Global Young Designer Spotlight: Ssōne

Global Young Designer Spotlight: Ssōne

Ssōne (pronounced, “sewn”) is the London-based label with a social conscience.

in 2018 by Caroline Smithson, a former McQueen and
Proenza Schouler designer, Ssōne reimagines the keystones of your
wardrobe with a focus on craftsmanship, sustainable textiles and
traditional techniques that expose the visible hand.

Ssōne’s considered collections are a blend of utility and
romance, function and form. Generously cut shirts, for example, are
refined with clever seams and handsome cuffs, while sleeves are
billowy, bringing new proportions to romantic mid-length dresses.
It’s all push and pull, give and take. To that end, the label also
runs a non-profit crafting association alongside its mainline
fashion brand and does its bit for the environment too,
prioritising sustainable, low-water washing and natural botanical
dye processes.

Brand: Ssōne

Designer: Caroline Smithson

Origins: Northumberland

Homebase: London

Stockists: Ssō and the Ssōne store at 17
Chiltern Street alongside MATCHESFASHION.

How has your background and where you’re from informed your

I grew up in an historic town in Northumberland on the Scottish
Borders, a place that is rich in pagan history and folklore. There
are records of witch trials here and the landscape is peppered with
standing stones, sacred springs and ancient rock art. It’s hard not
to be influenced by all that history and its connection to nature.
I love the idea that if you’re patient, nature will provide all the
patterns you need – like a face in the bark of a tree or the
pattern the tide leaves on the sand.

You’ve worked as a fashion designer and creative director, at
the likes of Alexander McQueen, Proenza Schouler and Peter Pilotto…
what have those experiences afforded you?

I have always been curious about design and I wanted to push
myself in my breadth of knowledge and experience. Over the past 20
years I have been lucky enough to be able to steer my career to
cover many areas of fashion design from denim and casual wear to
ready-to-wear then couture and back again. I have been particularly
influenced by some of my female leads. During my time at Louis
Vuitton, Julie de Libran’s calm and patient approach to design was
inspiring; she was incredibly kind and supportive. At Alexander
McQueen, Sarah Burton taught me how to be meticulous in the
approach to construction.

How would you define your brand?

Ssōne is a contemporary womenswear brand rooted in craft and
conscious progress. We are driven by a desire to create
thoughtfully designed garments using rare textiles and traditional
techniques. Ssōne is committed to researching and practising

and responsible processes. This approach forms the
distinctive aesthetic that runs through our collections, bringing
together utility and romance, craft and seduction, function and

Who is the Ssōne woman?

The Ssōne woman is a naturalist, a thinker with integrity,
conscious in her living. She is fashion-led but doesn’t follow
seasonal trends. She’s part of a growing community of women who
care about how they look and believe in personal expression through
the way they dress, but not at the expense of others, particularly
the people that make the clothes, and crucially not at the expense
of the environment.

Talk us through your creative process…

The collections are led by reimagined wardrobe classics, all of
which are traditionally crafted from organic, recycled and natural
materials using low-water washing and dye processes. None of the
pieces should feel uncomfortable or fussy. The woman should lead
the look, not the other way round. The next step is figuring out
how to produce the collection in a way that is respectful to the
artisans and the environment in a relatively scalable way. We work
closely with mills on developing considerate fabrics that still
feel luxurious. There is a lot of emphasis on fit and finishing to
ensure that each piece is at the highest standard it can be. We
want people to hold on to these pieces, for them to age beautifully
and be shared and passed on.

How can brands work to become more sustainable?

As a designer it’s important to simply start talking about
sustainability. The more pressure we put on the mills, the more
demand there will be for yarn suppliers to develop the fibres
needed to create desirable, sustainable collections and that
ultimately give consumers better choice. At Ssōne we also make
sensible and more forgiving choices within other parts of the chain
too. For instance, we use recycled, recyclable, low impact
packaging. We keep all off-cuts of our collection – some of which
are reused in other garments for Re-Ssōne. The smallest off cuts
are recycled into making blankets in community projects.

Tell us about Re-Ssōne…

Ssōne is committed to working towards a zero waste future.
Products developed under Re-Ssōne use a combination of waste bulk
fabrics and unsold garments to create new pieces. By minimising
waste, we are working to reduce our environmental impact while
experimenting with our own creativity and offering the customer
something new. Our first Re-Ssōne projects are currently in
development and will launch as special editions in early 2020.

Why did you choose London as Ssōne’s base?

London has an amazing spirit, there are so many makers, artists
and creatives in a community that really supports each other.
London is known for its size and scale, it has within it many
micro, often international, communities who are keen to support,
share and collaborate. In London we are blessed with many galleries
and independent shops for inspiration alongside community projects
that are thought provoking and social. People aren’t afraid to put
themselves out there and make mistakes in London, I find that very

Your favourite spots in London for good food are…

The Towpath Café on Regent’s
Canal has great food, lovely staff and beautiful view. Lyles, known for its stripped back dining, is
deliciously comforting. Brawn is a great neighbourhood spot
on Columbia Road, which I love – it’s low-key, delicious and serves
the best natural wines.

Your secret London hotspots no-one knows about…

Primeur in Stoke Newington is a gem of a restaurant in
a residential street, and serves low-intervention wines.

Where is your favourite place in the world and why?

Iceland, for it’s beauty and the silence.

Three destinations on your travel wishlist…

Fairy Glen, Conwy, Wales; The west coast of Ireland; New

Other than Ssōne, what brands are in your closet?

I am lucky enough to be close to Simone Rocha. I have many of
her pieces. Her eye for textiles is phenomenal.

Caroline’s Pocket Guide to London

STAY: Being a resident of London, I like to
visit other areas of the UK, particularly places of natural beauty
and tranquility. I’d recommend Dune House in Suffolk.

EAT: Primeur in Stoke Newington.

DRINK: Dalston’s Little Duck for its natural wines and its fermenting
kitchen The Picklery.

DANCE: Anywhere outdoors!

DO: A workshop hosted by the Crafts

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