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Interview: Story Telling and Disheveled Rock Princesses with rabbit’s Sophie Spratley

In July 2021 Sophie Spratley graduated from Kingston School of Art with collection ‘In Your Dreams’. Right around the time she adopted Nettle, a little black pet rabbit, who currently roams free in her home in Bristol acting as both muse and source of comfort. A month or so after graduating, Sophie had her first order through Instagram. From networking in person and online she found herself at a party in one of the most iconic fashion stores in the world – Dover Street Market, subsequently they launched her brand in July 2022. Sophie’s alias and brand name, rabbit comes from an affiliation and almost spiritual connection to the farm animal and it’s inquisitiveness, heightened senses and perseverance.

 

Photo by Lluna Falgas

 

rabbit has since produced collections for SS23 The Adventure, AW23 Battle and most recently SS24 Lovesick. These have been stocked internationally in some of the most prestigious stores. This year with the support of interns, friends, family and her showroom Awaykin, rabbit has orders from more international stores, dressed one of the hottest bands right now, The Last Dinner Party and has recently been featured in Vogue. We spoke to Sophie ahead of her rabbit party at Strange Brew in Bristol (30th November) where she’ll be kitting out the live acts, Avice Caro, Pem, Mary in the Junkyard and Baby Vanga. rabbit party 1 will also be an exclusive opportunity to get your hands on our very limited edition rabbit x So Young collaboration t-shirt.

The T-Shirt goes live on the So Young shop the day after the event (Friday 1st December).


Photo by Lluna Falgas

 

Can you explain a little about the narrative and story telling in your work?

The story telling aspect is important to me. I love the idea that I create mythical stories with symbolic animals, plants, and sometimes vegetables to explain something that is happening in my life. Family who needed my support, who supported me, immortalising a night out and people I loved, are all represented in different ways. These are created in reference to film and literature as well. The most recent collection ‘Lovesick’ I focused on a quote from Midsummer Night’s Dream.

‘Before milk white, now purple with love’s wound. Maidens call it love in idleness.’

The quote is about how a white pansy flower is filled with a love potion. ‘Love in idleness’ is the folk name for pansies. This plant is what the naughty pixie Puck uses to cause the wrong people to fall in love in the play. I loved this idea visually as well as feeling it is an accurate explanation to how some love can feel. The flower being bruised purple is illustrated on a bodice as well as pansies featuring throughout the collection. You will see little innocent milk bottles knitted in intarsia stripes along a miniskirt too.

What is your creative process like? From concept to reality…

I like to start by mind mapping about how I am feeling and what visually can explain that. My fashion designing really feels like art because it all must have a meaning that is related to real life. I do also go to vintage stores or markets to source fabrics, buttons, and lace. Pieces I source can take a while to find their place with the handmade ceramic heart shaped buttons I bought three years ago only finding their home in my Lovesick collection that was in Vogue this month.

I go to galleries, gigs, archives, botanical gardens and look through books, memes, and films to then illustrate the natural world that can be hand screen printed onto the fabrics. Then the garment’s shapes are developed from my pattern cutting and sampling referencing films and clothes in my wardrobe. The print and knit patterns are where the most development is happening. Draping is another way of designing I am curious to reconnect with in the coming collection.

Photo by Willow Shields


What’s been the main challenges starting your own brand?

My main challenges are space, money, and time. So everything. I am still working from my small bedroom studio, but dream of moving into a separate studio. I started rabbit by making everything myself down to the printing of the fabric which kept my costs low, but with quantities quickly becoming unmanageable I started production with a small atelier in Somerset.

I often daydream about having a business partner or investor in rabbit and it’s something I would be interested in finding as although I am getting to grips now with my endless spreadsheets and costing; I wish I could spend more of my time designing and creating. I also do all my own PR – reaching out to magazines and of course bands which I adore. Networking and partying seem to go well together but since moving out of London to Bristol I wonder if my brand would grow faster in the capital. Bristol’s slower pace, cool and supportive music scene, and the lovely friends I have made here plus proximity to the ateliers make staying here most appealing for now. However I do wonder how returning to London would affect my brand.

What’s the main inspiration behind your designs?

