The Bit team have always been champions of young up and coming British designers, so when we got the chance to meet up with Sophie Leonard, a young designer and founder of ‘Sophie Leonard Country Clothing’ we jumped at the chance. Sophie’s designs are unique and modern, suitable for riding in whilst still looking the part. We picked Sophie’s brains about her new business, how she got to where she is today and her plans for the future.
Take it away Sophie…
“I have always known that I wanted to go into some form of design work from school. Fashion was always the main subject I was interested in, but I wanted to explore other areas of design before I specialized, so I undertook an Art Foundation course before applying for my degree. It was here, after experimenting within the different design fields that confirmed my interest with fashion design.” Says Sophie.
Alongside her love for fashion, Sophie has a keen interest in horses and love for riding and like many of readers and followers spends much of her spare time on the yard and in the stables and wanted to find a way to combine the two things she was most passionate about.
“I like many other horse riders have a busy life and so have to find a balance. I find that I am constantly swapping between different clothes and so thought that it would be great to design some clothing that is suitable for all occasions. All the clothes in the collection are very modern with a slight quirky edge to them and would not look out of place during general day to day life. However they are all made from sports fabrics and so have great durability as well as high stretch and wicking qualities. There are very subtle grips on all of the breeches and leggings, which can hardly be seen, yet provide a non slip quality to the garments. At the end of the day why should we have to sacrifice style for practicality?”
Sophie also works for a tailor so spends all day every day sewing and making alterations, but it wasn’t until she went to University that she really developed her sewing skills.
“I could sew a little before I went to Uni but learnt most of my skills on my course. Being in the job I am in now I am putting the skills which I learnt into practice and constantly perfecting them each day. I have recently been making a range of tweed jackets which are all made to measure and hand sewn by myself, however the riding wear which I am stocking is being made by a specialist sportswear factory in the UK. Everything I am selling has been designed and made in the UK.”
When we look at Sophie’s inspiration, it becomes clear that she is her own target market – the young, fashionable equestrienne.
“It’s great that I am a rider myself as it means I can test clothing from other companies first hand and see what does and doesn’t work. I also like to keep up to date on the latest trends and catwalk shows and so style wise I am designing no different to the fashion shops and the clothing in my collection will reflect on what is available to buy on the high street.”
Given that Sophie target knows her target market inside out, she is her passion and lives and breathes the world that she is designing for, she’s gathered the indepth knowledge about what key things and concepts that need to be considered when designing for the equestrian market
“When designing I try to get a balance between something which stands out and something that is very wearable. As much as people don’t want to look the same as everybody else and like finding individual items to suit them, if you design something completely garish then you are unlikely to appeal to many people’s tastes. The beauty of all the clothing in my collection is that it’s all very versatile and so can be mixed and matched to create an array of different outfits depending on your personal style.”
We asked Sophie what she saw as the future for Sophie Leonard Country Designs, as a company and brand still in its early stages?
“I would love to get rider sponsorship as so many young people look up to their idols. Somebody like Charlotte Dujardin would be a fantastic rider to sponsor as I think she has a great attitude to all of her followers and fans, she has had a mind blowing career so far and brings a young fresh outlook into the equestrian world – which is similar to what we are trying to do with equestrian fashion.”
The collection will be going on sale very shortly via Sophie’s website as well as at some country shows across the country. Sophie is also very excited to have a stand at The Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead this year. “we will be on the dressage side so would love for anybody there to come and say hello and get to know some of our products.”
We leave you with one piece of advice from Sophie for those looking to launch their own business in the equestrian world:
“I think that it is a great industry to get involved in – vast quantities of people ride especially in this country and so there is lots of scope for starting up equine specific businesses. Like anything though I just think you really need to know the market that you are going into so that you know the best direction to head in.”