OUR Trader of the Week is Sophie English, of Steyning, who runs a beachwear brand called So English

What does your business do?

So English is a UK-made beachwear brand offering vintage-inspired towelling dresses and robes.

Our garments are British heritage designs made in the UK from sumptuous Italian towelling fabrics with occasional vintage pieces. They are stylish, practical and versatile. Each piece is universally flattering in a relaxed cut.

The Argus: The Ramona by Sophie EnglishThe Ramona by Sophie English

Where is it based?

The market town of Steyning, 20 minutes west of Brighton.

How many in your team?

Just me full time in the Steyning studio, along with local talented seamstresses from Brighton and East Preston who drop in and handcraft the “one -off” vintage towelling dresses, as well as the drawstring bags the garments are packed in. The collection is manufactured by a factory in London.

The Argus: The DominoThe Domino

How long have you been going?

I have been in fashion and clothing for a long time. Firstly designing wedding dresses in London and latterly corporate clothing for city firms. The So English brand was launched at the beginning of April.

How did the idea come about?

I have a deep love of 1960s and 1970s vintage towelling fabric, with a vast stash collected over the years (the more retro, the more colourful, the better). The last nine months have been spent creating a vintage-inspired beachwear brand for women.

The elegant designs have been inspired by the carefree 1970s, sparked by memories of childhood holidays spent on beaches and boats, echoing the vibrant towelling dresses worn by my mother and influenced by her fashion-conscious friends.

As a regular (warm weather!) swimmer at my local beaches, I wanted to create an easy, yet stylish way to get warm and dry after a bracing dip in the Channel. The towelling dress was born. It meant freedom, no struggling with wet costumes or trying to protect your modesty – just on with the dress, up to the beach and straight to the ice cream van.

The Argus: Sophie EnglishSophie English

How have you coped/adapted during the pandemic?

Once the pandemic hit, the corporate side of my business, (designing and manufacturing clothing for front desk staff in City firms) completely dried up. I kept busy by making scrubs as a volunteer for the Scrub Hub in Brighton and made links with skilled local seamstresses. The lockdown allowed time to be creative in my studio. I had the chance to do what I love, which is design what I wanted to wear in colourful fabrics, cut the patterns and make samples. The towelling beachwear collection emerged.

What would you like to tell people about your business?

The brand is committed to “slow fashion”, a mindful way of shopping that prioritises people and the planet. The focus is on sustainability and the aim is to produce high-quality garments that last longer and are manufactured here in the UK by small factories and skilled local machinists. Each garment is hand finished, with double stitched seams and taped hems. The bespoke zips are made from polished and recycled stainless steel, vintage parachute silk for the pockets and drawstring bags.

The elegant designs are timeless and designed to stay with you from one beach to the next, holiday to holiday, season after season.

The Argus: Beach hut lifestyleBeach hut lifestyle

What are your plans/hopes for the future?

All the range is now available on the website www.soenglish.co.uk which is fantastic. As the brand develops, I am finding out who my customer is and how they are wearing their So English – to the beach, pottering around the garden or over a pair of PJs. The wearability of soft towelling is limitless. With interest gathering from around the world, the future would be exporting to the Southern hemisphere to provide an all-year-round business.

Anything else?

I am really interested in the fusion of fashion, lifestyle and sustainability and other brands that embrace the same vision.