Every season and piece have a unique story to it but there is a distinct style to rabbit where each garment leads quite seamlessly into the other. The classic empire line dresses are inspired originally from a film, The Virgin Suicides, the off-white floral prom dresses with puffed sleeves and rounded necks proportions were exaggerated into a rabbit staple. Outfits that have a childlike joy of dressing up feeling to them but with a tone of power and darkness is also something I seek to create. Pre-Raphaelite women, sisterhood – whether represented by the friendship in Daisies, a 1960s Czech film, or my own relationships and the meanings of flowers in Flora Symbolica have all been strong inspirations on every collection so far. The anthropomorphic animals from Fantastic Mr Fox and Beatrix Potter are essential reference points too. Adding new tones and focuses keeps the collections fresh but with the same feeling and rabbit stamp.

Photo by Willow Shields



What are some of your earliest memories of fashion growing up, how did that obsession begin?

I was very lucky that my Mum loved making us costumes. So, an early memory includes her making me and my twin Bella squirrel costumes and a cow print hat and matching swing dress. The hat I still wear today. I had a very creative childhood; we drew a lot with our Mum and played crazy imaginative games with our Dad. Memorably him pretending to be a dog with tights on his head. Although this isn’t strictly fashion it gives you an idea of how imagination and clothing were important to us.

Another early memory of fashion was an amazing book called Fairie-aility (which was published in 2002 when I was 5) which was about fairy fashion and clothes. It was filled with photos of incredible dresses made of real pressed flowers. I had the fashion bug from a young age and drew a lot but never really believed that I could ever do it as a career.

When I was doing my A-levels I came across the designer Molly Goddard, this was on Instagram, and that was a game changer in believing there was a space for the world I wanted to create. I loved her street cast models, childlike feminine silhouettes and sweetness that had somewhat of a bizarre macabre undertone. Although my pieces look quite different, and I chose to lean more towards natural fibres of muslin rather than polyester tulle she was my first fashion love. That’s when I gave myself permission to follow my dream.

Where are you looking to take your brand next? How do you want to expand?

I would so love rabbit to explode and one day become a household name like Vivienne Westwood or Alexander McQueen. My main goals when I started rabbit were simply to stock at Dover Street Market, the place that launched by idol Molly Goddard’s career, and to be featured in Vogue. Both dreams have come true so now I feel rabbit is closer to growing into a bigger brand. The way the fashion world works nowadays seems so linked to celebrities wearing your clothes then securing funding awards. Harry Styles launched two big designers right now Harris Reed and then S.S. Daley. I hope I can grow organically with a band such as The Last Dinner Party who I adore. Abi modelled for rabbit just before they blew up in SS23 as well as a couple of months ago for my Lovesick collection SS24. The band continue to wear rabbit for a lot of their shows and we stay in touch. I want to take the brand to international magazines, more stores and more direct clients! Also I really hope to do some collaborations with larger fashion brands.

I love creating all the high fashion catwalk pieces, this is the art that I was originally drawn to, but I am also interested and excited to bring more affordable and wearable pieces to rabbit. My little muslin scarves have that essence of rabbit for every day. There will be some available to buy at the upcoming show and one day I will list them on my website – they always sell out so quickly on my Instagram stories it has been impossible to even list them!

Photo by Lluna Falgas

SS24 lookbook make up by Bea Sloss


Is there a brand in particular you’d like to collaborate with or design for?

There are so many amazing brands I would love to work with, and I have had the pleasure of working with Story MFG whose comfy and planet loving designs plus sustainable credentials are a massive inspiration to me. Our collab comes out in 2024! For future collabs I would be honoured to work with any heritage fashion house in Paris, that would be another dream come true. Dior stands out to me because of the fantasy of it all. There is romance, myths, it is forward thinking yet classic and of course internationally renowned. Working with a house like Dior I would have access to the best craftspeople in the world to bring alive my ideas, a very different world to my bedroom studio. There is a punk attitude to rabbit and Westwood is another brand I adore. Even though my designs are cute, you will find rabbits holding knives in a few of my prints. Vivienne Westwood dressing the Sex Pistols and growing with their rise to fame is why I have made it my mission to dress the bands I love. Anyone who wears a rabbit garment should feel powerful, a kind of dishevelled rock princess, transformed and transported.

Please could you tell us a little about the design you’ve used for our t-shirt collaboration?

