Slow Fashion Done Right: Why You Should Be Paying Attention to Sabatucci

"I just called my mum, like, 'I know that we've got a sexy Italian name in the family, what's the name again?' And it was Sabatucci".

Enter the satin-chic world of Sabatucci. The Melbourne based brand made silky waves last year as custom garments featuring opera gloves seamlessly morphing into skivvies, dripping pearls, frills and oversized hand-crafted bows began appearing everywhere. 

PHOTOGRAPHY: Misha Dutkova @michaeladfk

Pastels and jewel tones take on larger-than-life proportions. It’s ballet-core in the realm of the absurd: Genderless, ethereal and magnetic. This is Sabatucci. But who is behind the brand?

Sophia Stafford is a designer, creative director, stylist and (fairly recent) RMIT fashion graduate. Her Sabatucci garments – camp and loud, but soft and tactile – were the makings of her graduate collection. Everything is custom, hand made by Sophia herself, all in her bedroom, no studio needed.

Without a website, Sophia’s portfolio exists solely on Instagram, leaving room to wonder about the vision and origins behind the heavenly creativity exuded in her work. So VICE sat down to chat with her, to find out how Sabatucci came to be.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Jordan Drysdale @jordandrysdale

First of all, where did the name come from? Sabatucci is so perfect. It sounds like how your garments look.

It was my Nana's maiden name. So when I was in uni, there was an assignment where we had to make a brand and do the advertising and all of that. And I'm terrible at thinking up names, I feel like that's always the hardest part. And I just called my mum, like, “I know that we've got a sexy Italian name in the family, what's the name again?” And it was Sabatucci.

PHOTOGRAPHY / STYLING: Sofia Stafford @sabatucci___

It’s so good.

Right? I was like, Okay, perfect. That's what I'm going with. Back then I wasn't even really thinking of starting a brand necessarily, I just wanted to get a job. But then when you get out into the world, it's not as easy to just get a job, that you like, as you think it will be. At the time, lots of stylists were asking to use my stuff. I was like, “oh, like maybe I should actually pursue this”. So I just ended up keeping the name and building it from there.

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Your designs are very dramatic. Maybe extravagant is the word. How would you describe your aesthetic?

Everything I do is sort of based around storytelling. I'm a very theatrical person, I always loved doing drama in school. 

Drama kid solidarity.

I was a drama kid! And I grew up doing ballet, from literally the age of two till I was 18. And so I've always kind of grown up around costumes, and I always wanted to dress up. I think that's sort of where it all comes from. It is meant to be sort of this dramatic theatrical costume. 

I think people find it very jarring when they see me and then see my designs, because they seem so disconnected from the way that I dress. I'm very toned down, I don't want to be the centre of attention. And then I make these over the top extravagant things that are very hard to ignore. 

PHOTOGRAPHY: Steph Reid @stephrxid

They’re certainly eye-catching.

When I was making them, the idea was that I wanted performers to be wearing this, I wanted drag queens and people in the ballroom scene wearing that, etcetera. But then, having people who just like it, and people who have an event that they want to wear it to… I really love seeing that because it's like, “oh, wow, you're so confident and feel beautiful in these crazy designs”.

You mentioned in your own personal style, you're more tuned down. Do you reckon within your designs you play with another side of yourself? Or is it more like world-building?

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It’s sort of like escapism, this dream-like sort of space. I just really enjoy expressing that part of myself that is theatrical, over the top and out there in a different way, where it doesn't have to be physically attached to me, if that makes sense. I definitely think it's true to me. It's like my soul expressing itself.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Sammy Lang @publictoylet

Your first collection was last year, what’s happening now? Is Sabatucci your side hustle? Is it your passion project? Have you got another collection coming out?

I'm just fully focusing on Sabatucci at the moment. But I'm also trying to open up to doing more styling and creative direction as well. I don't want to be fully pigeonholed into just having a brand, I find it really restricting to have to constantly produce or keep making collections or keep making things and selling them. 

It seems to me like a very smart way to be in the fashion world at the moment, to have your fingers in a few creative pies, especially as a “slow fashion brand”... you wouldn't want to be mass producing.

Yeah, I feel like it's very easy to sort of spiral down that whole world of constantly making just for the sake of making things, whereas I've been finding with styling and working on shoots and working with musicians, I really enjoy how I can create a whole new story based around just what they're doing. 

Tell me a bit about the creative work you’ve been doing with musicians.

Olivia Escuyos’ shoot was really fun. I made a complete custom look for her, based on her whole concept of “fantasy girls”. She had a vibe that she wanted, and then I just came up with things to match. That was a really fun experience, really being in control of the aesthetic of the whole thing.

Talent: Olivia Escuyos @oliviaexcuses, photo: Penny K @pennykphotography

And you recently did a music video?

I worked with ĀN JÍ for her music video. I felt like for a long time I had been

out of touch with my creativity and had this pressure of “I need to be posting on Instagram, I need to be doing this, I need to be doing that” and all of that made me completely shut off. 

And then when I was put in that space around these other creatives and seeing how everyone had their little piece that they were doing, I mean, I was literally on set, sewing her clothes, finishing pieces. I just felt the energy of everyone really being enthusiastic and happy to be involved in something so special and making ĀN JÍ’s vision come alive. 

TALENT: ĀN JÌ @un_earthing

That was a defining moment for me. That's actually what made me quit my job and really think, “I need to focus on this because this is what's fulfilling me”.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Chloe Nour @chloevictorianour

PHOTOGRAPHY: Joe Brennan @joebrennarghh

PHOTOGRAPHY: Nelly Skoufatoglou @nellyskf

Talent: Teether @teether, PHOTOGRAPHy: Desiree @desiree

Follow Arielle on Instagram and Twitter.

Read more from VICE Australia.

Tagged:

Art, Fashion, Australia, Photography, Design, creative, melbourne, Australia/NZ, styling

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