We Interviewed British Designer Sophie Dunster From The Ethical Fashion Brand Gung Ho
Femie Magazine had a chat with the lovely Sophie Dunster who told us about sustainable clothing, her brand, Gung Ho, and the future of the fashion industry!
You are now the ‘brains behind the brand’ but who was Sophie Dunster before Gung Ho?
Haha pretty similar to be honest… My background is that my dad is a low carbon architect
so I was raised on very similar values to what I have now! I always knew I wanted to help
campaign around these issues and raise awareness through my designs - so I just made
the plunge and started up Gung Ho.
Running a business is quite a handful. What is a typical day in your life like?
Totally varied depending on what is going on - and I love that! It can range from designing
to managing the manufacturing of the collections to researching the causes and promoting
what is going on within the issues we are campaigning around. This is actually one of may
favourite parts as I get to meet inspiring people within an industry I haven’t specialised in,
and I get to learn a lot. There are so many inspiring people out there! Campaigning around
food and getting to try inspiring new dishes has been a dream…
Who came up with the brand name ‘Gung Ho’ and where do you find inspiration to always produce new, unique designs?
The concept of Gung Ho and clothing becoming walking talking points has been there right
from the start - my graduate collection was the first proper start and back then I called the
brand ‘Substance’ (as all the prints had the hidden messaging inside them). After leaving I
decided it didn’t quite sound right, or fit the style so I changed it up - avoiding anything that
sounded sustainable and ethical as I aim to target people who aren’t already converted to
the movement. I want people to buy into the brand because they like it, only to find out
about the messaging and cause after. This way we can bring people into the movement in
an enticing, positive way, avoiding any negative and overwhelming information that usually
follows a campaign for these issues. Gung Ho is an old British expression that means raw
enthusiasm, and seeing as we tend to get a lot of people who love life, it felt right.
I choose a different cause each year to campaign around. I have to find an issue that needs attention and that people resonate with. We started with Precious Insects then Plastic Oceans and now Food For Thought. I don’t want Gung Ho to be cornered into being a brand about animals and conservation, everything is connected and it’s great to get people thinking about everyday activism and how they can make a difference with everyday decisions. Once the theme is chosen I have to really research to find the most important issues within it to design around – theme first and then the challenge of illustrating it!
You often ask consumers to use their money as a way of voting their values; what role does transparency play in the fashion industry today?
A huge amount! People need to know what they are buying into. When you purchase
something you support whatever has gone into that garment/ product. If it was made by
someone who got paid peanuts, in a horrible environment and polluted the planet in its
process, by buying that you say you are ok with it - in fact, you say great lets do more of
this. Just because you don’t see the history of a garment doesn’t mean its something to
ignore. I think a lot of people are starting to realise this. If you could see it, it would be a
different story - it would be the opposite way round… I don’t think many people would want
others knowing they support these values.
How long do you think it will take until every single consumer will move towards sustainable fashion?
It’s a tricky one as people don’t want to spend more, but of course sustainable fashion has
to cost more. The more people demand it, the faster things will change and the demand
for sustainable fabrics will bring the price down. I would like to think the next 5 years will
play a huge role in gaining support for the sustainable fashion movement, but maybe it will
be more like 10. Sustainable fashion doesn’t need to be expensive - I shop charity or
vintage (upcycling and making the most of what’s already out there is the best option) but
if you need something new - investing in sustainable brands is the next step.
With ‘Food for Thought’ you say the brand has changed its cause. What led to this change?
Each year we change the issue - so it was a change from campaigning from Plastic Oceans to Food For Thought.
Gung Ho’s all new, colourful designs are primarily inspired by food. But what is one food you really can’t stand?
Hahaha, hmmm sprouts. But I’ve been given them a couple of times in my Oddbox delivery and I am finding new ways of cooking with them that actually aren’t that bad!
Lastly, as a young designer and the founder of a sustainable fashion brand, what are your
hopes for the future of the fashion industry?
I want people to connect with their wardrobe on a whole new level. My dream is that
people will look back and say “why on earth would you want to wear something with so
little meaning, so impersonal”. If fashion is your first impression of someone, your clothing
should really not only make you look fabulous but also say something about you - we are
more than just a pretty face! This places value on garments and with value, you take much
better care of them - enough of this ridiculous wear it once and throw it out.
Article by Daniela Pisciottano
Published by Femie Magazine
Pictures Courtesy of Gung Ho