Discussing Sustainability with Sophie

Interview: Christina Gomes
Photography: Sarah Roberts

Meet Sophie Panton—the 23-year-old aspiring designer ready to further sustainability in fashion through her original pieces. Craft and creativity collide in her collection of recycled items bringing trendy designs you’ll find her outfitting. Sophie moved to the United States roughly a year ago. Before catching a flight to her current home in NYC, she spent some time exploring the West coast (ask her about her bike ride from LA to San Francisco!). Originally from New Zealand, she studied marketing & psychology at the University of Otago.

Sophie’s love of creating, namely one-of-a-kind clothing, was passed down from generation to generation. Her grandmother taught her everything from how to make pancakes to how to sew. Sophie cultivated this love throughout her life with strong female figures like her grandmother & mother who she frequently drew inspiration from. She recalls making clothes often, including costumes for her and her friends during her high school years. “I love making clothes, and just creating in general.”

Six months after moving to New York, Sophie watched “The True Cost,” a 2015 documentary outlining the effects of the fashion industry on our environment. A redefining moment for her, Sophie embarked on her journey to make fashion more sustainable.

The fashion industry is one of today’s largest pollutants, second only to oil. Your casual Sunday outfit—a simple t-shirt and comfy pair of jeans—requires more than 5,000 gallons of water to produce. Along with the immense amount of water that goes into fabric-farming, the industry’s pollutants include using pesticides, toxic dyes, and waste from discarded clothes. Consumer demand for cheaper clothing also means many big brands rely on globalization (read: tons of fossil fuels used to transport your high-waisted jeans and crop top). Now that the oft-forgotten process which goes into creating and mass-producing our clothing is being brought to the forefront, designers like Stella McCartney, Eileen Fisher, and our very own Sophie Panton are confident we can reduce our carbon footprint by encouraging more companies to practice accountability through sustainability. Sustainable fashion’s goal is to produce environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and ethically conscious products.

Sophie reminds us that regardless of who you are, your actions can contribute to sustainability. To showcase this, her current project involves refurbishing secondhand men’s clothing into women’s fashion tops. Recycling and reusing is one of the easiest ways to partake in this cause. Acknowledging that sustainable fashion usually comes with higher price-tags than their mass-produced counterparts, Sophie suggests taking a few simple steps with the potential to make a huge difference.

  • Shop at thrift stores. If sustainable brands are out of reach for you, buying secondhand is a great alternative to reducing your carbon footprint. Thrift stores offer tons of vintage items, and are a great way to express your unique style! Chances are you’ll be the only one in the office wearing that outfit, and you’ll save that hard-earned cash.  
  • Be creative. We all want to put our best foot forward, and often times that means finding the perfect outfit. Next time you’re trying to wow the crowd, look through your closet and see if there’s something you already own that you can accessorize or flare-up by thinking outside of the box.
  • Be mindful, be picky. When shopping, always think ahead. Ask yourself how much use you will get out of your purchases. Reduce the clutter in your closet and in our landfills by purchasing timeless pieces and clothes you’re likely to incorporate into multiple outfits.
  • Don’t forget to share! Swapping clothes with friends when possible will give you a limitless wardrobe with limited spending. Think of all the bonding coming your way. :)

Sophie hopes to help change the inaccessibility of sustainable fashion by making environmentally friendly and ethically conscious clothing more affordable. She also plans to utilize her marketing background to spread awareness about the fashion industry's growing sustainability so that companies and consumers alike can contribute to the cause.

Join us at this month’s WIP show to see Sophie’s work and learn more about sustainable fashion!