Fashion designer Sophie Spratley goes by the artistic name Rabbit in the fashion world, the alias “comes from this experience of heightened senses, feeling anxious as well as a deep calm and trust around my friends”, she explains. The launch of her first collection In Your Dreams depicts just that –her limitless imagination, her attention for detail and a series of references that are harmoniously mixed in each garment.
This Summer she graduated from Kingston School of Art, but it was only in 2016, when she first saw Molly Goddard's work, that she felt no longer like an outsider in the exclusive fashion world. The young designer takes a different approach when it comes to transforming an idea or a concept into the final garment: she designs it, and subsequently hand crafts everything. From mystical films, witchcraft, and bats, to the poem Goblin Market, Rabbit could find inspiration in practically anything that calls to her attention. And she does it to make a statement. As Rabbit explains, “everything you do is a political statement,” thus this collection reminds us to “support mental health, work with queer people of colour, protect the environment and protect friendships”. We are so inspired, and this collection is truly a dream.
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Let’s introduce you to our readers. Who is Sophie Spratley and how was your artistic persona Rabbit born?
I am very imaginative and as I get older I’m realising the way I experience the world may be different to others. When I walk down the street I can’t help but notice all the tiny details of plants growing in the pavement, I need to stop to smell lavender whenever I get the chance, the sounds of cars honking unexpectedly can genuinely scare me. This is who I am, and enables me to create what I do - because this heightened experience of the world I feel is recreated in the fantasy realm of my art.
What was your earliest encounter with fashion as an art form? When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
I only really accepted that I wanted to be a designer when I was around 18 years old – even though Art had always been a huge part of my life, the fashion industry scared me and I didn’t see a place for the slightly awkward unusual person I am. I thought fashion was mainly about being conventionally sexy and I didn’t associate with this when I was young – even if I did design, draw, and create things I didn’t think I was welcome in that world.
Coming across Molly Goddard’s work through Instagram in 2016 felt like a very intense moment of realisation. I just saw it and felt like ‘this is what I was made for, this is what I want to do’. Her work gave me the courage to chase a dream I had been suppressing. I even stopped drawing for a while as a child as I couldn’t express my imagination well enough – which upset me, I’m so glad I got through that and learnt to love my own work.
Congratulations for launching in your dreams, your latest collection inspired by the poem Goblin Market which mixes an urge to offer a mystical healing escape, witchcraft and the histories of fairies. Tell us about your creative process when it came to this collection, I see there are several references that you assemble harmoniously. How did it all start?
It would be hard to say the precise start as I really gather research from everywhere. I research in books, galleries, when I can, and online all the time throughout the development of a collection. I also get inspired organically from TV shows I’m watching, seeing memes and going on walks.
Thinking back to August 2020 time – during lockdown – which was when I was really starting to think about the collection; I was living at home and often helping my Mum on the allotment, where she grows a lot of vegetables. This idea of gaining growth and strength from the earth really resonated with me. The hearts you see in a lot of the designs – knitted into the jumpers and hand printed on the skirts - are from beetroots that I distorted into hearts in my illustrative prints. I chose this shape to better express the emotion. I was also reading The Dangerous History of Fairies, amongst many other books I read for my dissertation. In the book someone’s experience with a fairy is explains that they (the fairy) felt like a thin cloth fabric, like muslin. So, muslin naturally features in my work.
I have a real fascination with bats too. I was lucky enough to see some huge fruit bats in India and chased that high on a bat walk in the local countryside. I find bats to be incredibly misunderstood creatures that people fear for absolutely no reason – they are endangered, beautiful, mystical and I really think they’ve had a bad time. I wanted to repaint them as companions guiding you gently through the night.
I hope that starts to explain some of my work but I could go on all day explaining as there are lots of different parts.
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Crafting techniques and sustainability are at the core of your designs, what would you say is the biggest challenge when producing sustainably? What are the main materials and techniques of In Your Dreams?
My pieces are available on a made to order basis now – which means the process from purchase is slower but means there is no waste. Bearing in mind a lot of companies burn unsold stock, doing pre-order instead is a good decision for the planet. I use a lot of deadstock materials but my focus was using natural fibers so there will be no micro-plastics released in washing.
For the knits the collection features a huge range of textures coming from lots of different yarns – whether it’s hand dyed, British, from a small independent shop or even from a flock that’s owned by my Mum’s friend - where each wool or material has its own backstory. Sustainability can’t really be defined by a blanket term like ‘organic cotton’, I work sustainably from many different angles.
