Sophie Hulme On Her First Bricks & Mortar Store & The New Customising Service

Photo Courtesy of Sophie Hulme.
Just in time for Christmas, beloved British bag brand, Sophie Hulme, has opened a shiny new boutique in the iconic London shopping promenade of Burlington Arcade to coincide with a new personalisation service. Thinking about a bag stamped with your very own initials? Look no further than this elegant new space, hidden in the heart of Mayfair.
Available exclusively in-store and the only one of its kind worldwide, the three personalisation services offer numerous ways to customise a bag, to tailor it just for you or a loved one. Firstly, there is a hand-painting option by acclaimed sign writer, Mark MacDonald, in original fonts designed for the label by John Morgan’s renowned London graphics studio. Secondly, Leather Letters launches exclusively with the Resort ’18 collection, available with 10 handbag styles across eight colour ways. The third and final service is leather embossing — either gold-foiled, or blind — offered on several styles.
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The boutique launches with the Sophie Hulme Resort ’18 collection, which reflects the label’s design-led DNA, focusing on clean lines, beautiful materials and minimal details. Leathers are dyed solely using veg-tanning and signature elements — polished hardware, saddle leather — remain integral. The interior of the 30-square-metre space has been designed in collaboration between Sophie and her husband Ted Swift, featuring furniture created from a sustainable material made from recycled denim and cotton, sourced from the Kvadrat textile studio.
So if your Christmas shopping list is still unwritten, let alone complete, we suggest hotfooting it to the new Sophie Hulme store to find the perfect Christmas gifts for your loved ones. Or yourself.
Below, we caught up with designer Sophie Hulme to discuss the evolution of the brand as it approaches its 10-year milestone and what it was like to open her first store.
Has a bricks and mortar store always been the next goal for the brand?
There’s something special about a store – it’s an opportunity to create our own little Sophie Hulme space. Our design studio in Islington really reflects the brand – it’s so vibrant and buzzy – we wanted to share that feeling. From the styles we sell, to the interior, the lighting, the details, it’s a chance to really bring our clients into our world.
Why did you choose Burlington Arcade as your first location, and Chiltern Street, which will be opening in the coming months?
Burlington is where we’ve launched our new personalisation services. The arcade is iconic – championing artisans, quality, specialism – all the things that are important to us. There’s something dynamic about the juxtaposition of launching a buzzy young brand with exciting new initiatives and plans in such a historic space.
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Chiltern Street will be our first independent boutique. The area perfectly reflects us – the eclectic mix of art galleries, interiors stores, cafés, and boutiques makes it about broader interests, outside fashion – this wonderful celebration of expert craftsmanship in different fields. The store itself is lovely, just the sort of space we’ve been looking for. All the pieces of the puzzle seemed to fit.
Photo Courtesy of Sophie Hulme.
It’s been almost a decade since you launched the brand. Has it grown in the way you’d hoped?
We celebrate 10 years next year, in 2018. When I showed my first collection to retailers at a trade show all those years ago, I had no set idea of where the brand would go, or how it was going to evolve. Then women responded to what we were doing – when the Albion sold out in that first season, it was an incredible feeling. I personally, and we as a brand, have learnt so much, it’s been incredible. Throughout we’ve stayed true to what we believe in: putting women first and creating beautifully designed bags which are made to be carried in every area of a woman’s life. I am really proud of what we’ve achieved; I’m looking forward to the next 10 years…
Can you tell us about the latest collection and the personalisation service?
Our latest collection, which launches at Burlington, is Sophie Hulme through and through – incredible leather, no unnecessary details; focussing on quality materials, clean lines, function. We’re aiming to work with veg-tanned leathers where possible – it gives the palette a beautiful subtlety.
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The personalisation service is an exciting launch, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It really chimes with the brand, I think – I always see bags as something very personal, a private space to keep things.
The main method of personalisation is leather letters, which we have developed. They’re created by compressing layers of leather until they are very solid and then laser-cutting them into letters. They’re fused to the leather via a technique which makes them part of the surface of the bag. Respecting the quality of this amazing leather that we work with is very important to me – these letters really put the materials in the spotlight.
Photo Courtesy of Sophie Hulme.
How would you describe the Sophie Hulme customer in 2017?
One of the most exciting moments in the history of the brand was when I got on the number 19 bus and there was this woman sitting there on the top deck, on her way to work, with one of my bags on her lap. That’s our woman: she’s you or me. She knows herself, she knows her style. We’re not about imposing a trend or a look, we’re about using beautiful materials, expert craftspeople. Our client comes to us because we make bags which work for her life. She wants something beautiful, functional, that she can carry every day — pieces which will hold all her things, that she’ll still be carrying in 10 years' time. She’s probably independent, interested; she respects good design.
Your bags steer clear of being overtly trend-led. From "see-now-buy-now" to the boom of Instagram, how have changes in the industry since you first began affected your brand and approach?
The thing that’s nice about our brand is that we’ve always done our own thing. As you say, we aren’t trend-led, so in a sense, changes in the industry haven’t really altered our course. Sure, we’re on Instagram, we have Facebook. But social media doesn’t govern the way we run our business. We move with the times; we look at what is happening in the industry, but then we carve our own path through it. To me, the interesting thing about the way the industry has changed is that it places so much more power in the women – they have more choice, they can be more discerning. We’ve always encouraged that so I think it’s all really positive. Ultimately, we continue to do what we set out to do: make great bags, using great materials, always with one eye on that woman on the number 19 bus.
The Sophie Hulme Personalisation Boutique is located at 64-65 Burlington Arcade, London W1. Monday to Saturday: 10am – 6pm, Sunday: 12noon – 5pm.
Follow Sophie Hulme on Instagram @sophie_hulme
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