Sophie Wilkinson-Cooper is a recent graduate from Sheffield Hallam University with a BA Honours in Fashion Design. Sophie's use of key elements from football hooliganism, Grimsby’s fishermen and the northern chav sub-culture combined with her incorporation of sustainable fabrics have made her a stand out designer. Sophie was recently featured in the October issue of the Harper’s Bazaar and finding out more of her recent collection. Find out for yourself below!
Your graduate collection was based on your life story; what was your favourite part about revisiting Grimsby and seeing your childhood?
My favourite part about revisiting Grimsby was learning more about the town’s history and the communities that live there. I moved away from Grimsby at the age of 6 due to my Dad’s job at the time to live in Brussels and then Paris. I was intrigued about relearning the different areas and cultures such as: the football community, the fishing industry and chav subculture. I found myself reconnecting with some of the history in particular the fishing industry. My family has connections to the fishing industry as my grandmother used to work in the fish factories so it was important for me to link this into my collection. I felt a connection between myself and the community of Grimsby as I discovered the ‘Lost Fishermen’s Memorial’. This service pays tribute to the trawler men who sailed from Grimsby and never returned. Grimsby used to be one of the largest fishing ports in the world in the 1950’s where the world relied on the resources Grimsby had. I feel as if my view has developed from when I was younger as I had vivid memories of the town. This project has made me realise the importance of the town’s history and has made me value my routes to feel a sense of belonging to a community I’ve been yearning for!
Which piece from your collection reminds you the most of home?
Each garment in my collection reminds of a time, a place, a memory or feeling I had when I used to be home. I started looking through old photographs of my childhood when I was living in the U.K and also when I used to come back yearly. It was interesting to see how the town had changed over time when I was not there. The knitwear was actually the starting point of my collection where I had found an old photo of a football match I had gone to with my dad and his brothers to watch Grimsby Town play at Wembley. I was about 8 or 9 years old at the time and had never experienced a football match before this; I remember the atmosphere was electric. In the photograph I found I was wearing a GTFC scarf, t-shirt and hat memorabilia that had the teams logos and graphics on it. I noticed a pattern that had downward arrows on the scarf I was wearing and wanted to feature and reinvent this into my own knitwear called the ‘Grimbarian Knit’. The Knitwear is created from sustainable recycled and merino yarn. The recycled yarn is used in the background of the knit creating a thin striped pattern. Whereas the merino is used on chevron of the scarf which forms a softness in the knitwear.
Each garment in my collection reminds me of a time, a place, a memory or feeling I had when I used to be home
Your collection represents your life and childhood; how do you want others to perceive your collection?
For me my collection is an archive of memories from my childhood that I’ve merged together. Different people perceive my collection in different ways depending on the region they are from. People have asked me about the collaboration I have done with Youngs seafood and have found it an interesting concept of the reasons why I wanted to collaborate with them. There’s a long history connection of the town and the fishing industry. Some people are not aware of the brand Youngs's but I admire the all over clashing print of the logos on the coat and hat. Young’s are a Grimsby based company that distribute frozen fish all over the U.K. I wanted to collaborate with Young’s because of the food industry in the town and connections between Youngs being the current sponsors of the Grimsby Town football club. Young’s have sponsored GTFC for 18 consecutive seasons so I reached out to them about my collection idea and they were happy for me to collaborate using their logo. This was something completely new for me to be able to collaborate with a brand so I felt really honoured to be able to do this in my collection
For me my collection is an archive of memories from my childhood that I’ve merged together.
In your collection, you have garments that has football memorabilia and knitwear while other garments represent Fishermen’s garment such as raincoats and su western hats. Which of the two types of garment did you enjoy designing the most?
I would definitely say the football memorabilia was the most exciting to work on. I had this idea of creating this type of knitwear after looking at an old photograph of myself wearing a GTFC scarf and was interested in developing the print further in my collection. I wanted to incorporate stripes and chevron into my print with stripes being in the background andchevron embossed on top. I reached out to a knitwear brand called Naive Knitwear who specialises in machine knitting and sustainable hand crafted knitting. I had drawn the type of knit digitally as we worked together on this during lockdown and she completely understood my vision so we immediately started sampling ideas in different colour ways. It definitely was a trial and error process to achieve the knit I was going for as we had to think about the size of the pattern and how the garments would be machine knitted in the most effective way. I was really intrigued in the construction of the pattern as the knit was made up of 5 different yarns. Sustainability is something I considered in my collection so I wanted the scarf to be made up of recycled yarn and merino yarn to give it softness, strength and to be conscious with designing sustainably!
Do you often feel nostalgic when you see your designs as you were influenced from your childhood?
In a way I do feel nostalgic looking at my collection because it’s almost as if my memories have been reincarnated into a garment like a souvenir of Grimsby. There’s been so many influences from my childhood looking at old photographs was important for referencing the way I design. I always create collections based off first hand experiences as I feel the most connected this way and is the best way of understanding and creating a unique and personal collection that nobody else has done. Each garment silhouette had been determined from the fishing industry, chav subculture and football history. I was researching the history of the Grimsby Town Football kit to see how the striped shirt had changed since 1878. The football club was first called Grimsby Pelham and had a horizontal blue and white striped kit before it became Grimsby Town in 1879. From 1910 the vertical black and white stripes was introduced into the kit and this style now been developed in the kit for over 100 years. This contrast is the reason behind my knitwear being patterned differently on different garments as the horizontal stripes represent the beginning of the Grimsby football era for the knitted shirt and leg warmers meanwhile vertical pattern in the scarf shows how this style is the present moment.
I always create collections based off first hand experiences as I feel the most connected this way
Discover Sophie Wilkinson-Cooper full collection
Words by Kenah Tosh