Meet our Friday Muse Belinda Cannon, founder and designer of SOPHIE

14 December 2023
By Fashion Quarterly

Driven by her love for thoughtful trinkets, meet the woman behind local jewellery and apparel label, SOPHIE.

What started as a passion project during early motherhood turned into a full blown career for SOPHIE founder and designer, Belinda Cannon. Based in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland, it’s coming up on seven years since Cannon officially launched her accessory and apparel brand into the market — and she hasn’t looked back. Having always wanted to own her own business, it was her love for accessories and her background in marketing that made starting a brand like SOPHIE seem like a no-brainer. Grounded in thoughtful and sentimental design, Cannon leads her brand from the heart — which extends to her newest service, forEVER permanent jewellery. Offering appointments from their Auckland studio, lovers of the brand can now commemorate special memories or milestones by purchasing a permanent bracelet or anklet, which the SOPHIE team solder on for you. 

Below, FQ speaks to Cannon about the brand’s journey so far, what it’s like hailing from a creative family, and how she balances motherhood with running a business. 

In conversation with Belinda Cannon:

Could you tell us a bit about you, your background, and your career to date?

I absolutely love working, I’m very motivated and extremely determined. I’m one of two daughters to a mother that made my sister and I clothes in beautiful matching prints, and our artistic father was a signwriter by trade, his father a sculptor. I’m fascinated by people and after completing degrees in psychology and marketing, I had a career in advertising and marketing in Aotearoa and the UK. I’m a proud mum of twins, Henry and Sophie, and the wife of an Irishman, living in Tāmaki Makaurau.

How long have you been running SOPHIE? What drew you to start your own label?

We’ll be seven next April! I had always wanted a fulfilling business of my own. I decided to focus on something I love – accessories – and just decided to go for it. I had nothing to lose. It was a bit of a passion project while I was working part time after becoming a mum, and I’d stay up late most nights working on SOPHIE.

What is the meaning behind the brand’s name?

Sophie is my daughter. In keeping with deciding to start a business based on what I love, I named it after one of the two biggest loves of my life. A dear friend designed the logo and it was called ‘gaps’ – the letters aren’t evenly spaced. Soph had a gap from sucking her thumb which made it extra special. Our brand is very much about honouring love, family and friendships. So a personal name connected to family feels right. 

Your background is in marketing. What inspired you to make such a career switch?

I really wanted my own business for a long time. I always gave a lot to my jobs, but knew I didn’t want to keep progressing. Once I had Henry and Sophie, I got the confidence to just do it. If you’re away from your children for work, I think you really want to make sure you’re doing something you enjoy.

Have you always been creative? 

Growing up in my family, I was probably more of an academic. My sister is an amazing photographer and did all the arts subjects at school. Creativity comes in so many different forms. I’ve always been a lover of prints, little details, words and illustrations. In advertising, I had the opportunity to work with some amazing creatives, and that work was inspiring. My childhood bestie and I were always starting little businesses together, so maybe the entrepreneurial creativity always existed?

How would you describe your brand aesthetic?

Our aesthetic is inspired by the beauty of nature – the small details of it, things that some might miss, a spotty leaf, the pattern of petals. We’re very much undeterred by fleeting trends and focus on feminine and functional design. We are minimal, spacious, clean, bright and polished.

You lean towards more classic silhouettes in your designs. Why should people opt for more timeless pieces in their wardrobes rather than trends? 

For me, I love a timeless look. Investing in a few beautiful pieces you’ll love forever just makes sense. It’s a smart way to build a wardrobe. I think what you put with classic pieces denotes your personal style and enables you to build out a wardrobe in different ways. 

Why did you decide to make the foray from jewellery and accessories into clothing?

I wasn’t 100% sure what direction SOPHIE would take when I started, but as things have grown, making clothing became a logical next step. I’m very considered and particular with clothing and often spend a lot of time looking for a particular piece. Making my own means I get exactly what I want! Our fabric and our craftsmanship is beautiful, Mum as a sewer has instilled quality in me and our design and production manager has extensive experience. I’d been thinking about it and working on it for a long time prior to our launch and am so glad with how we’ve started, just a select few pieces.

What does a typical day-in-the-life look like for you?

On weekdays, I sort the kids for school. And it’s coffee before tennis or after 6am bootcamp, depending on the day. Days at work vary and I love that. I’m very involved in design and marketing and there is always something on there. An online store is 24/7! Equally, I am across budgets and numbers so looking at those regularly too. We have a few meetings, but not too many. Most days there is something to make a decision on. Creating a great culture is very important to me, so talking and problem solving and having fun with our team is a daily occurrence. After school, I am largely a taxi for Henry and Sophie and their commitments! Once that’s done, it’s dinner and bedtime. I always finish the day with a podcast, I’m a huge fan.

How do you manage a work/life balance? What are your non-negotiables?

It’s a constant juggle and I don’t really enjoy that side of being a working Mum. My husband has a full time job. I work school hours as I want to be with the kids. The working days are short. Now I have an amazing team, without them, this wouldn’t be possible. You need to be very realistic about what you take on and sometimes I get this wrong. My non-negotiables are tennis twice a week, three on a great week. My husband really enjoys housework and cooking, which is great, because I don’t!

What’s next for you? Personally and professionally?

It’s been a full on few years with the pandemic and now the economic climate. I’d like to step back a bit and refine the things I focus on. We’ll see. I’ll be a mum to two teens soon so I want to preserve my energy for this phase of parenting! I’m always thinking about what’s next and new ideas, but I want to grow a brand that is here for a long time, so I am deliberately considered with our decisions. I’m a quiet achiever too, so don’t talk too much about what’s next for SOPHIE!

Quickfire questions:

The best business advice I’ve ever received… “Never want it more than you work for it.”

If I could have dinner with any three people on earth, dead or alive, I would choose… Mum, Sophie, My Nana (Sophie was born on her birthday and they’d get on so well).

If I had to listen to three songs for the rest of my life it would be… Ooh Child (Beth Orton), Beautiful People Beautiful Problems (Lana Del Ray), Total Control (The Motels).

Best coffee spot… Anywhere where there is sea air, preferably with really good coffee. 

My style icon is… My Mum.

My guilty pleasure is… Love Island, the more episodes in one go, the better.

If I wasn’t a designer I would be a… Psychologist.

My favourite place to dine… Lillian if I’m in Auckland.

Imagery: Supplied.


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