I’ve heard many times people cite their children as the source of their inspiration, after all they are a product of us and as we look at these precious miniature versions of ourselves, how could they not encourage us to see what else we could make given the chance. Melbourne designer, Sophie ascribes the foundations of her fashion label Whitefilly to her son, Kai. Making him and then making things to dress him in as he grew saw her passion for creating grow in tandem as both her child and clothing line flourished.
Growing both her family, with a second little one due in three weeks, and her business, Sophie’s life has been entrenched within the creative industry for seemingly ever. Starting out as PA to a fashion photographer, the designer admits at first glance she wasn’t certain she’d found her groove. “The industry itself didn’t appeal to me at first,” she says. “But I loved the freedom of creativity used for each campaign. I started sewing a lot and then applied for a Fashion Short Course in London.” While her sartorial studies may have been abandoned for the lure of travel, Sophie’s passion for style had been ignited and she came home to pursue it.
From Visual Merchandising to Styling and finally Fashion Design, Sophie wove the creative threads of her experience into something simply beautiful. Applying the lessons learned from her fashion education and the hands-on instruction of her talented seamstress mother, Sophie’s form and flair evolved. There is such elegance and grace to Sophie’s Whitefilly clothing collection, perfectly reflecting the magnificent creatures that inspired the company moniker. Referencing childhood memories of family holidays in the country, Sophie recalls, “We would all make wishes on white horses.” So the name Whitefilly was born and the designer’s wish fulfilled.
“I am always inspired by designers who focus on fine details; luxurious fabrics and unique design and prints,” says Sophie, whose own line undoubtedly is a culmination of those factors. Working from a muted palette of black, grey and white, clean lines and the softest fabrics imaginable, Sophie explains how her line comes into being, “I basically start with pen on paper, trying to make the pattern in my head come to life,” she says. “I then just experiment with fabrics, and use trial and error until I come up with a design and fit that is unique and practical for the kids.” With so many options of materials to choose from, there is a reason Whitefilly designs tick both the comfort and quality box. “I can’t go past good quality jersey for kids,” says Sophie. The Australian-made jersey fabric is what guarantees that every item toting a Whitefilly label is designed to go the distance. “That beautiful quality is important in the life span of any garment for kids!” says their maker.
Whitefilly is home to soft linen playsuits – the designer’s personal favourite “I don’t think photos do this piece justice” – THOSE filly dresses, luxuriant chunky snoods and black and linen harems to name but a few of the beautiful garments in the collection. “My main inspiration for the Filly dress was to design a garment that is simple, easy to wear but also unique and stylish with a point of difference,” says Sophie. “I love that people have embraced it as a statement garment in their kids’ wardrobes. It can not only be worn as a dress but as they grow it becomes a gorgeous top.”
Like many women, who must balance the role of mother on one hip and the business roster on the other, Sophie asserts it is a struggle that she certainly is unlikely to resolve. However, what the two share in common, is their ability to reveal our strengths, weaknesses and potential. “It’s a long hard road but the small successes are like no other,” says Sophie. “I have learnt a lot about how I work (both good and bad) and am constantly trying to better myself, and my abilities in all aspects of the business.”
I asked Sophie what her favourite imaginary game was growing up, to which she answered, “I used to make up and narrate plays and bribe my sister to be involved by letting her wear my party shoes.” In creating and owning Whitefilly, she has to my mind recreated this essence of her formative years in telling wonderful stories through the clothing she makes, and setting a trend agenda that requires no need of a bribe to take part in.