Sophia Barrell grew up in Auckland and was heavily involved with sports her whole life. Even though she focused a lot of her high school life on rowing and athletics, she found happiness around horses and fashion.
When Barrell was younger, she always wanted to pick her own outfits to wear. She loved fashion and wanted to do something creative. After dipping her toes in architecture, she realised it was not something she wanted to pursue, so getting into fashion was an easy choice due to her passion for it from a young age.
Barrell’s graduate collection is called Rubberneck and is based on the power to make someone look twice. Rubberneck was inspired by creating tension between two different elements of horsepower: a Thoroughbred and a Dodge Challenger.
Each look was curated with sustainability in mind. Upcycling was a huge part of her process.
“With the current situations of COVID-19 and the limited availability of resources, I wanted to use what I had in front of me. With a mixture of what I had at home already, second-hand clothing at the op shops and using deadstock material, each look was constructed from these sources.”
As Barrell was creating tensions between the two elements, she was after garments that were specific to what that person would be wearing when racing/riding the Thoroughbred or driving the Dodge Challenger down a drag strip.
When it comes to inspiration in general, Barrell is her own muse. She designs clothing that she would wear herself. Music also has a huge influence on her work, artists like Billie Eilish, Tyler the Creator and Sabrina Claudio are three artists who are on their own planet with a strong grasp of their own aesthetic, and that to Barrell is inspirational.
The biggest challenge in the fashion industry right now for Barrell would be the current global pandemic.
With restrictions, lockdowns, and limited resources being available, it is made Barrell think in new ways - moving towards a direction where fashion was not pre-COVID. It will be a big challenge because we are heading in a path that is unknown, whether fast fashion will fall, and sustainability rises, we can never be sure. Small businesses might be given a bigger platform as the big retailers get shifted aside by the consumer.
“The priorities of the consumer and the businesses have shifted, hopefully for the better.”
Once the pandemic is over, Barrell hopes to travel to Europe to experience the fashion world overseas.
“I think travelling overseas to go see the fashion world will be completely different from what it was before.”