2020 Graduate Fashion Awards: The Winner Interviews


In a series of interviews, our reporter Sennen Prickett interviews the young winners from around the country, who are tipped for future success in the industry

Winning one award is brilliant, but two would be a shock for anyone. Sophie Parnaby, a Fashion Design graduate from Manchester Metropolitan University, let Birmingham Eastside in on how feels and her journey to the win.

The 23-year- old and from Ilkley near Leeds was stunned as she took home the gongs: The Fashion Innovation Award and The Considered Fashion Award.

‘It’s incredible to have won the awards – it feels rewarding to get recognition for the commitment I had to my work even though the current situation prevented me from creating my final collection.’

Rooftop shoot showcasing Sophie’s graduate designs – @sophieparnaby on Instagram

Recognising the importance of sustainable fashion through her university studies and placement year, Parnaby invested much of her time into what she called ‘the unexplored potential’ of 3D printing.

She identified environmental benefits to the use of technology within fashion design. Her sustainability studies have led to her establishing her own brand, including making 3D embellished garments, but she admits it’s tough to narrow down a favourite specialism.

However, the aspiring designer discovered her love for creating sustainable 3D digital designs during a year-long placement with top Welsh designer, Julien Macdonald, where she worked on embroidery design.

Sophie said, ‘It’s really intricate and technical at times, but it’s also the super creative part where you really start to see a design coming to life,’ said Sophie.

This pioneering way of creating embellishments inspired her collection ‘Future Mythologies’, which explores ‘a time where wildlife and species could be forced to evolve under new atmospheric conditions caused by climate change and pollution.’

Studying during lockdown

Sophie was among thousands of final year students around the UK who were given the challenge of completing their degree during a global pandemic lockdown.

‘It was quite a challenge, studying a practical degree where you would usually be in the studio Monday to Friday.’

She admits it was a very tricky time for her and her classmates, saying ‘The goalposts had moved because of the pandemic, which made it hard for a lot of graduates to even visualise the near future and its possibilities’.’

The Icarus dress – Sophie Parnaby Studio (@sophieparnaby)

Basing a lot of her studies on developing more sustainable manufacturing methods in fashion, Sophie felt strongly about how she could personally contribute towards positive change in the industry.

‘For years fashion has been heading in the wrong direction, each season is becoming more and more intense, there’s more demand for shows and faster fashion, which is causing waste.’

The Manchester Metropolitan University graduate said throughout her studies, she notices an inspiring shift towards slower fashion, which is more considered, better quality and sustainable.

‘Trialling my collection’s designs with restricted materials made me more resourceful and creative as a result’, the former student added.

Initial fashion illustration sketched by hand and digitally – @sophieparnaby on Instagram

The road ahead

In terms of what next, Sophie is looking to work for a socially responsible companies where she can make a positive impact as a design.

She’s also working hard developing her own brand and completing her graduate collection: ‘It will be so satisfying to see the collection finally complete. I’m also planning on branching out into accessories and more wearable pieces which I can create bespoke for clients. It’s important to make sustainable fashion more affordable and accessible.’

Aside from her creative designing, Sophie enjoys running and outdoor activities with her dog Ruby. She stresses: ‘hobbies like these are more important than ever during the pandemic, it really helps to get the right balance.’


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