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Sophie by Alexander James

I first met Sophie probably around ten years ago. We were waitressing; she had just left Leeds University after studying History of Art, and I still had a year to go. It's embarrassing to admit, but boy did I try and impress her. Sophie's self-possession floored me, so instead of trying to match it (unachievable), I went the opposite route of trying everything in my power to make her laugh. She kindly obliged and I was high-fiving myself on the inside.

Since then, Sophie's career has been a hell of a thing to watch. Every time I see her I eagerly ask how many people are now working at Studio Ashby, and the number always astounds me. Last I checked there were fourteen - having only just learnt how to pay myself it floored me.

After the BLM protests in the summer, it was hard for the design industry not to reflect on what had been going wrong to see so little diversity in the industry. Sophie wrote a post which... you guessed it - floored me. It was brutally honest, she held herself to account along with the rest of the industry, and it was indeed the wake-up call that was needed. Her rallying call made waves. This issue could not keep getting swept under the rug (however beautiful that rug) and so Sophie, along with Alexandria Dauley (founder of Dauley Designs), founded United in Design.

'United in Design is driven by a clear need to deliver an equal opportunity pathway for entry into the Interior Design industry for people from black, Asian, ethnic minority and socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.'

Already it has 140+ partners pledging their support to help the industry grow and become more inclusive, and in my opinion more exciting.

I can understand that you may well think that all this is enough for one person to be getting on with, and I do too - more than enough. But there's no keeping a good gal down. Recently Sophie and colleagues have started 'Sister', an online antique store that pledges 'to never, ever take ourselves too seriously, to curate a sunny oasis edgeless sea of #interiorinspo accounts, and to hunt down and curate weird and wonderful pieces that will bring sunshine to your home. Future heirlooms with a story'. That sounds ok by me! I am not quite sure when Sophie found the time for this but delighted she did!


What is your favourite day of the week?

Saturday, because there is always the promise of Sunday

Best Restaurant?

Best Moment in your career so far?

Launching United in Design with Alex Dauley – the response was overwhelmingly positive, encouraging and made me hopeful about the future

Sophie & Her Husband Charlie Casely-Hayford. The new Casely-Hayford store on London's Chiltern Street has been designed by Studio Ashby.

Favourite Tube Stop/ Line?

Hammersmith and City as our studio has been on Ladbroke Grove for a long time – it’s always pretty clean and empty and mostly above ground!

Favourite Piece of Clothing?

My cream Casely-Hayford bespoke tuxedo

Favourite Smell?

The smell of cypress, eucalyptus and pine trees as you come out the airport and arrive somewhere in the Mediterranean and are hit by that thick, warm, fragrant holiday smell… in very short supply in 2020.

Top Destination in the UK?

On a little boat, drifting down the River Dart in Devon with a riverside pub as the destination – preferably the Ferry Boat in Dittsham

What movie can you watch over and over without ever getting tired of?

Out of Africa

Jodie Turner-Smith for Gucci

Any good advice? Who gave it to you?

Trust your gut and try and learn to make good, quick decisions… I pay great attention to my intuition.

Girl Crush?

Jodie Turner-Smith

Boy Crush?

Louis Theroux

A song that can always make your foot tap?


Huge thank you to Sophie!


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