Interviewer Matisse Chambers
Interviewee Sophie Gepp
UniSA Creative Industries student Sophie Gepp, on how she went from learning to sew with her Nana to working in the studio of Adelaide’s well-known couture fashion houses.
Sophie Gepp grew up watching both her grandparents as sewers. Her Nana was a dressmaker and seamstress, making garments for brides, bridesmaids and pretty much any formal occasion. After spending her years growing up, watching movies and admiring the costume designs (not the story line), Gepp always remembered wanting to make clothes but just not knowing how. It wasn’t until her teens, and much to her Nana’s delight, that she started to make the trek down to her house in Victor Harbour, to start learning. No distance was too far. From there, they started to make pieces together, like pants and simple dresses.
Her Nana went on to make her a dress for every formal occasion she had, like graduations, school formals and birthdays. Gepp, in particular, loved this process and watching her Nana fit her in a dress just like she did at the Myers store for many years.
“Back then, you would literally go to a department store like Myers, pick out a garment and it would be made to fit you, so she used to fit people all the time… I got a first-hand experience multiple times when I watched her fit me—it helped me learn what to say and what to look for.”
Sophie now uses everything she learnt from her Nana when fitting people herself. Through Sophie’s process, she learnt that she doesn’t necessarily find the passion in designing garments but bringing other people’s designs to life and taking inspiration from aspects of garments like a sleeve or a ruffle into her own work. Sewing, embroidery and final touches are particular processes, and practices she enjoys the most. Couture fashion is among her favourite because it involves creating something that contours to someone’s unique body shape and fit.
After a few years of practice and making a few garments of her own (some of them as a result of boredom during isolation), in December 2020, Sophie bravely pitched for some work experience to her dream workplace and one of Adelaide’s most renowned, high fashion, couture brands—all it took was one email and next minute she was walking through the studio doors. She spent a week with the team and on her first day they had a bodice and skirt ready for her to work on and start sewing the side seams together.
“In my head I was like ‘oh my gosh, what is a side seam’ but it was just brain fog because I was so nervous. But I said to myself, ‘calm down, you know what a side seam is.”
A few deep breaths later, Sophie felt right at home in the sewing room with the rest of the team. They led her through the task, step by step, and were only ever a question away.
“They were more than happy to help and were very welcoming—I never felt like I was being pushed out the door.”
After the week was up, she decided this couldn’t be the end and asked if she could continue to come in. A year later, Sophie attends the studio every Tuesday completing little tasks like sewing side seams, covering bust cups, and making buttons on garments that are sold and extending her seamstress skills.
“Working there has definitely helped me in different ways, I pick up on things like being very
meticulous and making sure everything looks perfect… because it has to be.”
When describing her own personal style, Sophie gives recognition to the beachy, boho and comfortable vibe she’s always been drawn to but doesn’t like to be exclusive to it.
“Like Zendaya, for example, has mentioned in the past, I don’t want to tie myself down to one style or be restricted by clothes because they don’t fit within my genre. I think it’s fun to explore different things and I want to be able to wear what I want to wear on that day. I also don’t want to buy something and only wear it once; I try to buy things that I can wear repeatedly, that can go with different items.”
Gepp has goals to support more Australian designers, with some of her favourites being Shona Joy, Aje, Diish and Zimmerman.
“I love colour and want to get more into colour blocking… I don’t love black, but I do wear it for professional purposes.”
Like us all, Sophie does have a fashion faux pas: “people that don’t read the room” or dress to the occasion and environment. What’s most important to Sophie is when giving other people fashion advice she asks if they feel good and comfortable in it.
Apart from her seamstress passion, Sophie also studies a Bachelor of Creative Industries at UniSA with a focus on social media and event management. Although, landing a role as a seamstress at Paolo Sebastian is still the dream, Sophie still wanted to study something that could closely align and open up additional opportunities.
“I would love to do something in social media and fashion. I feel as though the degree is easily adaptable to lots of different careers and fashion in particular.”
Gepp has just recently found a love for creating content for her pieces and other garments she loves—particularly showing the finer, close-up details through quality photography. She loves to view creators on Instagram put outfits together and style things, which again is something she’d love to delve further into. Her interest in social media also extends into her casual hospitality job, where she is applying her own skills and knowledge to running their Instagram account.
If Sophie could give any advice to those wanting to start making their own clothes, it would be to make the most of upcycling and thrifting!
“It can get quite expensive buying new fabric all the time, but thrifting is a good way to turn something you don’t like into something you do while learning basic skills like unpicking, sewing side seams and knowing what shapes fit you.”
You can find Sophie Gepp and her creations via her Instagram @sophiegepp