Founded in 2021, the Sofia Marino brand creates vibrant denim art using sustainable, slow fashion practices. Sofia takes inspiration from her Italian heritage and world travels, and each design aims to add a splash of colour to everyday life. Mixing specialised crafting, machine embroidery and hand beading, Sofia hopes to keep the craft process alive through her beautiful made-to-order denim jackets. Her aim is to bring joy to her customers through colourful and eye-catching designs that offer a vibrant twist on the classic denim jacket.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Textile’s design was always something I loved and somewhat took for granted. Growing up I watched my Italian grandmothers who were very hands on and skilful, make dresses, do alterations, knit baby clothes and of course make home-made pasta; everything was made by hand.
Generally, as a child I was always drawing, and painting and I always liked to use my hands. Throughout my education from GCSE to A levels I enjoyed studying creative arts particularly textiles. I struggled with written subjects including math and English, little did my teachers know at the time that I was severely dyslexic.
However, it was not until I had the privilege of meeting with Dame Zandra Rhodes, who has since become a very dear personal friend and mentor, that my eyes were opened to the world of textiles and fashion. I am now a University of the Arts graduate from the London College of Fashion with a BA in Fashion textiles print design.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
For my first ever textiles exam (GCSE project) I was tasked to create something that represented the punk era in London in the 1970’s. A rather eccentric and expressive time where fashion was the norm. This resulted in the creation of my very first denim jacket which I made and constructed from scratch. The jacket had all the elements of hand beading, applique, and machine embroidery that I include in my designs today.
I wanted to create a garment that tells a story through art, garments that are seasonless and timeless. I wanted to create an item that was very versatile so that it can be worn from day to night and can be dressed up to allow customers to mix styles with something traditional yet unique but also an item that everyone will feel confident and comfortable wearing.
I specifically chose denim as my canvas as virtually everyone across the planet will be familiar with its texture and appeal, however what I really aim to achieve by reimagining the classic denim jacket is for people to enjoy the opportunity to wear a piece of artwork in a classic style that will make them stand out in a crowd and attract positive attention.
How did you achieve awareness?
My main source to achieve brand awareness and allow customers to have access to detailed information about the brand, its ethos and what goes on behind the scenes can be seen through my Instagram and website. I spend a great deal of time planning content, documenting the production process and explaining the steps taken from design development to the final hand beading. The customer can be part of the made to order journey where they can learn and understand the craftsmanship that is involved in making one of my embroidered jackets.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Initially I spent all of my personal savings on laying down the foundations for the business, most of my money was spent on developing my website and purchasing stock. My family has helped me to purchase all of the equipment that I need to produce my jackets including my Tajima embroidery machine who I affectionately call my best friend Taj. Website, Digital Marketing and Public relations are the biggest continuous drain on funds and I am spending a small fortune in this area financed through a commercial relationship with Azzurri Capital Partners who specialise in seed funding and start-up businesses. People think that all you need to start a business is to be on Facebook, Instagram and Google but believe me they burn through cash like a steam train burns through coal. . Thankfully I now have people around me that help me to watch the pennies and what is going on around me on a regular basis.
What are the key successes?
Some of the key successes for my brand since launching, include being featured in Hello magazine, and national newspapers, Metro and Daily Mail online. I also have some exciting collaborations in the pipeline and I am now creating some bespoke denim jacket embroidery designs for major events.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
There are many stereotypical opinions associated with denim. The main challenge I have faced is the idea of “Denim can only be worn in summer” . I aim to show my following and audience how denim is not seasonal, denim jackets can be worn all year round with the correct garments and can also be dressed up and down for every occasion. I have still not overcome this challenge; however, I have illustrated how this idea can be overcome and challenged through a series of professional photoshoots and outfit styling emphasising how my customers can style one of my jackets all year round.
What are your plans now/for the future?
I am looking at a range of complementary accessories like scarves and I am currently developing a new embroidered denim jacket design range for 2022. Beyond that I am not getting over excited as I am still learning a great deal about the industry every day.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
I would say if you have a vision and dream that you should be determined on your end goal and don’t let anyone cloud them along the way. There is no right time to start, you must believe in yourself and find the strength to begin.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
• Have patience and be as productive as you can with your time.
• Talking to people and trying to understand different viewpoints is important.
• Always think about your customers and audience and how you can create a community around your vision or brand.
• Create visual content that explains your work without having to spell it out to the customer, take them on a journey with you through video and photography.
• Spending time developing your website is key, treat your website like you would a physical shop, make it inviting and engaging where customers can see your products but read about your brand story and visions.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
Dame Zandra Rhodes has had a major influence on my journey into the fashion and textile industry. She is my daily dose of inspiration and is a key mentor in my life. She has always encouraged me to persevere even when times are hard.
My parents are a big influence on the work, motivation, and determination that I have. They continue to give me support and guidance when needed.
It is hard to pick individual inspirational people as I am inspired everyday by others around me. I am fascinated with hearing about other entrepreneurs understanding their journey and story of their own personal and commercial success.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
‘To create something exceptional, your mind must be relentlessly focused on the small detail” – Giorgio Amarni
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
Instagram – @sofiamarino_london
Facebook- Sofia Marino London
Website – www.sofiamarino.co.uk
Tiktok – Sofiamarinolondon