We meet Ascot-based Sophie McGown, who launched EarSass during lockdown, to find out more about her work with Isabella Blow, why she names pieces after women in her life and her local Berkshire favourites
How do you look back on your time working with Isabella Blow?
I first met Isabella Blow when she came to stay at my family’s hotel in Perthshire, where I was working in 2004. There I was, aged 17, welcoming the most stylish woman I have ever seen to our wee country house hotel. Isabella was wearing one of Alexander McQueen’s creations, a fashion legend she had founded.
After discovering I was studying fashion at Cardonald Collage in Glasgow, and had enrolled in a milinery course, Isabella took me under her wing, inviting me to assist on Philip Treacy’s fashion show at London’s V&A Museum. It was an amazing experience! I was working alongside one of the most iconic women in fashion! She really did make her mark on who I am today and really inspires my EARSASS creations.
Was there any inkling then that she would inspire you to launch a business?
When I first met Isabella, over 20 years ago now, we instantly clicked.Her sense of style was like nothing I’d ever seen before and epitomised the word ‘Sass’. I’ll never forget her saying: “Your mother tells me you are using (top milliner) Philip Treacy as a muse for your course in fashion and milinery. Shall we try on lots of his hats and have some fun?” Erm, yes please! And that is where it all started.
My time spent with her at the V&A fashion show was where my passion for design grew. She left a huge impression on me at such a young age and I know that much of my creativity comes from being totally inspired by her unapologetic, unique and bold fashion style.
Why did you decide to launch EarSass during lockdown?
When everyday life ground to a halt during the pandemic, I had no work and a lot of time on my hands. I decided to create something fabulous to brighten up the long anxious days for my friends who were struggling with looming redundancy, sick family, endless Zoom meetings, and home-schooling.
What was the initial reaction like?
The first design, named The Issy of course, sold out straight away! Everyone seemed to love having something bright and sassy to wear during a Zoom quiz or meeting, and it was so great to see people spreading the love with selfies as my #EarSassers on social media. I also had great feedback on how lightweight the designs were, with no earlobe ache from a typical statement earring.
What’s the ethos behind EarSass?
My ethos of “Get Your Sass On” is to encourage you to be proud of your sassiness, whatever shape, size, gender, and form, both physically and mentally. Most of my designs are named after strong influential women in my life, who have gone through tough times but found fashion and jewellery helped to bring little hits of joy into their lives.
How do you go about creating a new design?
My aim is to design earrings that make a statement, and for such a small accessory, they can say such an awful lot. I love creating new designs taking inspiration from colours in my garden, colour trends on the catwalks, and creating designs that ooze sass and confidence. I’ve redesigned the statement earring to focus on lightweight creations that feel comfortable in all day. Many of my designs can be made as a clip-on earring for those without pierced ears.
Why do you name them after influential women in your life?
Each design in my first collection was named after important and inspirational women in my life – many who had gone through tough times, but found fashion and jewellery helped to bring little hits of joy into their daily lives. I feel so lucky to have so many supportive women in my life – not one of them judges or tries to alter who I am. They have only ever encouraged me to be me and pushed me to be as creative as my mind would let me be. I love my tribe of friends.
What’s new for AW22?
I’m excited to launch my Christmas collection – think glitter, sparkle and sass! I’ve also started designing a Bridal collection after realising more brides wanted to wear something a little different to the traditional little pearl or diamond earrings. I’m creating a line that will fit with any style of wedding, but still focusing on colour and bold designs and perhaps a little smaller.
I believe you are based in Ascot? If so, what do you love about the area?
I love being in the countryside, surrounded by fields and so close to woodland walks and the river. I grew up in Highland Perthshire and love the outdoors. But I also love being so close to London where it all happens!
As we head into autumn, are there outdoor spots you particularly love?
I love being by the river, I find it so calming and love to watch the boats go by. My favourite spot it in Cookham, at The Odney Club, which I’m lucky to go with my incredible 90-year-old grandmother, who has been a member for decades.
If possible, can you pick out three places you love visiting in Ascot or further afield in Berkshire?
Taking my nephews to Bekonscot Model Village is so magical. I visited many times as a child and it’s such a special place. I love Marlow for the shops, my favourite being My Best Friend’s Wardrobe and Scamp & Dude. We live very close to a fantastic Italian restaurant called Don Beni, full of atmosphere and incredible food!
How do you see EarSass evolving?
I have always wanted to do a MANSASS collection, so I recently launched The Bowie, named after the legend himself, David Bowie. The design is a strike of lightning on a small gold halfmoon hoop. I can’t wait to see these on some sassy guys (and gals!) and create some new designs.