How Dame Zandra Rhodes Inspired Sofia Marino’s Denim Start-up

Dame Zandra Rhodes + Sofia Marino

A University of the Arts (UAL) graduate named Sofia Marino has received mentorship from Dame Zandra Rhodes, which inspired her to launch her own denim start-up.

Sofia’s initial encounter with Zandra was an unexpected one.

The story begins in the United States: whilst Sofia was in Vegas on a birthday trip, she received some heart-breaking news: she’d been rejected from her dream course (a makeup and prosthetics course at the University of Arts London). However shortly after, she had a chance encounter with a kind-hearted sales woman who advised her that her ‘dear friend, Dame Zandra Rhodes’ might be able to help.

Once back in London, Sofia and Zandra connected. Zandra explained to Sofia that unfortunately, she wouldn’t be able to assist with her University application, however, she did offer to introduce her to some make-up artists who could provide her with some valuable work experience. Next up: Sofia and Zandra met in person for the first time.

And it was during this meeting that Zandra caught sight of Sofia’s denim jacket. She questioned why she wanted to study makeup, when it was obvious that she had a talent for fashion. Although Sofia didn’t have an answer at the time, Zandra’s comment continued to play on her mind.

Regardless, Sofia continued to battle with the UAL, as she was determined to follow her dream of being accepted onto the makeup and prosthetics course. But in an unexpected turn of events, whilst she was in a meeting to appeal the UAL’s decision, the University were taken aback by her unique talent for textiles and design, and they immediately offered her a place to study on their Fashion, Textiles and Print course as an alternative.

Sofia accepted the offer. Following her acceptance, Zandra kindly offered to help Sofia in any way that she could, and this included an open invitation to her studio whenever she was in London. Eventually, this led to Sofia working side-by-side with Zandra, where she helped to bring new designs and ideas to life.

To this day, Dame Zandra Rhodes still provides inspiration, friendship and mentoring, which has encouraged Sofia to develop her own signature designs, and to carve her own career path in the fashion industry.

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Now, Sofia Marino is on a mission to ‘reinvent’ the classic denim jacket. Sofia’s love for denim and embroidery can be traced back to her earliest designs: her first ever customised denim jacket was a commission to represent punk in 1970’s London.

Founded last year in 2021, Sofia Marino’s electrifying collection of fully-customisable, made-to-order designs, – features intricate embroidery and traditional style 100% cotton, premium denim jackets.

Using bold colours and eye-popping embroidery art, Sofia encourages each customer to get involved in the design process, and she transforms the wardrobe classic into chic, eye-catching outerwear pieces that can be worn and loved for a lifetime. Sofia takes inspiration from her Italian heritage and travels. And with each design, she combines specialised crafting, exquisite embroidery, and hand-beading.

“Creating my own brand has been one of the most challenging and enlightening experiences of my life. It has taught me a great deal about myself, and how important it is to find a niche and a market. I decided that my niche would be to create timeless designs, using the iconic classic denim jacket as my canvas,” said Sofia.

“My jackets have all been made to my own specification, using eco-friendly denim, and each jacket incorporates one of my unique designs that starts out as a drawing, and develops into a painting, before being turned into an embroidered piece of art,” added Sofia.

“What I hope to achieve through my vision, is for people to enjoy the opportunity to wear a piece of artwork in a classic style that will make them stand out in a crowd and attract positive attention, by mixing styles with something traditional, yet unique. The combination of iconic styling and bold designs is intended to make the jackets unique, timeless pieces that are treasured over a lifetime,” she added.

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