Sophie's shop, The Banana Room was my refuge from the staid conservatism that gripped the Australian education system at that time. My imagination was fueled by the beautiful vintage dresses she sold, the like of which I'd never seen before. Exqusitely cut chiffon 1930's gowns, dainty lace chemises and exoticly embroidered oriental shawls.....I was happy to spend every hour I could surrounded by the magic that filled her small shop!
At this stage in my life I had no formal training as a dressmaker, but I knew enough for Sophie to eventually trust me with repairing, re-modeling and re-making some of her precious garments under her guidance. Her imaginative approach and sensitivity towards the restoration antique textiles has left a lasting impression on me to this day.
I learned so much during this time, not only about period fashion styles and how women expressed their own sense of self in the clothes they made (this is something I see constantly in the Indian embroideries I work with today) but also about design, Aboriginal art, morality and culture.....All the things school could have taught me but didn't!
Sophie was not always the easiest person to get along with, and would always challenge me if I innocently said something that smacked of assumption or prejudice; she had strong opinions and never passed on an opportunity to defend injustice as she saw it.
I was about 14 or 15 when Sophie came in to my life, at a time when I was very impressionable. She showed me how to think differently about every assumption, to always question popular opinion and think for myself and consequently strive to be ethically brave and strong.
I often wonder if I would be in India now if it wasn't for having such a dynamic role model in my teens who encouraged me to look beyond the horizon...Sometimes I still can't believe what good fortune I had to met her!