I wanted to use this collab to create something that encapsulated rabbit so naturally I have a protagonist girl wearing a full rabbit outfit under moonlight. The illustration has a young woman breastfeeding a rabbit at the centre. This image was inspired by a meme I came across of a girl breastfeeding a lamb. I hadn’t yet explored a rabbit baby image, so the suckling black hare was satisfying to create. I really like the way it brings up lots of different emotions in me. It is at once concerning, beautiful and a little sexy and I’m interested to see what people think. As this is a limited run, I thought I could try something slightly shocking. The little mouse is from Beatrix Potter and features in the Lovesick prints. It simply is just looking up at the world, stepping back and observing what is happening in life. Bats are another animal I adore and were prevalent in my AW23 Battle collection. Bats for me are a symbol of guidance during a dark time. If there is an elderly or unwell bat which cannot leave their home to feed; the community shares their food and makes sure to look after them. They are very caring creatures. Finally, the moon with the sliver of cloud refers to a scene in ‘Un Chien Andalou’ a film written by Dali and Buñuel where it cuts from this image to someone’s eye being sliced with a knife. This is the kind of secret dark references I enjoy having in my work that makes the sweetness feel more grounded in the reality of the bizarre world we live in. Thank you for requesting this collab and I hope a lot of people are as pleased with the design as I am.


You’re embedded within the music scenes we cover at So Young, putting on your own gigs and shows to accompany your collections. How does music influence your work? Why do you pair live music with your clothing launches?

I wanted more people to feel connected with high fashion. It is a world that is so exclusive and I wanted it to be more open. Attending folk, indie and punk gigs and festivals are my favourite ways to reset and feel alive. I had the honour of sitting once front row at a high fashion brand’s show as an intern as someone important didn’t show up and they needed a spot filled! The adrenaline from the loud music stuck with me and I felt how important music was to setting the tone of a show. Live music creates an inclusive environment in a way that fashion has never managed. Anyone can come to a gig. I wanted an environment where everyone can feel comfortable.

Although I adore live music as a celebration and way to share rabbit collections, I spend a lot of my time designing in silence or with forest sounds. I need it to focus and tap into my feelings. I can be inspired by a performer’s dress on and off stage, on album covers or in press shots. I always look to my twin Bella, and friends such as Eadie of K.U.M and Arthur of Spinny Nights for recommendations and to the bands who are around me. One day I love the idea of having a rabbit stage at a music festival organised with the support of these people. Musicians are people I look up to and as performers they are the perfect gateway to give my work the voices and presence they need.

What can we expect from the rabbit party in Bristol at the end of the month?

I am so delighted to be throwing my first rabbit party! I love the catwalk shows, we have so much fun, so continuing to showcase the clothes in the world they belong, uplifting new artists and seeing friends did not need to be restricted to the London Fashion Week timetable or even to bringing out new collections.

You can expect everything you would from a rabbit show but without the catwalk. As we are off season, I want to note rabbit parties are not to be the same as rabbit shows. You will be met with a satin ribbon wrist band as you enter the venue and each entry counts as a free raffle ticket to win one of the sought after vintage printed tees. The venue will be decorated with art, flowers, and ribbons. There will be off- duty models/ friends wearing rabbit throughout the crowd as well as all the performers wearing rabbit while they play. As you enter I am showcasing the animations created by Tildy Mayhew and Summer Morrison from the lovesick catwalk as well as a brand new comissioned animation by Isabella Josephine Leon following these showcases then performances will start.



Avice Caro opens the show with her angelic voice and ethereal folk synth sounds, Avice modelled and performed in AW23 and even has a dress named after her. She is an important rabbit muse! Next we welcome the return of by Pem whose husky indie pop was a favourite from my first catwalk show in 2022. Then newcomer to the rabbit party is Mary in the Junkyard who promises to captivate with chaos rock. I was convinced I had to collaborate with them when I heard the emerging band playing on BBC radio one while I was driving back from a trip away. I’m excited for them to grace the stage. Finally, Baby Vanga whose magnetic psychedelic sound had the crowd of AW23 in bits. I am so delighted to have the return of rabbit favourites to launch my hometown rabbit parties. I do hope that the sell-out night I experienced at the George Tavern in London this September will be echoed in the new larger Strange Brew venue in Bristol. There will also be a stand which I will man through the night where you can purchase the rabbit merch including the limited exclusive So Young collab tee!

See you there and dress up if you dare.

rabbit party 1 takes place at Strange Brew in Bristol on 30th November

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