Creative Inspirations: ‘Sophia & Matt’, designers of handbags, wash bags & more, Part 2. Plus giveaway.
Welcome to Part 2 of my Creative Inspirations series featuring Sophia & Matt, Brighton-based designers of beautiful prints, bags and accessories. In Part 1 (HERE), I told you how I’d stumbled across their Greenwich store over 4 years ago and instantly fell in love with their products, adding to my collection every year. I also asked Sophia about the company and how it grew from humble beginnings on a Greenwich market stall in 2005.
In Part 2, we find out more about the couple behind Sophia & Matt, in their own words.
Sophia & Matt, the couple behind the company.
1. 11 years in, do you still enjoy working with each other?
We really love working together and have a great relationship. We both have well-defined roles within the company too, which helps because we’re both confident in our fields and don’t get in each other’s way. We trust each other’s judgement, which I also believe is important when you work as a couple.
We have a casual approach to our design work, talking a lot about what we like and don’t like on a daily basis. Consequently, most products and prints pretty much appear as the result of hundreds of casual conversations, as opposed to us sitting down together and designing something across a series of sessions.
We’re brutally honest with each other when we are creating something, but there are no hard feelings. When you are creating something, you can develop tunnel vision so you can’t be sure if what you have is any good. I’ll show something to Matt and his responses usually vary from “Yeah, I really like that” to a simple “Nope” – which can sting a little if you’ve spent a few days working on something. But that process is important and I take the same approach to his work. We know we can both produce good work so that’s why we’re more interested in hearing the negatives.
We push each other to be better and, to be honest, we’d rather be absolutely horrible about our work in private and improve it, rather than put something mediocre into production and have our customers reject it.
2. What are the best and worst things about working with each other?
Sophia: The best and worst thing about Matt would have to be his strong-mindedness, which can drive me mad. He is very specific about his routine. His day won’t start until he has finished his massive cup of coffee, read the latest tech news and done a little bit of programming. We could be on holiday or running late for something, or there could be an incredible miracle happening outside and he wouldn’t budge. He carries that attitude through to the rest of what he does, too. So when he decides he’s going to do something, one way or another it’s going to happen. He doesn’t back down, no matter how hard it gets. That can be tough sometimes, but it’s a great character trait to have in business and I hope it’s passed on to our son, Oskari.
Matt: Sophia has incredible intuition. I genuinely don’t get it, but I’ve learned to trust it. There have been times when I’ve said I absolutely hate something, and I’ll really believe it. I will be convinced that I’m right and Sophia will say, “No, I really like it”, and it will go on to be a best-seller.
In the early days that kind of thing would lead to a drawn out debate but now it pretty much ends with me immediately responding with “Oh, ok then” and we’ll run with it. It will be a huge success and I’ll decide I don’t actually hate it after all. I’m not even surprised anymore.
There are really no negatives to working with Sophia. She’s more organised than I am which means she’s usually bugging me to do stuff that I should be doing anyway, so I guess that’s a downside – for me at least. She also likes listening to 80’s pop music at work, which I’m not exactly keen on.
3. You’ve sacrificed a lot to turn Sophia and Matt into a successful business, including Matt’s thumb…Tell us about that!
By 2011, we were starting to get a little burned out. We were still very heavily involved in the production, Matt was doing all of the cutting, and we were both running the shop and designing products. That ultimately resulted in Matt chopping his thumb off whilst cutting a batch of handbags.
He was in hospital for a week awaiting surgery. Then, the day after he was discharged, we met with the factory owners in East London and asked them to take over full production because Matt could no longer cut.
It’s a shame things had to get that extreme to force us into stepping back from the production process, but it really helped us move forward. It meant we could focus more on design and running the business.
4. Why did you decide to move production from the UK to China in 2012?
In 2012, we were becoming increasingly frustrated with the attitude of our UK suppliers and factories and the daily battles we were having over quality issues. We contacted a factory in the south of China that had a very good reputation. They produce high-quality products for a number of well-established brands, including textile work for Ferrari. After a few emails back and forth, Matt and I flew out to see the factory and meet the owners. We’ve never looked back.
The attitude towards us as both designers and customers was so different from what we’d experienced in the UK. Manufacturing has changed so much in China in recent years, too. It isn’t cheap anymore: the factory we work with is immaculate and is regularly audited for health and safety. What’s more, as well as having advanced machinery, the machinists are highly skilled, well paid and well looked after.
We also have a fantastic relationship with the factory owners, having lots in common with them. Like us, they have young children, they’re a couple who work together and they’ve grown their business from the ground up.
5. How involved are you both in the day-to-day running of the business?
We are both involved in everything! There is nothing in our company we don’t have a hand in. Matt does a lot of programming for the company. He wrote the software that runs our website and powers our till points in store. He also writes software for data analysis and finance, which we use to run the company.
