Meet the Maker: Sophie Dundas

In this edition of Meet the Maker, we chat to Sophie Dundas, who founded her namesake clothing brand more than 15 years ago. Liz, pictured above in one of Sophie’s dresses, is a big fan of the brand’s designs. Sophie explains the inspiration behind her brand and how her work with the women of Vietnam brought her designs to life.

How did your brand start?

My interest in clothes started a long time ago. Years ago I was involved in modelling, but I also love travelling and seeing all the different fabrics from around the world. Everywhere I go, I’m always looking for something that I can make a t-shirt or a cushion from.

It was while I was in Vietnam that I met three sisters. I was walking down the road and I saw this beautiful shop filled with velvet and we got talking. It all started from there really – the sisters then went on to do the production for my dresses.

We now have 28 local women working for the company in Vietnam. They have sewing machines in their houses and make up the dresses at home. It means it gives them the flexibility to work from home while still being able to look after their children.

I try to get out to Vietnam at least twice a year – obviously I’ve not been able to do that during lockdown. I tie it in with visiting my daughter who lives in Australia. I’ll meet up with the three sisters and we’ll have our version of an office party! We’ll go out and buy street food and their families will all join too. It’s brilliant because often the girls are wearing outfits they’ve made from off-cuts of our dresses!

What makes Sophie Dundas different to other brands?

I pay little attention to seasons and what’s in fashion. The designs all depend on if I can get the material and if the designs work in those materials.

I also have a very close rapport with my clients, which I think makes a big difference. My customers will often call me for advice and ask me what I’ve got available. For instance, if they have an event or a wedding or something, they’ll ring me and I’ll give them advice to help them choose a dress.

In the early days, I did a lot of fairs and shows, and the brand grew from word of mouth. Now we have a website where people can buy online too, and it’s made a big difference.

How do you come up with the designs for your dresses?

I generally have a basic idea of what I’d like a dress to look like and then work with the sisters in Vietnam to bring it to life. Sometimes they’ll recommend a different cut for that certain fabric. It’s a collaboration.

I’m quite tall so I tend to always want long, floaty dresses. The sisters remind me that this isn’t what everyone wants!

Read more from our Meet the Maker series