The sustainable techniques I use include hand screen printing the deadstock or natural fiber material instead of using a digital printers which don’t always offer natural fibers and certainly don’t print on deadstock. Also, the way I knit means all the pieces of the garment are hand shaped so there is no cutting and sewing which means no yarn going in the bin.
I have also been keeping fabric scraps for my rabbits’ bedding and for him to enjoy as toys. He really likes it.
Sustainability is also a mindset – the pieces I make aren’t throw away, they are things that I hope will stay with people forever then be given to their children or friends’ children.
Let’s talk about your aesthetics, I’m especially curious about the cottage core aesthetic and its origins? What other styles or references are present in this collection?
I feel like cottage core probably has some problematic associations with docile, cis, straight women who just want to bow down and do everything for their male partner. BUT there is also a beautiful queer cottage core space, which is where I want my work to exist in. Fairies particularly in Victorian paintings were used to express and fulfil desires people weren’t allowed to act out in the real world. So, I think this folkloric world belongs to the queer folk.
Other references from other style tribes are Jonny Rotten’s mohair stripy jumpers – also worn by the rat in Fantastic Mr Fox. The idea of borrowing a jumper from a sexy punk partner was echoing in my mind [when designing] – obviously the jumpers have changed a lot from the original reference but I would love to see my jumpers worn by someone masc. The cropped jumper would look like something similar to the way Ewan McGregor wears a crop top in Trainspotting, but obviously it would be much more extreme since my crop is so tiny.
You have collaborated with Rosie Evans and Miss Crofton, as well as interning at Simone Rocha, Shrimps and Clio Peppiatt. What is your dream collaboration or event participation? Where would you like your designs to reach?
That is such a magical question. It would be a dream to have my work recognised by one of the big players like Gucci, but as designers go Molly Goddard is obviously my icon so working with her would be a dream. If I’m thinking beyond designers, I could really see myself working in film – on costumes for Wes Anderson or Sofia Coppola. The Virgin Suicides was a big reference for me.
I want my designs to reach, and be seen by, the people who need to see them. In the same way that I connected with that Molly Goddard dress, I would love someone who isn’t yet sure of themselves to see my work and feel that they aren’t alone, for them to feel connected to someone and know others see the world the way they see it. Creating a community around my work, which offers a healing escape is very important to me.
Of course dressing musicians or celebrities I feel align with my brand would be fantastic as well, I would love to have my work on a stage – if Glastonbury was going ahead I couldn’t imagine anything better. The way Gucci often dresses Florence (and the Machine) brought tears to my eyes when I saw her perform in Hyde Park. I have named a jumper after one of her songs as well - Rabbit Heart.
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I am aware that film is a great source of inspiration for your designs, could you tell us more about the movie(s) that inspire your creativity, especially when conceiving in your dreams? What is your favourite genre or film movement?
I guess I gravitate towards coming of age, fantasy, or children’s movies quite a lot, but I also add a very small dose of artistic horror –The Love Witch and Alice by Jan Švankmajer being two of my favourite movies. I often watch movies based on the costumes as I know I will be inspired by them. Films and series like Madeline or something as accessible as Upstart Crow (a comedy series about Shakespeare) can get the creative juices flowing for me. I won’t force myself to watch something I don’t enjoy, so I do prefer something quite light hearted or that I already know at the moment; since the stress of covid and the Climate Crisis right now.
To what extent is fashion also a political statement? Is In your dreams questioning society and its norms?
Sadly, everything you do is a political statement. You cannot escape it. I try not to think too much about the norms that try to hold us back but instead present the truth of how I feel our society should be. My statements are: support mental health, work with queer people of colour, protect the environment and protect friendships. It’s not just about the collection showing a more diverse and true representation of my friends – including models with disabilities is a bare minimum, it’s also who you’re working with behind the scenes. I was lucky to work with other people with feminine energies who, like me, I’m sure would define as outsiders. Working on embroidery collaborations with illustrator Esme Maddox and queer artist Georgia Rose Weaver Mathiason also formed part of this political statement of female power, strength and togetherness. Uplifting one another despite incorrect stereotypes of ‘bitchy’ femininity.
Looking into de future, what is Rabbit Baby’s next move? Could you tell us a bit about your plans or future projects?
I don’t want to reveal too much right now but I am speaking to stockists, working on some custom pieces and the future feels very warm and exciting. I am also starting to think about the next collection and starting up research. Of course, I keep my Instagram account,, updated with my movements, releases, news and the process behind my current collection.
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