Meet Fort Dungarees founder Sophie Franklin
‘Dungarees are so easy to wear. They allow you a little masculinity whilst still being a bit feminine. I love how you feel when you wear them, and people can really make them their own depending on what you put with them’
We first came across FORT Dungarees and founder Sophie at Netil Market in Hackney back in 2017. We were instantly sold by her beautiful cotton striped dungarees that are made ethically in rural India. We got in touch to hear more about the concept behind the brand and the steps Sophie’s taken to keep her brand ethical.
Tell us about FORT Dungarees for those who don’t know you…
FORT Dungarees is an ethical clothing brand that currently specialises in designing and making dungarees. We believe that our clothes can have a positive impact, not only on the people who wear them but also on the people who make them, whilst leaving the least impact on the environment.
Our production line uses organic rain-fed cotton, natural dyes and handwoven materials. We believe in providing jobs for rural people and allowing them to make a living in their local villages. In this way it helps stem the need for urbanisation and hopefully reduce urban sprawl.
Where did the idea for Fort Dungarees come from?
I have always loved simple design but was fed up of not being able to afford classic pieces from some of the bigger named brands, so I decided to make them myself. After doing some research I was horrified by the amount of waste, environmental damage and exploitation within the textile industry so I was set on making FORT sustainable and ethical.
Why dungarees, and why stripes?
Dungarees are so easy to wear. They allow you a little masculinity whilst still being a bit feminine. I love how you feel when you wear them, and people can really make them their own depending on what you put with them.
Stripes - because you can never go wrong with a good stripe! The stripe actually found me! I loved the fabric so much, mainly because of it’s weight and weave then I realised a stripe could be woven into the fabric, and it was a match made in heaven.
Why is being ethical important to you?
I believe that what you wear is an expression of yourself and I would like to express respect for my fellow man and nature through clothing. Nature is the most beautiful thing, I want to help protect that.
What steps have you made to ensure your brand is ethical?
I have met people from every part of the production line from visiting the cotton pickers in the cotton fields, to the weavers, to the craftsman doing the stitching at the finishing units. I have spent time with the people who make my clothes and so within that relationship I hope there is trust. I have asked awkward questions, requested visits to places that most people don’t make. I’m not 100% there yet but the bolder you become the braver you get!
What’s been the toughest part of starting and running an ethical brand? Any advice for someone looking to start their own?
I think what I said above, being brave enough to ask those questions. Anyone wanting to start an ethical clothing brand - DO IT. It’s so much fun and inspiring, you meet the most amazing people. Everyone needs to wear clothes, so there is loads of room in the market, grab your spot and make it count!
What does the future hold for Fort Dungarees?
Lots of excitement I hope. We are going to expand our product range. We hope to keep everything simple, bold and easy to wear - our mantra. I would like us to get stronger as a company, and keep connecting with communities in a positive way that goes beyond our brand.