“It was inspired by the recent Japanese wood-cut exhibition at Brighton Museum,” says Sophie Darling, who crafted this month’s wonderfully layered cover. “Artists like Eizan and Hiroshige. Their brushwork is like nothing else, and I loved the fluidity and use of pattern and motif in their work. And the gradient colours. I was there for hours with my sketchbook, finding inspiration.”
I’m speaking to Sophie in her eponymous pop-up space in the Lanes, where she sells her own and other Brighton-based artists’ fabric designs, draped, folded and hanging all around us, in a creatively composed riot of pattern and colour. “It’s so much more than a pop-up, it’s an extension of my creativity,” she says. “I’ve decided to keep it open. I just love the space.”
Sophie trained as a fine artist, and was known for her abstract paintings and screen prints, before she was lured into the corporate world in the 90s, creating murals in restaurants and composing branding designs for events, working for the likes of Rizla and Evian. She has also worked as a design director and was a founding director of the screen-printed leather handbag company Kimchi, stocked in Liberty’s stores the world over.
“All the time I was also working on my own screen prints and collages,” she says, “with an idea of eventually setting up my own fashion label, which I did in 2013. I believe in ‘slow’ fashion, trying to limit the footprint of the business as much as possible. The fabrics are all designed and printed in my studio in Brighton, and hand-made by our local machinists around the corner. Where possible, we deliver on foot.
“I like creating a juxtaposition of soft, painterly, illustrative form, and modernising this with contemporary hard-line geometric patterns,” she says, of her modus operandi. “My designs are largely abstract, though I do include recognisable motifs – in the case of this cover, the geological formations. It’s all about adding layer after layer after layer.”
“The word ‘Viva’ is a joy for a graphic designer,” she says, of her funky masthead logo, “with all those angles and parallel lines. I looked around and found a font that would give the cover a spacey feel, and then tweaked it to make it my own.”
Elements of this design will live well beyond its month-long residency as March’s Viva cover. “I’ll develop it further and recycle it,” she says. “Hence all the repetition, and mirroring. It will be incorporated into my next collection.”
Like all our cover artists, Sophie was given a fairly open brief, being asked to create something which in some way represented the term ‘care’. “I went beyond the idea of ‘care in the community’,” she says. “I wanted to address the global side of caring, to inspire people to care about their planet.” She has incorporated a rising sun in the design. It’s a common motif in her work, “encompassing hope for the future.”