As our weeks-in-quarantine count hits double digits, once comforting past-times could not seem farther out of reach – football was placed on hold indefinitely, and after endless fashion week cancellations, the industry has inevitably slowed (maybe for the first time ever). While living without either is by no means ideal, lockdown might be the perfect time to reflect on how these organisations can do better. Menswear designer, Sophie Hird, has been doing so for a while now.
The northern designer, who began up-cycling old football jerseys for her London College of Fashion graduate collection in 2019, is all about pushing the boundaries of traditional sportswear. Her designs are rooted in delicious juxtaposition – fighting football’s historically stereotypical toxic masculinity with flamboyantly camp 17th century inspired looks, and resisting the waste of mass-produced fashion through made-to-order pieces and completely second-hand fabrics.
Since her grad collection took off, Hird’s work has been a favourite for musicians. We dressed Declan Mehrtens of punk band Amyl and The Sniffersin the Bury F.C. Western shirt in our ‘The Rise Together Issue’ #7, and British indie band Sports Team is regularly lensed in the repurposed kits. The sustainable designer also showcased her ornate tops at BRICKS’ London Fashion Week’s Positive Fashion Exhibition and is teaming up with fellow designer, Patrick McDowell, to create a few Liverpool-inspired pieces for his upcoming collection. Perhaps something to get our hands on for the first footie match post-quarantine?
We spoke to Sophie Hird about the story behind her work, clashing with football stereotypes and her hopes for a more sustainable fashion industry.
First, I want to start off by asking how quarantine is going for you? And your work?
Yeah, good! I’ve spent quarantine with my best friend away from my work and it’s been lovely. At the beginning of lockdown I felt really anxious and aggravated with myself for not using all of this free time to make new stuff, but I was so unmotivated, and making clothes was kind of the last thing on my mind to be honest. It’s been nice to have a breather from everything and just go for walks outside and chill out a bit. Now quarantine almost feels like the new normal, so I’m feeling a lot more excited to make again.
Where did the inspiration for your graduate collection come from?
As a kid I was always really obsessed with sportswear. I would only ever wear trackies and my Mam hated it because she was desperate for me to wear dresses. I was really interested in this nostalgic era of 90s sportswear because of the saturated colours and in-your-face sublimation prints, as opposed to sportswear today that is generally a lot more subdued.
During my year in industry I interned at Puma. I started collecting product samples because I didn’t want them to just get binned, so I ended up with absolutely loads of football jerseys. I liked the idea of using football jerseys because I think in some way or another we’ve all grown up around the sport – whether it was getting involved in the World Cup every four years or your uncles watching it in the kitchen at a family do, I think it’s a part of British culture we can all relate to.
I also always found fabric shopping a bit stressful too, so going hunting in charity shops and rummaging around Deptford market for jerseys was much more exciting for me.
Could you tell me a bit about your history with football?
I’ve always enjoyed playing and was in the girls team when I was at school, but after I kind of just lost interest. I used to go to local games with my Dad when I was younger but not really for the sport more to spend time with my Dad. There wasn’t much to do where I grew up, so going to the footie was a good day out.
We love the camp and playful quality to your designs, which is almost the antithesis of stereotypical football culture, as it often can be thought of as exclusive towards queer players. Could you please talk a bit about how your designs deconstruct that stigma in football?
I think that’s what attracted me to exploring the Baroque era. I found these really great illustrated postcards of commedia dell’arte characters flamboyantly posing in their costumes. So many of them were wearing these striped red and white satin outfits and I just couldn’t unsee them as Sunderland F.C. kits. I’m not really sure why football has gained this hyper-masculine stereotype, but when I was researching for the collection I just became a bit obsessed with juxtaposing these clashing personalities.
Your designs appeared in our #7 issue on Declan Mehrtens of Amyl and the Sniffers, and are often spotted on the band Sports Team – is there a reason why you tend to dress musicians as opposed to athletes?
I didn’t expect for musicians to approach me or want to wear the pieces at all really but it makes sense, the garments are very theatrical and make a statement so I think they work well onstage. I’d love to see an athlete wearing them, though, and Mel C!
Your grad collection morphs up-cycled football kits with 17th century baroque references – combining today’s version of sustainability with fashion before mass production even existed. Could you tell us about your relationship with sustainability and mass production?
Yeah, that was the whole idea really. I wanted to play on using a mass-produced fabrication with authentic, time-consuming details and techniques from this era. During my year in industry, I worked at a couple of mass-produced brands and prior to this, I think I was a bit naive how this side of the industry works. I remember feeling a bit queasy over how fast garments were churned out and since then I haven’t really been able to unsee it. I also always found fabric shopping a bit stressful too, so going hunting in charity shops and rummaging around Deptford market for jerseys was much more exciting for me.
It would be great to see a shift in people buying more vintage/second hand, or investing in garments that are maybe more expensive but have more longevity.
Our upcoming issue at BRICKS will celebrate adapting and evolving, especially as Coronavirus is bringing the fashion industry’s problems surrounding sustainability to the surface. How do you hope to see the fashion industry evolve post-pandemic, and how do you fit into this?
I think people are definitely beginning to question the industry a lot more and how we, as consumers, spend. During quarantine a few of my friends who usually binge shop have even said to me things like, ‘Why do I buy so many clothes I don’t need, I’m saving so much money now,’ and things like that. It’s been great to see the introduction of the Positive Fashion Exhibition at London Fashion Week. I think the space is a great platform for up-and-coming designers to show that sustainable design can be fun and interesting. Ultimately I think it’s the demand for clothing that needs to change. It would be great to see a shift in people buying more vintage/second hand, or investing in garments that are maybe more expensive but have more longevity. I make all my garments to order to avoid any excess waste so I’ll be continuing this process post-pandemic.
What can we expect to see next from your future projects?
More sportswear! Different sports and different eras.