Sophie Holt is known for bringing businesses back from the brink, so a lot is riding on her shoulders as she now turns her Midas touch to reviving Oroton’s fortunes
n the floor of the boutique owned by her grandma, Sophie Holt was struck by the fashion bug. “I remember the early days in the workroom as a really small child,” she tells Stellar. “My grandmother [Dame Zara Holt] started the fashion brand Magg in the 1950s, and the shop became this Melbourne institution. My mother [who also worked as a designer at Magg] was very stylish, and used to get me subscriptions to Italian childrenswear magazines, which I’d secretly read when I was meant to be doing my homework. I think I was the only 10-year-old to have a Vogue Bambini subscription.”
Now, she says, in her new role as creative director of Oroton, she will be drawing on her family history more than ever.
Last November, after years of dwindling sales figures, the familyowned company, which was founded in 1938, entered voluntary administration.
Fund manager and Oroton shareholder Will Vicars snapped up the brand for a reported $25 million, and the announcement of Holt – who has a reputation in the industry for reviving brands stuck in a rut – as creative director, has ushered in a new era.
Holt’s career trajectory to this point has prepared her well. It all began in an unassuming way when she was hired as a Sportsgirl assistant.working her way up from assistant buyer at David Lawrence, she went on to launch the label Elle B for Sportsgirl in 1990. When Witchery approached her in 1998 to help the struggling label regain relevance,holt kicked off her career giving CPR to brands on the brink of extinction: after six years refashioning Witchery, she spent 13 years at Country Road helping it shed a daggy image. Now Oroton, the luxury bag brand that’s been in recent strife, hopes she can lend her Midas touch to turn things around.
An early indicator of how things had already changed since Holt’s arrival was the frenzy unleashed when Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, carried an Oroton bag at the Commonwealth Youth Forum in London earlier this year. The image went viral, and the results of Markle’s endorsement of the brand were instant: the handbag sold out within hours – a phenomenon that’s been coined “the Meghan effect”.
“That was such a shock,” Holt says. “It was so exciting because we hadn’t sent her the bag – her stylist had chosen it. It was a big moment for us, and we’d love to see her carry another one soon.” Given the slew of designers clamouring to have Markle wear their clothes, her decision to support Oroton may bode well for the brand’s future with Holt at the helm.
Holt is savvy enough to be aware of the expectations. “I never used to feel pressure because I was always so focused on my family,” she says. “I have three children, so they were my number one priority, and whatever I was doing at