Artist of the Week: Sophia Kapsalis

by | February 26, 2023

Sophia Kapsalis is a designer and artist.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a second year studying Biology at Balliol, but my real passion lies in art and design. I’ve spent most my life painting, but in the last three-or-so years have been experimenting with pretty much any creative medium which comes my way. At the moment, fashion and design is definitely where my heart lies. I’ve loved getting involved with what Oxford has to offer in this scene, last year sending Marianne Doherty down the runway at the first Oxford Fashion Gala, in a sheer piece which I both designed and made. Over the past couple of years, I’ve also sold various pieces which I have produced. This summer I made a line of crochet bralettes, which kept me occupied over the long vac.

What’s your artistic process like?

In my art and photography, I’m obsessed with the problem of how to represent the inner mind visually. A lot of my art represents my various attempts at tackling this, aiming to capture experiences and feelings in a way that lets me look back at my past work as a sort of visual diary – I get transported back to the way I was feeling and thinking at the time, for better or for worse.

In terms of fashion, I like to take the motifs and ideas which I use in my art and transport them to a different medium. Fashion is interesting because you have to work in an entirely different language – that of texture, form, and bodies. Translating my artistic vision to this radically different medium provides a completely different challenge because of the technicalities of making clothes. My ideas start as sketches, which come to reality through a lot of problem solving. This usually involves measuring and testing what extremes the fabric I am using will be stretched to. Lots of my creative process begins with big ideas, so figuring out how these can actually be achieved is a massive part of the way I work, which often leads to outcomes totally different to how I initially envisioned them. My Fashion Gala dress changed a million times through the production process, but it’s through this that I was able to come out with something I don’t think I’d have been able to even think about at the beginning.

One thing I am really passionate about is how sustainability can be achieved in fashion, so I like to source my fabric second hand and do a lot of upcycling within my own wardrobe. Fashion is a field where it’s easy to lose perspective about the greater issues in the world, and as a result I think it’s really important to keep sight of this – especially regarding the wastefulness and environmental impact of the industry. I also think using recycled materials adds more interest to pieces, as the marks of the way the fabric has been used before show the history of the fabric – something I think is quite cool to see in a garment!

What are you working on at the moment?

Since October, I have been working as a Costume Designer for Breakwater. This has involved a lot of collaboration with direction and production about their visions for each of the characters, along with an obscene amount of time spent on Vinted and making spreadsheets. With filming starting in less than two weeks as I write this, we are in the last leg of getting everything together and organised so that the 3 weeks on set will run as smoothly as it can. Breakwater is a really unique project that I am very excited to be a part of! The packed nature of Oxford has meant that during term time my creative work has taken a bit of a backseat, but I like to keep my creativity ticking over by covering my walls in post-its full of ideas for projects, and through my photography: a medium that I have also grown to love. Currently, I have a lot of ideas for a brand I am planning on launching at some point in 2023 – something I am super excited about putting together in the coming months once I am (finally) finished with this years exams! I picture this project as more of a curation of art than a fashion brand, and am really excited about collaborating with other creatives from a whole variety of fields in Oxford and beyond to push this from an idea to reality.

Who are your biggest influences, and why? 

Although I think I take little bits of inspiration from everything I observe in my day-to-day, I would say one of my main influences actually comes from my degree. Nature is an amazing source of inspiration and something I leaned on heavily when designing my dress for the Fashion Gala. The forms, colours and textures you see in nature are so intentionally designed and I love to draw from this in my own pieces. Although I often wonder if making the decision to study at Oxford over going to fashion school was the right thing for me to do, by choosing to study Biology I have gained a unique influence and perspective that I otherwise would never of had the chance to interact with, which I think helps me have somewhat unique insights in my designs.

Where can you see yourself going in the future?

I’m not too sure right now but I think this is the best place I can be in. What I would say is that I would like to be working eventually on projects which draw together elements from all branches of the creative world. As this is my goal, I want to put myself in positions where I get as much opportunity as possible to try out new things, to widen my understanding of different creative processes and their ways of thinking. The fact that there are so mediums of creative expression that I am yet to try my hand at is something that really excites me, so for the next couple of years I’m planning on focussing on putting myself out there so I can discover what it is in art that I really want to lock in on. I definitely take some comfort in the uncertainty of what the future is to bring – I’d much rather that than know exactly which office seat I will be stuck in for the next 10 years of my life! Hopefully, doing this will lead me down a path where I am able to pave myself out a career which I am passionate about in the creative industries. That or end up working in a garden centre. ∎

Photography by Coco Cottam.