Lady Sophia’s collection, Falling Awake, caused the whole room to fall silent at London Fashion Week last month, as her masked models and entirely black collection graced the catwalks.

Sophia Bentley Tonge, of Albert Crescent, Lincoln, now frequently travels to London for work.  She created the womenswear collection during her time at Nottingham Trent University, where she graduated with a first class honours degree in fashion design.

The collection, which was based on nightmares, went on to win Tonge a place at Graduate Fashion Week.

Less than a year after graduating, Sophia was approached to make her designer debut at Fashion Week, an invite which is very rare for someone so early into their career, seeming too good to be true for Tonge.

“I couldn’t believe it when I got the email inviting me to go. I just kept reading it over and over again. I thought ‘this has got to be some kind of a scam’,” she said.

Balaclavas and gimp masks featured in the nightmarish collection , shocking everyone in the audience at the closing show on February 24th.

Tonge said that the decision to include them was difficult, as she could not be sure how people would react.

“I think it is very threatening in our society to cover your face, and as soon as the models came out the whole room fell silent,” she said.

For most, the shock subsided and the audience was left admiring the creativity of the designs. Tonge’s risk in using the masks paid off, as they added to the impact of the collection — something that she thinks is essential.

“A strong concept is important, especially in a graduate collection. You’ve got to do something to get yourself noticed,” she said.

Sophia got the initial idea for the dark collection from the dream-mixing scene in Roald Dahl’s The BFG. The theme then developed
when she came across a photograph on Myspace of a teddy bear that had been covered in tar.

“It really caught my attention. They had taken something so innocent that you have in your childhood, and had done something really horrible to it and made it something almost disturbing,” she said.

Her collection included lycra, corsets, and sophisticated quilted jackets and skirts. These jackets were decorated with dolls heads,
and the models were accessorised with black teddy bears.

However, Tonge says that the collection was not always intended to be theatrical.

“I grew up going to the theatre a lot and my dad is an actor so I spent a lot of time on film sets playing in the wardrobe department. I think it just naturally comes out in my designs,” she said.

As a result of the show at London fashion week, Tonge has already had commission orders, media coverage, and even an offer to pay for her to put a show on.

She is currently working on an exhibition that will feature canvases, films and further runways of her current collection, which she expects to take place in London in around four months.

Tonge says she will start work on her next collection soon, and whilst she hasn’t stumbled across inspiration yet, she does know that it will be very different from her previous work.

Talking about what the future holds, she said: “I think with my next collection I will go completely the other way to what I did with this one to counteract it. I may have given people the wrong impression coming out with this collection. They probably all think I’m some kind of queen of darkness!”

Follow Sophia’s success through her blog.