Meet the Maker: Sophie Dunster, Gung Ho

Meet the Maker: Sophie Dunster, Gung Ho

Welcome to Hope and Story's Meet the Maker Series, where we chat to some of the people behind our favourite independent British brands. 


Sophie Dunster

Gung Ho create garments that proudly showcase your passions and beliefs. They weave conversation starters into their designs. But they don't stop there.. 

With a dad who is a zero carbon architect, sustainability has been fairly drummed into founder Sophie from an early age. But without being able to follow in his more scientific, mathematical footsteps, Sophie followed her strength – drawing – to help convey these issues. Starting out, she wanted to become a political artist but after discovering a world of silk screen printing when studying in Brighton, she realised her drawings could become a walking ‘talking point’. This way, it wasn’t a piece of artwork hanging on a wall for a limited amount of people to see, it became someone’s first impression of you - and fashion shouldn’t just make you look good, but showcase your values too. And that’s when the idea for Gung Ho was born.

We caught up with Sophie at her studio in Battersea (she also lives on a houseboat here with one of the best views in London). The video highlights are above but we couldn't squeeze our whole chat into just two minutes so we've transcribed the rest of our conversation below, enjoy!

To shop the Gung Ho range, click here

Sophie, great to meet you. Can you explain what Gung Ho do? 

Gung Ho is a sustainable British fashion brand that's on a mission to get people talking about current issues. 

Where did the inspiration come from and can you explain how your design process works?

'When I was 18 and finished school, I knew that I wanted to use my background and educate people about these issues that are going on around the world, but I am not very good at biology or science. I can't really help the world in that way, but I can draw. I fell in love with silk screen printing and putting my designs onto clothing.

To start with, I have to research the prints for the cause that we decide to campaign around. I normally pick an issue that I think isn't in the media as much as it should be that needs attention. I work with a chosen charity to find out what is going on, what do people need to know about. Then I think 'how can I make this look beautiful?!' I then decide what sort of media I use, whether it's watercolours or pencil drawings, or pastels, it completely varies on what I think compliments the print. The fabric is then printed in Gloucestershire and we make the garments in London.

The idea is basically to get people to start up a conversation by what they are wearing, so the next time someone asks you about your dress you can talk about something you care about.'

Do you feel like you have created a community in Gung Ho?

'Honestly, the community part of Gung Ho is what has kept me going with it. It's so brilliant when people say 'what's your target market?' and I don't actually know, it's just people who have a real passion and a joy of life. And then combining Gung Ho with the garments allowing people to wear their values and the events that we do really brings people together and it's just absolutely joyous!

For example, I went to a networking event after my first collection went live on Kickstarter. Someone was wearing one of my shirts. It was the Bee Print. It has all the different types of gardening plants and tools you can use to help the Bees thrive. She had no idea who I was but she was explaining it to me really passionately. That was pretty cool.' 

Can you explain the Gung Ho style? 

'Gung Ho have a very specific style and we aren't going to be everyone's cup of tea. If you don't wear colour, we're probably not for you and that's totally fine but that doesn't mean that you can't be part of our movement and our journey.'

How do you communicate the issues you want to focus on? 

Gung Ho has a very positive "go get 'em" attitude and that comes through in what we do. But if you are talking about sometimes incredibly depressing issues, things that need change, but people don't want to talk about it because it's too hard to hear. If you aren't doing it with a positive spin, it's too hard'

The Climate Shirt Dress from the Climate Change collection is a favourite here at H+S

You have the ultimate home/office set up. Talk us through it..

'So I live on the house boat at the end of the pier which is absolutely amazing. Short distance and during COVID it has been amazing not to have to travel around very far. We have two shipping containers around 30 metres from there that Gung Ho is based out of and I love the set up!' 

Sophie's houseboat and studio are both based on Battersea Pier. 

What attracted you to work with Hope and Story? 

We are all about clubbing together and working with likeminded brands to do the right thing. Collaborating with companies like Hope & Story that are doing really wonderful things only benefits everyone. We can all focus on the bigger picture. 

Who would your dream to collaborate with?

I think my dream collaboration would be with Vivienne Westwood because she's always been a bit of a style icon, I love her style. I'd like to help them take on more important issues within their prints and adding to what they already do, that would be a dream.  

What sort of impact has COVID had on your business? 

COVID has impacted everyone. I am very thankful because it's obviously been a very tough time and I think that's made people re-evaluate what they want to support; we've actually had our best year yet. It's been uplifting in a very difficult time. We've all had our struggles and difficulties and I think that's made people think outside the box a little bit. I made so many masks (laughs)!'