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DMU grad chases dream to design sustainable sportswear


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From running marathons to running her own fashion business, De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) graduate Sophie Kempner is always up for a challenge.

The Fashion Design alumna’s love for the sport inspired her new French sportswear brand Maratona, designing affordable, comfortable and sustainable running kit.

Sophie Kempner_main

Originally from Buckinghamshire, Sophie recently settled in Brittany, France, to chase her dream of owning her own eco-responsible business.

She said: “The most important goal for me is to have all the products made locally here in Brittany.

“There’s so much fast fashion being made abroad and I want to change that. I can’t think of a better time to help create jobs locally, and have garments made as local as possible, at a fair price.

“I’ve been a fabric specialist for almost 10 years, and it’s exciting to see how the industry is evolving so rapidly and becoming more aware with eco-responsible textiles.”

Sophie first moved abroad to New York after graduating from DMU in 2011, to begin an internship with high-end couture designer Rubin Singer which turned into a full-time job - an experience which was an ‘absolute adventure’.

“I knew I wanted to work in fashion, and my goal was to get as much experience in the industry as I could. I was terrified and shy, but so excited at the same time,” she said.

Sophie went on to work for well-known French designer, Marine Serre, in Paris. She enjoyed specialising in tissue for fabric and textile design, but dreamed of establishing her own brand.

She said: “In April last year I decided to go for it, and set up my own business with the help of my boyfriend. By December I was able to resign from my job and focus on the brand full time, after relocating to Rennes in Brittany.”

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Sophie said the key to being an entrepreneur is to be organised and set weekly goals.

“When you set up your own business you are doing everything - researching fabric suppliers, contacting the press, managing the social media accounts, and don’t forget actually designing the products. And budgeting! It’s a lot of juggling, and managing your time well,” she said.

“When starting your own business, my advice would be to have a ‘yes’ attitude and take as many opportunities as you can.

“I believe if you are passionate and love what you do, people will notice that and you will go far. Dream big, start small, but most of all, start!”

Sophie had a ‘fantastic three years’ at DMU, gaining skills and experience that laid the foundations for her fashion career, and making lifelong friends along the way.

“The Fashion Design course at DMU was a dip in the pool for everything fashion related and gave me the basic skills to enter the industry. From pattern cutting, to sewing, to design concepts it was a time to learn my skillset while still having the freedom to experiment with my creative style,” she said.

“I was lucky to live with an amazing group of girls from my first year in halls. From nights out to supporting each other through all-nighter deadlines, the experience wouldn’t have been the same without them. We still keep in contact to this day, and they will come to my wedding next year!”

“Leicester is a great city and I remember the people being so friendly and welcoming. I hope to go back and visit soon.”

Posted on Wednesday 3rd March 2021

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