May 31, 2018
Sophie Dunster is a woman who lives boldly. She is persistently curious, intrepid, passionate, and a creative life force to be reckoned with.
Sophie is the founder (and maker and designer and accountant and director and researcher and everything else) behind Gung Ho: a Nine Elms based ethical brand on a mission to make fashion more purposeful.
Take the previous Autumn/Winter collection for example.
It’s designed in Sophie’s studio (a converted shipping container) but handmade using sustainable fabrics in a small studio in Stratford.
But beyond the eye-catching prints and patterns, the designs have a hidden message behind them. The stunning illustrations are based on the importance of bees to our environment and their alarming decline in recent years. So the pattern features bees and the flowers and gardening tools that best support bee populations.
Another print is all about the endangered stag beetle: cultivating the different fauna and flora that help maintain a good wild habitat for them.
It’s clothing with a cause but with beauty and practicality as its cornerstone.
“I don’t like the name ‘ethical fashion’ because in people’s minds it means hemp and boring colours and plain,” reveals Sophie. Gung Ho is anything but dull; it’s vibrant and stylish and relies on the beauty of the garments to spread the word.
Currently, Gung Ho is exploring the importance of insects and the harmful effects that pesticides have. Each garment comes with its own mini zine explaining key facts about the issue and with each purchase, a small donation is made to a charity that works with endangered British insects.
How does Sophie steer this process? She begins with a particular issue and researches it incessantly. Reams of articles and studies and surveys then get distilled into a 6-page mini zine and form the inspiration behind the pattern.
Sophie’s curation draws inspiration from her own upbringing, the daughter of a zero carbon architect who lives on a sustainable boat along Nine Elms. The spirit of tending to our environment exists through raw enthusiasm and energy (hence the name Gung Ho). The next issue on the horizon: Plastic pollution and the impact it has on the Oceans (and rivers).
Since 90% of plastic in our oceans comes from rivers, Sophie is looking to organise monthly cleanups of the Thames around Waterloo. That way, she’s reclaiming the river and extending the ethos of Gung Ho beyond the clothing. “I’m open to collaborations of any kind, not just fashion,” she beams. Sophie’s designs have appeared on upholstery, chairs, cushions and the variety of collaborations keeps growing.
Woven into the purpose of Gung Ho is that conversations about clothing can be more meaningful and impactful rather than the superficial speak of ‘Where did you get that piece from? How much was it?’. Instead, Sophie contends, “People are more than pretty patterns and nice faces. It says what you like, who you are and what you stand for.” Wearing Gung Ho will spark a deeper engagement with the issues and spread the messages fashionably.
One day, Sophie hopes Gung Ho will become a movement with its own community space: half studio, half engagement space and cafe for events. To explore the beautiful designs and stories behind the garments, visit: http://www.gung-ho-design.com/