I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Gung Ho Design have created the whimsical collection of my dreams. And beyond that their founder, Sophie Dunster, may just be my new favourite person.
Oftentimes the minimal aesthetic reigns supreme in the world of ethical fashion. I like that, I do; I’m often banging on about simplicity and versatility, a belief motivated by practicality but also somewhat beaten into me after years of seeing overpriced and poorly executed prints in the fast fashion world. Gung Ho have something different. Their designs are high quality, sophisticated and full of meaning, but their pieces are still versatile too.
Sophie Dunster started Gung Ho Design 18 months ago to bring something fresh and interesting to the sustainable fashion world. She was raised living a zero carbon lifestyle, and from an early age has been passionate about connecting and inspiring others by harnessing natural beauty. After training in textiles she began to think about how our style choices are one of the key methods we use to communicate who we are and what we stand for, so why not create a collection that looks beautiful, but also relates to important and necessary conversations?
‘All of our designs have a hidden meaning within the print. A talking point at their heart. That way you can not only wear what you love, but what you believe in.’
At Gung Ho each design has a purpose. Whether it’s the struggles of the Amur leopard or the British bee crisis, they aim to connect people with important issues through subtleties in the design. And with each purchase Gung Ho donates to a corresponding charity working with this cause.
I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been complimented on a dress when all I can say in response is ‘thanks, it has pockets!’ Now imagine the conversation if my reply is ‘thanks, the pattern was actually inspired by the bee crisis, and a portion of the money I paid for it went directly to conservation charities working to tackle this problem. Oh, and it also has pockets!’ Better, right? And as well as the donations, Gung Ho also provides each customer with a ‘Talking Point’ – a minizine that gives you a few key facts and more information on the issue at hand, so you can be even more clued up when spreading the sustainability message.
First Sophie picks an important issue, she then gets to work drawing it (and dang, this girl can draw), before combining the images into a print design. Once she’s happy with the design and the message it is printed in the UK on 100% organic fabric, using responsible dyes. The fabric then goes off to Studio Masa Chuka in London to be hand made into the collection under ethical conditions. As well as being ethical and sustainable all of Gung Ho’s production is very much local, keeping that carbon footprint way down.
This collection also takes an interesting approach to waste. Printing a range of sizes from XS – XL is costly, requires a lot of energy and can produce a lot of waste if all stock isn’t sold. This isn’t a problem with Gung Ho as each piece is a wrap design, meaning that only two sizes need to be made, XS/S and M/L, as they are so wonderfully adjustable. Not only does this give a piece versatility and flexibility to different body shapes, it helps items become wardrobe staples as they can last with you through as your body changes over the years, heck they could even work as maternity clothes if one day needed. And if that’s not enough, any fabric waste Gung Ho do produce gets made into bow ties.
The Clothes Themselves
Gung Ho Design are currently fundraising on Kickstarter to produce their new capsule collection. After doing basically everything herself for a long time Sophie has refined her designs and set up an ethical, sustainable and transparent supply chain to bring this collection to life. The three key elements are a skirt, a dress, and a shirt, all of which include intricate, natural designs like you’ve never seen before. Sophie lent me the three items to test drive, naturally my photographer and I had to go frolic in the local forest right?!
It was a pretty windy day, and there’s nothing like running through the trees and battling the elements to test out clothes properly. They’re durable, the fabric is great and the finish on them is impeccable, the handmade quality is definitely obvious. But honestly, they just feel so great to wear! The wrap design makes them so easy to put on and adjust to your specific body (goodbye stress of having to squeeze yourself into a standard piece of clothing) and the cuts are so flattering. Never in my life have I worn something that made me feel so regal, like I was an actual princess. The patterns are so exquisitely detailed and vibrant that they feel fun to wear but not immature at all, and I love trying to spot all the subtle elements that Sophie has put into her drawings.
Print wise I adore this dress. The bees, the garden tools, it’s all the things I love. However my favourite overall design is the skirt. The pattern is just as gorgeous, but the cut of this skirt made me feel really confident. I’ve never been a person to own long skirts, because I’m so small I’m basically the size of a child, but this one is actually flattering! I’ve can’t wait to own it properly, I’ve already thought of a million occasions I could wear it to, and it can be combined with so many basic tops that I already own, making it both a statement piece and a versatile wear simultaneously.
I genuinely really hope you go back Gung Ho Design on kickstarter. As Sophie lives in London we actually spent a whole evening together last week; eating dinner, drinking wine from teacups and chatting sustainable living (that chat included a boat named Yoghurt – I told you she was cool). I cannot emphasise enough how passionate and genuine she is, and how excited she is to upscale production; paying people a fair wage to make more of her designs into consciously crafted clothes, with an awe inspiring attention to detail.
This collection is beautiful and a little bit magical; the items are ideal for everyday events and elegant affairs alike, keeping them perfect staple items that can be worn in a variety of ways over and over. This capsule collection is one of my all times favourites.
Until next time, stay magic y’all