In Conversation with Fashion Designer Chloe Sheppard

[photography: Robyn Clark @peachypicturesuk]

Last month, I was fortunate enough to chat to Bristol-based fashion designer Chloe Sheppard, founder of SUGAR RUSH, a small independent business offering Festival and Rave Garms. When Chloe answered the phone, I was instantly reminded of her kindness and humility. I’ve always admired Chloe, we met in university halls, she was sweet-natured, stylish and a student of Fashion Design. Chloe is sincere and considers her words carefully, when asked what inspired her to choose fashion design, she explained that it was a tough choice between her creative and academic sides, as she felt torn between studying fashion or geography. (I found this anecdote all the more interesting when I discovered Chloe was a Gemini - creative, intuitive, easy-going and of course, the symbol of duality). Chloe was intrigued by geography but also found creativity to be a source of joy. Eventually it was her textiles teacher who provided a voice of guidance, recommending Falmouth University of the Arts. After a trip and a tour, Chloe was quickly enamoured by the sub-tropical campus, scenic beaches and huge palm trees. It was a serene location for a creative course and Chloe decided she wanted to study within such an environment.

[photography: Stephanie MacFarlane @stephanielmacfarlanephoto]

Chloe started her business in the summer after her first year in University. After a casual moment of boredom, Chloe began to experiment with fabric to create her very first garment, which was popped on Depop and sold almost instantly. After making a few more items, she was surprised at how her creations soared to popularity. It’s clear how SUGAR RUSH became a fresh and exciting favourite; the colours are vibrant and versatile, it’s well-crafted, handmade and we can see Y2K/90s style with bubble-gum colours, cute flames, electric patterns and dragons.

Chloe described how she loved working with the stretch fabric, she enjoyed its flexibility and it was perfect festival and rave wear. Chloe had to be quick and learn on the job, navigating an ever-growing customer base, experimenting with new fabrics, construction, pattern-cutting to develop her craft. Inspired by bright and bold colours, patterns and everything visual, Chloe took the experience in her stride and was suddenly at the helm of an exciting new business with an expanding community. However, it soon became difficult to balance her new-found work with study; at one point, Chloe seriously considered dropping out, as her course didn’t offer the same creative freedoms as her enterprise. Yet within Chloe we find resilient spirit, although her business was flourishing, she wanted to stick with university too. In her third and final year of university, Chloe felt motivated, determined and ready to direct her skills to higher education.

[image: stunning designs by Chloe Sheppard for SUGAR RUSH]

Chloe developed her third year Final Collection MORAL PANIC drawing inspiration from 80s acid house streetwear. This style is darker, edgier and satirical; we see Margaret Thatcher historicised within Chloe’s vision, glaring angrily from a jacket, alluding to the Tory Government’s efforts to suppress the rave phenomenon and house parties of the 1980s. Chloe’s collection becomes a symbol of the cultural attitude of a generation proud to be underground and radically loud, nostalgic of a past and a contemporary future. This fierce collection certainly caught the attention of Chloe’s professors and was short-listed for Graduate Fashion Week in London. This has been one of Chloe’s proudest achievements, to be short-listed alongside the UK’s most acclaimed Fashion Design Graduates and to see her designs on a professional runway.


I asked Chloe if she ever considered pursuing MORAL PANIC as well as SUGAR RUSH, but the lovely fashion designer described how it was difficult to sustain MORAL PANIC outside of university without access to the facilities and resources. In the future, she hopes to meld both creative projects but until that day she enjoys being self-employed. According to Chloe, the fashion industry itself can be fast-paced, competitive and inaccessible, especially with unpaid internships and high costs for travel. Chloe prefers to apply time and energy into her own schedule and business, as she knows whatever effort she puts in will be reflected and enjoyed by her clients.

We also discussed how Chloe and her independent business were affected by the lockdown. After university, Chloe was working full-time and found it tricky to manage SUGAR RUSH and creativity in her new working lifestyle. Although the reasons for lockdown were terrifying, Chloe needed the shock of a full-blown stop, as it allowed her to reflect and suddenly, she had time for sewing again. This creative process became calming and comforting during a period of uncertainty. Chloe’s advice for aspiring creatives? Trust in trial and error, invest in something you enjoy, although it will often be difficult to endure, if you're pursuing your interests and passion as your career, it will always feel restorative.

Finally, I asked Chloe if she had a favourite piece? A fierce orange flaming two-piece commissioned and sent all the way to Australia. Chloe Sheppard is one to watch and we absolutely loved hearing her story! Chloe is one of the kindest souls I’ve ever met with a true vision for style! If you’re planning any festivals, garden parties for the bright, distant future…consider visiting her shop to commission your perfect outfit!

[photography: Stephanie MacFarlane @stephanielmacfarlanephoto]

[Photography: Sarah Whalley @scwhalley]

[Photography: Sarah Whalley @scwhalley]


Words: Charlotte Hampshaw x Chloe Sheppard

Images: Stephanie MacFarlane, Robyn Clark, Sarah Charlotte Whalley

Editor: Charlotte Hampshaw

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