Although she’s just graduated, Sophia Mingoia is definitely a one to watch. Her career in fashion has barely started, if we can even say so, taking into account that she’s started an MA at Central Saint Martins this month, but the future ahead looks exciting. Her first collection is fresh, surprising and is based on a Jacques Derrida paper and on Man Ray’s works – something conceptual, deep but playful at the same time. If it wasn’t clear enough after seeing a lampshade used as a headpiece, you’ll discover it when reading this interview. 
Breaking the ice, where are you from and how did you start your career in fashion?
I grew up in Surrey – just outside London – and from a young age had a creative background by studying both art and fashion. My father is Sicilian and I would say this fact sparked my admiration for high couture and traditional tailoring. Whist at school I secured a work placement at Huntsman Savile Row and this cemented my desire to follow a career in fashion.
We have seen that you’ve worked for big names in the industry, such as Marc Jacobs and Christopher Raeburn. How did you get there? And what are the most important things you’ve learnt by working there?
Yes, I have been privileged to work for a diverse range of designers from which I have acquired invaluable technical training and, most importantly, learnt about the day-to-day running of a business, which has allowed me to understand the pitfalls that face new designers. Technically I learnt to pay close attention to the refinement, intricate techniques and craftsmanship of classic tailoring, which has influenced my own work greatly. Working for Marc Jacobs and moving to New York was an amazing experience that opened my eyes to a totally different and alternative approach to the fashion industry.
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You are very young but you’re already surrounded by really good professionals. How does it feel to be in your situation?
I’m really grateful to be in this position. I’m doing something I love whilst surrounded by very supportive friends and industry people. Matthew Harding and Levi Palmer of Palmer//Harding have been a huge support, helping me to understand what it takes to succeed as a fashion brand. Their mentoring while working for them was invaluable and they continue to offer advice when I need it.
You’ve studied in Brighton, not the typical fashion capital. How has this experience influenced your work? Now that you’re graduated, if you look back, how would you describe your overall experience?
Brighton may not be the typical fashion capital but it is a rich and unrestricted community for creatives. This exposure to other creative disciplines, people, and talents has allowed me to evolve as a designer and hone my own individual style.
Even though you’ve worked for other fashion houses, as we’ve seen, it’s very brave that you’ve launched your label after graduating. Why have you started it, and how’s it being so far?
My label is very much in its infancy and happened quite naturally. Seeing first hand how successful brands have grown has definitely motivated me not to hold back setting up my own label. Once I graduated, stylists began contacting me requesting my BA collection for shoots, which was very flattering – and I have just run with it, as this has led to requests for commissioned pieces. Having studied business within my degree, I am conscious that it will take time to establish, and I am quite happy taking it step by step, working on my next collection – entitled Traces – and on some private commissions, and just seeing what happens next.
You’ve presented your first collection as part of the Graduate Fashion Week this year. Although it was for students, the merit of putting together a show is there. How did you approach the challenge of creating your first ‘professional’ runway show? What steps did you follow?
It was a great experience putting on the show and great to finally see all the hard work of myself and other students come together! Seeing the collection go down the runway made the weeks of no sleep and tears worth it. There were the challenges of deciding the best running order, choosing the music, the models that suited the looks best, etc., but as a whole the show ran very smoothly and was a very proud moment for me.
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This collection is entitled Différance. Where does this name come from, and what’s the message behind it?
Différance references the paper by philosopher Jacques Derrida, who sought to deconstruct language, and also a series of obscure images by the surrealist artist Man Ray. I love the idea that what one would normally use for one thing has infinite possibilities waiting to be explored, so I really considered the use of everything within this collection. I experimented with objects you possibly wouldn’t associate with fashion, and sourced domestic metal functional products, giving a new value to broadly overlooked gadgets like springs, rings, coils and spiral binders. The structure and simplicity that we find in the design of these objects show how they fulfil their purpose effortlessly. I wanted to give a new and superior value to these familiar parts and re-contextualise them within a garment, finding the extraordinary within the humble everyday.
There’s a curious element in the accessories: some of the headpieces and the handbags are – or at least look like – lamps. Could you tell us more about this?
They are indeed based on lamps! The idea actually came from a photograph I took in a vintage shop where a lampshade was resting on a mannequin. I re-utilised second hand lampshade frames and then hand pleated silk onto them. A lot of my research was looking at the work of Man Ray, and I wanted there to be an element of intrigue or questioning to the collection, much like the surrealist’s work. The final headpiece stands out, to say the least, and was one of my favourite pieces in the collection.
Going deeper in today’s fashion industry, what are your thoughts about how people see fashion nowadays? And in what ways do you want to contribute to the current state of the industry?
I can’t speak for everyone about how they see fashion, but I believe in keeping a certain craft and quality to it, something long term. I am not a fan of fast fashion and I try to consider the future of the garment when designing.
What’s next for you? You’ve just started, so you still have a vast amount of possibilities and options to choose from. What would you really like to do now?
Well, I start studying my Masters degree in Womenswear at Central Saint Martins this month, so more studying! It’s a very exciting opportunity and it will be great to have the time and freedom to fully focus on designing and further challenge myself as a designer. I will continue with my label and I hope that in two years time I will be ready to take on the challenge of expanding.
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