We both do all the photography for the company (we actually do all of the product photography in the stock room of our Brighton store). We both reply to customer emails. I do all of the visual merchandising for both stores. Matt does the graphic design, copywriting and finances. Between us we do all of the print and product design work.
The truth is that it’s hard to do so much and maintain such a high standard, and we couldn’t do what we do without our staff. Kasia is our area manager; she takes care of EVERYTHING. She makes sure both stores run smoothly, she handles all of the staff and manages the web orders. She also does a brilliant job of keeping Matt in check too! She’s one of the most important things to have happened to our company and we wouldn’t be able to get everything done without her.
6. Where do you get your design inspirations from?
It’s very organic for us; we don’t really follow trends. I still maintain a big fashion interest, as my background is fashion. Growing up, my family had a clothing factory in South London which is where I learned to sew and pattern cut at an early age. Matt and I both love abstract art, plants, flowers and bold colours. Matt brings a graphic influence to the print design. We both like simple geometric shapes and functional, high-quality design.
7. Who inspires you in life?
In life, I’d say it’s our friends and family. Most of our friends run their own companies, so we all know how hard it is and what we are going through. That’s a shared thing…We’ll look at our friends who might have made it through a tough time and think “we need to be as tough as they are”.
Matt and I are both from working class families who have had to work extremely hard for everything they have. Nothing has ever come easy and they’ve done everything they can to help us over the years so that we have the opportunity to try and build something. That is genuinely inspiring to us and I hope we can do the same for our son.
8. When you aren’t running Sophia & Matt, how do you relax? Have you any hobbies?
Hobbies! I remember those! Ha ha! You try and steal as much time as possible when you have a 2.5 year old running around and a company to run. To be honest, our work really is our hobby, I guess. I love pattern cutting, Matt loves writing software, and we both enjoy print and product design. We’ve just started having one day off per week, as we’ve been working 7 days a week for nearly a decade!
We like spending time with our son and going for walks in the woods near our flat (which he finds fascinating). During the summer we go to the beach and have a barbecue. We try not to talk about work on these days but it’s where we always end up.
9. What’s been the highlight of your working life so far?
There are two things, really. Every now and again one of us will be working in the shop. We never tell the customers who we are and Matt is not exactly always truthful when asked. Customers just assume we’re retail staff and you’ll get somebody come in that really loves one of our products. It really means something to them, they really appreciate the work that has gone into the product and they’ve saved up, or waited to make a special purchase. Those are the people we create products for and selling something to someone like that makes all of the back-breaking work over the years worth it.
The other highlight would have to be receiving investment to grow the company. It was the first time anybody had taken a risk on us and backed us so directly. It was also the most terrifying and probably one of the best things that ever happened to the company.
10. What can we expect from Sophia and Matt in the coming months and years?
We are always developing! We have a new website ready to be launched soon, we have new products ready to go into production, (including a beautiful back pack), and we are working on homewares too! We can’t wait for that!
11. What would success look like for Sophia & Matt?
More shops, more products and the opportunity to spend a lifetime creating beautiful work.
12. If you could sum up what Sophia & Matt means to you in three words what would they be?
Spots, Stripes, & Florals
Win a Yayoi Makeup bag worth £25.
Sophia & Matt are offering one of my readers the chance to win a gorgeous Yayoi Mainline Makeup bag worth £25. The Yayoi print is my personal favourite and all of my Sophia & Matt products are in this design. For your chance to win this fantastic prize, simply enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below:
Competition terms and conditions:
1. There is one Sophia & Matt Yayoi Mainline Makeup Bag available for one winner.
2. This prize draw will be drawn at random, and is open to entrants aged 18 or over residing in the UK.
3. Up to 6 entries per person. All are compulsory methods of entry.
4. Maflingo.com retains the right to change the competition if necessary.
5. The prize is not transferable and there is no cash alternative.
6. If the winners do not contact me within one week, I will redraw another winner at random.
7. Entries must be received by 11.59pm on 2nd April 2017.
8. The winners will be chosen at random and notified by email on or after 3rd April 2017.
This competition is listed on the loquax.com website.
Find out more about Sophia & Matt.
If you missed Part 1 of my Creative Inspirations series featuring Sophia & Matt, check it out HERE.
If you’re new to Sophia & Matt and haven’t discovered their wonderful products, why not take a peek at their online shop or follow them on social media?
Sophia & Matt website (click on the logo below):
Over to you.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this two-part Creative Inspirations series on Sophia & Matt. More importantly, if this is the first time you’ve been introduced, I hope you’ve fallen for Sophia & Matt’s beautiful bags and accessories too.
I’d like to thank Sophia & Matt for offering one of their makeup bags as a giveaway and for giving such thoughtful and informative answers to my Creative Inspirations questions.
Pin for later:
Sophia & Matt provided the Yayoi makeup bag for the giveaway. As always, my words and thoughts are my own honest opinion.