British Fashion Award winner Sophie Hulme launched her eponymous accessories label in 2008. Eleven years on, she made the difficult decision to close her brand due to two rare medical conditions. The designer suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affects connective tissue, and is also battling Kleine Levin Syndrome, a neurological sleep disorder.
Ahead of the brand's closure, Sophie has decided to dedicate her two final collections - her last autumn/winter collection, as well as a limited-edition collection - to a greater good. For each handbag sold, the brand will donate 10 per cent of the price to help others with the same conditions as Sophie.
With quite the selection of handbags to choose from - you can expect Sophie Hulme's trademark pared-back, fine-leather bags finished with polished hardware to be part of the fold - deciding on just one bag is a near impossibility; which is a great thing for the charities involved.
After popping into the brand's West London HQ on Chiltern Street (to scout out some of our favourite designs - Hulme's structured bucket bag has our attention - and you can avail of our SUITCASE10 code to further benefit the charities that Sophie supports), we went for a quick run around of Sophie's favourite spots in W1 and farther afield.
In conversation with Sophie Hulme
How would you describe the Sophie Hulme brand?
My designs are intended for life, creating good quality, beautiful pieces for the independent woman who isn't lured in by logos and branding. We create timeless, considered products that are priced with integrity.
While the designs are practical (with a less-is-more approach), there's often a fun, playful element to them. I feel that fashion can often take itself too seriously. I approach the creative process with the stance of a product designer, putting the need for simplicity, usability and desirability at the forefront of every design.
What does your brand represent?
My designs embody a quiet confidence, restraint and substance. They are for the open-minded individual, who lives in accordance with her (or his) own rules.
Tell us about your charitable initiatives…
We are supporting both the Kleine Levin Syndrome Support and The Ehlers Danlos Society, which raise awareness of the conditions that I am suffering from. We are donating 10 per cent of net sales across both charities. Use code SUITCASE10 when you purchase a bag from Sophie Hulme, and Sophie Hulme will donate an extra 10 per cent to charity.
Some of your best sellers (and personal favourites) are…
The Bolt, The Swing, The Cocktail Stirrer and lately our newest shape in the Albion family, our iconic design, the Nano Albion Cube.
Where are you stocked?
We are stocked by MatchesFashion, Fortnum & Mason in the UK and SSENSE in North America as well as Galeries Lafayette in Beijing and Shanghai to name a few. We pursue a mostly direct-to-consumer strategy and our customers can also find us at our flagship store in Chiltern Street in London and on our website.
Sophie Hulme's Insider Guide to West London
Where are we most likely to find a Sophie Hulme customer in West London…
At Blain Southern, a gallery on Hanover Square, which always has interesting shows. Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street, for those seeking some travel-writing inspiration - it has a great old-school interior, too. Come evening, Ronnie Scott's for some amazing live jazz.
Where's the best place in West London to wake up?
Claridge's Hotel - my sister got married there so it is very special to my family; it's lovely.
What's W1's dress code?
It's a whole mix, from classic, timeless dressing to fashion forward styles.
Some must-visit shops in West London include…
Grays Antique Centre is my favourite place to look for vintage jewellery. It is home to one of the world's largest and most diverse collections of fine antiques, jewellery and vintage fashion. Around the corner on Marylebone High Street, drop into MatchesFashion which has a great selection of brands. And, of course, our own store at 38 Chiltern Street.
Do your surroundings impact your design?
I love objects and I've always been a collector of anything I find interesting - such as vintage writing cases, Action Man uniforms, antique charms and silver pencils. I collect a bit of art too. I also often take inspiration from architecture. I love to find inspiration in the ordinary and mundane, things that are normally overlooked and make them special - things like chip forks and cocktail stirrers. I go on lots of research trips to vintage shops, flea markets and galleries.
One misconception about West London is…
That it's boring. West London is constantly changing, and new ideas and concepts are being implemented here all the time, especially with the recent renaissance of Soho.
Underrated spots worth exploring…
Shreeji newsagent opposite the Chiltern Firehouse; it's a real institution with an incredible selection of well-curated magazines.
Great coffee shops for afternoon catch ups…
The Monocle Café makes fantastic teas and pastries, and The Wallace Collection is always worth a visit. Its permanent collection is free to visit and it has a lovely café, which also serves as a serene lunch spot.
Where should we go for a blow-out dinner?
The Wolseley is a great place for a special treat. I love everything on the menu and the atmosphere of this car-showroom-turned-restaurant.
Where should we head post-party?
I don't go out much now that I have a one-year-old son, but I would say that the Chiltern Firehouse has a great atmosphere at night in its bar. It has a great mix of people and it can get very lively.
For a hit of culture head to…
Your favourite places beyond London…
Sunbury & Sandown Antiques Market at Kempton Park Racecourse. I just adore rummaging for inspiration here.
In Dartmouth, I love taking a boat up the river to Dittisham and having lunch at the Anchorstone Café - it serves unbelievable seafood. Note: it's also great fun to go there for New Year because the entire town dresses up in fancy dress and goes on a long pub crawl.