Next up in our London based indie-designers we spoke with the charming Sophie Dunster about her label Gung Ho.
Gung Ho incorporate the beautiful and vibrant art of Dunster into print to create truly beautiful garments. The brand is also a strong advocate of sustainability and environmentalism with each collection having a theme. The current focus is on impact that food has on the environment – Food For Thought.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I have a start up that is trying to change the way we connect with our wardrobe. The idea is that fashion shouldn’t only make you look fabulous but should also reflect your beliefs. This way the next time someone compliments you on what you are wearing you can cut the small talk and chat about an issue that means something to you. Each year we pick a different cause and all the prints have hidden messaging in them. For example this season is all about Food For Thought, the impact that food has on the environment. The prints/ issues we are repping is eating seasonally, where you get your protein from if you don’t eat meat, and wonky and wonderful produce. The clothes are produced locally & ethically using sustainable fabrics and we donate 10% of our profits back to a charity that works with the issue you are wearing. An example of one of the garments is our seasonal blouse, which is colour coded. All the produce on the blouse in yellow is what is in season in the UK in spring, orange is summer, pink autumn and red winter.
Have you always been interested in fashion and/or owning a business?
Not at all! I always thought I would be a fine artist as drawing was my strong suit – I sort of fell into fashion after finding out that print design was where I needed to go! For me, it’s important to have a classic timeless cut, but it is all down to the print that makes a garment! Both my parents had their own business and seeing how stressful it was at times really put me off – it was only until I realised I had to start my own as no-one was doing it that I made the leap!
Where did your journey begin?
Right at the start! My father is a zero carbon architect so I was surrounded by these values as long as I can remember. After rebelling (as everyone does) as a teenager, I found myself sharing the same values and wanting to help how I could – which being good at drawing, my first conclusion was to become a political artist! This, in my mind, was what you did if you had things to say through your artwork. Only finding out that I could put my drawings onto fabric during my art foundation did it click that actually, I didn’t want my artwork sitting on a wall where a handful of people see it – I wanted it talked about and shared all the time, and clothing was a great way of doing this.
What is a strong ethos you hold for your business?
That sustainable fashion shouldn’t look sustainable. People shouldn’t have to compromise on aesthetics anymore!
What makes you love what you do?
The power and change that a conversation can bring. It really is the best thing when you hear someone commenting on a piece and someone else talking about what it is all about and the importance behind the cause. Passion is a beautiful thing. Awareness through everyday activism is where it is at!
Do you have a personal life motto?
Wear your heart on your sleeve!
What is your main struggle in being female business owner?
There are many struggles being a business owner, but I don’t think being female has an impact on it!
What was your biggest personal achievement?
I had to have an operation a couple of years ago and did 3 months living on just powder and water (so gross), cutting out any food and drinks. It was totally weird but I was so proud of myself for being able to do it. Food is one of my biggest loves so it was by far the biggest challenge to date!
What is the greatest lesson you have learned from being an entrepreneur/ owning your own business/brand?
Surround yourself with amazing people. They get you through it and remind you why you decided to do it when things get tough – and celebrate when things go well which is just as important!
How do you find inspiration on an average day? Do you have any rituals?
When we pick a cause I get to delve into a new world, learning about incredible projects and people doing exciting things. A lot of the time meeting these people and seeing change is the most inspiring thing for me.
Are you a morning or night person? When do you work best?
100% night owl. I think my best ideas sometimes come around 9pm.
Who has inspired you the most and why?
My sister. 18 months ago she had to have brain surgery and she handled it so well. It came at a really stressful time as I had applied for a loan for Gung Ho’s first big collection but didn’t get it. We had 10 days to shoot and do a film to Kickstart the collection and as a film student she shot it all and edited before going in for the op. I then ran the Kickstarter from hospital looking after her – it was completely insane. We did it, and if we can do that, we can do anything.
Do you have any advice to give to the up and comers or people wanting to do what you do?
The world has so much, so if you want to set up something – make sure it is different and fresh! There will always be reasons not to do it, so jump in and if you really want it, you can make it happen!