For a woman who is strong, individual and knows her own mind: Introducing Autark the label
Launched in 2016, this award-winning clothing brand was created as a response to both the needs of the modern woman and the wide-ranging impact of the fashion industry on the world.
We had the absolute pleasure of meeting the talented Sophia, head designer and founder of Autark – a brand that 100% backs the slow fashion movement with their innovative and bold, yet feminine designs made from ‘the most luxurious of silks, cottons, linens and an array of natural fibers, that are carefully considered in their construction for maximum wearability and versatility.’
Tell us about Autark, what drove you to start your own clothing label?
I had a fascination with fashion, but I was conflicted because I learned that it was an incredibly polluting industry. I wanted to marry my interest in fashion, fabrics and design with a more responsible practice of production – I believe that interesting and beautiful design can also be produced in a way that is more responsible to the planet, and the people who live on it.
Describe your job to us- what is your day-to-day role with the label?
Autark is absolutely a small business; it’s great because it means that I fulfil so many roles from day to day, which provides an incredible amount of variety. It can be a bit mind boggling, but my days change every week, and I love the fact that I never get bored. I spend my days designing, pattern making, grading patterns to different sizes, marketing, cutting pattern pieces, monitoring and distributing stock – never a dull moment! At the moment everything is done in house, but I do outsource my machining to several makers here in Adelaide.
Have you always had a keen interest in fashion and design, or is this something that has blossomed over time?
Absolutely! My Nana was an incredible sewer – she used to sew for my mum, my Barbie Dolls, and me. But, I wasn’t sure in which capacity I could pursue fashion as a career, so I had a completely different career for a number of years. I then decided to give a fashion career a real go, went back to study at TAFE SA, and started the label straight after I graduated.
What is your stance on the slow fashion movement? How do your designs reflect this?
I am a strong advocate for the slow fashion movement. My interpretation of this movement is that fashion choices should be mindful – so I made a conscious decision not to buy clothes for the sake of a purchase; particularly clothes that I’d consider to be more on trend rather than a long term, investment piece of classic design. I try to make autark designs fit this brief, but I also like to try to add a bit of a point of difference to them; I like that autark designs stand out a little from the norm, but still have the ability to be worn long term.
Congratulations on having your designs featured as part of VAMFF’s ‘Shop the Runway’ this year! How did you go about getting that gig? Were you approached by VAMFF?
Thank you! : ) I was lucky enough to join the incredible Curated program this year, which is run by the Australian Fashion Council. As part of that program, a number of Curated designers were able to have an on-site pop up at Shop the Runway, right in the VAMFF Plaza. I believe it’s the first time that this has happened, so I was incredibly grateful to be able to take part.
Was participating in VAMFF’s ‘Shop the Runway’ successful for you? Do you think it’s important for new designers to take part in local fashion events/ networking events?
It was an incredible experience to take part in, absolutely. As an independent designer, any opportunity to connect with customers and see what they respond to in the collection is invaluable to me when I’m designing future collections. It’s also a wonderful chance to meet and develop relationships with others in the industry. I particularly loved chatting to other independent designers in the pop-up that I had long admired, as well as other supportive and wonderful members of the industry.
What are your dreams for Autark and where do you see the label in 5 years from now?
My ultimate goal for autark is to expose consumers to the slow fashion movement and to promote the idea that ethically produced, slow fashion doesn’t have to be boring. I plan to work towards this by expanding the ability that the brand and pieces have to connect with customers both here in Australia and overseas.
From past experiences, do you have any advice you would like to give to a new designer wanting to make their mark in the Australian fashion industry?
I think my biggest piece of advice is really to just keep going; there’ll be times when you doubt yourself, and your ideas, the information coming at you seems overwhelming, but try to stick to what is important to you, and remember why you wanted to start your journey.
I’d also say to always stay curious – keep learning and asking and investigating, because you can never learn it all.