The founder of fashion house Hannah Sophia England, the new go-to-brand for British society, explains how sophisticated style and sustainability can go hand in hand.
Designer Hannah-Sophia Jarvis, the founder of quintessential British fashion brand Hannah Sophia England, has a mission in life: ‘I want my children and the next generation to inherit a better, stronger world, where kindness rules — kindness to ourselves, to others and to our planet.’ And, for her, that starts from creating luxury, innovative fashion with a conscience.
Mrs Jarvis only launched Hannah Sophia England last April and the brand’s sophisticated, reversible dresses have already become staples in the wardrobe of society women in Britain, the US and further afield — the company ships worldwide — proving you can combine luxury, style and sustainability.
Passion resonates in her voice as she says: ‘I believe clothes should be an investment that can last for generations to come—they should become timeless pieces of our family’s legacy, for our next generation to inherit and love as much as we have. High-quality, classic clothes that evolve with us and throughout our lives, can evoke powerful memories.
‘In a world where fashion is still widely viewed as disposable, I believe dressmaking is a craftsmanship that should be highly regarded and understanding where our clothes come from, who made them and how they were made is deeply important.’
Although Mrs Jarvis had dreamed of becoming a designer as a child, that ambition had become a distant memory by the time motherhood inspired her to launch her own brand. ‘My daughters are my inspiration, motivation and the essence of everything I do. It is my mission to try my hardest to help create a better, more conscious and ethical society for them to grow into.’
So she took the plunge, left behind her successful career in corporate advertising and went on to launch her ethical luxury brand. ‘My plan was to make sophisticated, timeless clothes that would evolve with women and make them feel confident. Men are able to wear high-quality clothes that they can cherish for decades, so why shouldn’t women be able to? Clothes should support us regardless of what stage we are in. We deserve to feel elegant and beautiful — always. That’s where the concept for Hannah Sophia England came from.’
The brand’s name, on the other hand, was a suggestion from Mrs Jarvis’s father. ‘Although I had the plan for what I wanted to create clear in mind, I was struggling to find a name for it. It was then that my father suggested Hannah Sophia. He reminded me that it had been my childhood’s “dream label” so it seemed only fitting! I had completely forgotten about that and, until that moment, I hadn’t even thought of myself as a fashion designer, as I was so focused on wanting to make a positive impact and help women feel more beautiful and confident. It’s funny how life pans out.’
Today, Hannah Sophia England creates elegant, meticulously hand-crafted, reversible pieces that fall effortlessly and that have specifically been designed to suit women throughout every stage of their journey in life, while remaining practical and comfortable — a true luxury and a notable advantage if you live in the countryside. Here, Mrs Jarvis gives us the lowdown on her approach to ethical fashion.
Ethics and sustainability are at the heart of Hannah Sophia England. What makes your brand different?
It strives to change mindsets. The average British woman wears a dress four times before throwing it away. With Hannah Sophia England, I want to provide an elegant, sophisticated, sustainable alternative to fast fashion, showing women that it’s not only possible but it makes sense to invest in luxurious pieces that can be treasured for a lifetime. All our dresses are made in house in Stamford, a historic Georgian town in Lincolnshire — we have a transparent supply chain with properly paid dressmakers that painstakingly piece every dress together. We also use the finest silky-viscose, a fabulously soft luxurious fabric that can be worn across the four seasons and is designed to last. And, to help fight climate change, we plant a tree for every dress we make.
Many women think chasing the latest trends is the key to looking stylish but you have shown us otherwise. Can you share your secret?
My vision for Hannah Sophia England is that women should feel beautiful, self-assured and comfortable in the clothes they wear. We should all feel like the leading ladies of our own life. I’m passionate about creating clothing that adapts to a woman’s body, giving her the confidence to walk into a room and own it. So our dresses are exquisitely tailored, have a flattering cut — my base design was a re-think of the traditional wrap dress that now goes all the way around you — but they are also clever. They are designed to suit every age and occasion, whether attending an exhibition preview, a business meeting or a cocktail party, and can be worn in four completely different ways: front to back, back to front, and, because they are reversible, you have a choice between dainty florals or classic polka dots on one side and bold or traditional solid colour on the other.
How do you create a timeless design?
For a dress to be genuinely luxurious and timeless, it needs to have two key ‘ingredients’: it must be true to your style because clothes that last are a reflection of who you really are; and it must make you feel beautiful regardless of the stage of life you are in because we all want to look lovely. Each piece can then be accessorised and added to your personal style — and that’s when it becomes a classic. Our dresses come in timeless colours that will never go out of fashion and you can dress them up or down to suit the occasion and match your style. The reverse side has classic polka dots or, in the case of our limited-edition lines, eye-catching patterns. We have a very exciting new gown coming out later in the year — the limited-edition Eliza gown — which was designed in collaboration with Lady Eliza Manners and is very much a combination of timeless design and personal taste.
What are your sources of inspiration?
I look to the past to see what has stuck, what people have carried on wearing for generations. Pieces that past generations loved, we love and future generations will love, too. But, above all, I get inspired by our Royal family. I adore their timeless style and always look at what they have been wearing over the years. The Queen, Diana, Princess of Wales, The Duchess of Cambridge, the Princess Royal — they are all brilliant sources of inspiration for a luxury British brand.
To ensure Hannah Sophia England dresses last for generations, they come in ‘preservation’ boxes: can you tell us more about that?
Just like with wedding dresses, our gowns come with a preservation box so that you are able to preserve it. It helps promote the longevity of our clothes. The idea came to me after I inherited my mother’s maternity dress that she had worn while expecting me and I wore it while pregnant with my daughters. It was such a meaningful gesture, evoking in powerful memories. I wanted other women to be able to experience the same, as well as helping them to take care of their Hannah Sophia England dress and make sure it lasts — because clothes should become cherished pieces of your family’s history.