others pushing the line as to what social media deems as creative:
‘I’d love to see people think a bit outside the box. I really want to encourage people to be creative and rely on their own instincts rather than current trends.’
Going from being forced to cover her school blazer, to uncovering the ins and outs of her brain in her debut show, Sophie is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Whilst she mentioned another show next year is in her sights, for now, it’s time for her to hibernate in Soph’s planet, with the rest of her inhabitants to keep her company.