Meet The Team: Sophie (Sublimation Press Team Leader)


First name: Sophie

Nickname: Soph

What is your role at BlackMilk? Sublimation Press Team Leader

How long have you been working at BM? Almost 5 and a half years

How did you start at BlackMilk? I took a job as a casual press operator on a whim, and here I am now running the department I started in.

What does a typical day at work look like for you? I like to get here nice and early to drink some coffee and get my bearings on the day before my team comes in. I spend a lot of time throughout the day monitoring our priorities to make sure everything is pressed on time, ready to be taken down to sewing. This involves monitoring the output from the cutting and printing teams too, as the sublimation team combines the work from those two departments to make our printed garments. I am always checking output figures so I can make sure I am rostering enough people for the next week, and along with that comes approving timesheets and other people management functions to make sure everything is running smoothly. I also love jumping on the press when I can, it’s so satisfying putting the fabric down on the printed panels – really fast!

In between this, I also make all the cutting markers for the cutting team, so I tend to slot these in throughout the day, along with all the markers for sample orders that come in. We process around 8-10 samples a day though printing and pressing (sometimes more, sometimes less) and Rosie (BMS Coordinator) and I press them at 12pm while the press team are on break. We love to challenge ourselves with how many we can get done in 30 minutes, and our record currently stands at 21 samples. 

What’s your fave thing about working at BM? The team. Being quite a small team we all get along so well, it’s so fun to come to work every day and hang out with your friends.

What BlackMilk work achievement are you most proud of? I won the Efficiency Award at our end of year party in 2019!

But also: learning more and more about how the sublimation presses run every day. There is something very satisfying about being able to diagnose what is causing an operating issue, and then being able to explain to one of our repair technicians – such as the pneumatic specialist or electrician – what I think the issue is, and then have them come back to me 20 minutes later and say “Yes! It was that!”.

What’s your fave BlackMilk piece? Either my Claws Out Sheer Midaxi Dress (I always said if I got to choose a custom it would be this, but then we released it!) or my Well Upholstered BBQ Shirt.

Describe your style in three words: It depends on the season. Summer is: linen, midi skirts, survival. Winter is: layers, boots, button ups.

What do you love to do in your spare time? Go for walks around my suburb and pat other people’s dogs. I live near a CityCat (ferry) terminal, so I like to take my book, go for a ride to nowhere in particular (Brisbane is really lovely from the river!) and read. I also love film photography, I have like six vintage cameras that I love to take photos with.

Fave food? Tofu banh mi, sushi, pizza.

Do you have a hidden talent? Washing my car the day before it rains.

What can’t you live without? Coffee.

What are three items you’d take with you to a deserted island? SUNSCREEN! (I hate being in the sun.) One of my film cameras and some film so I can at least take some photos of the scenery, and then maybe some snacks? I am not cut out for the survival life though, I would end up in a Tom Hanks/Wilson-type situation within like 24 hours.

What book should people read? I only recently got back into reading, and I have been giving my library card a workout lately (trying to get my screen time down!). But I love anything that is suspenseful, and grabs you from the get-go. If anyone has any suggestions for great books in the Thriller / Mystery / Crime genres please send them through.

What was the last show you binge watched? Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I’ve seen it 100 times already, but it never fails to make me laugh.

What are you listening to at the moment? I’m a true crime podcast junkie. Every week I listen to Casefile, Crime Junkie, Real Crime Profile, That’s Messed Up, The Vanished, and Voices For Justice.

I also love the more deep dive podcasts on a single story, like Cold, Counter Clock, Down The Hill, Ghost Gate Road, Shandee’s Story, The Lady Vanishes, The Light House, The Night Driver, and The Teacher’s Pet.

If I’m not listening to a podcast, I am listening to a very varied selection of music that at any moment can swing from Slipknot, to Lady Gaga, to Violent Soho, to Gang of Youths, to 90s pop hits.

If you could go anywhere on your next holiday, where would you go? Vietnam or Italy (definitely not motivated by the food in each country…).

How did you get into textile sublimation printing? I have a background in fashion, and I have a university degree in Fashion Business. I was working in styling and visual merchandising after uni, but I wanted to get back into something that was at the start of the garment life cycle, rather than the end.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Running the whole of the production operation at BlackMilk.

What advice do you have for people trying to get into this industry? There is no need for a fashion background to work in sublimation, but some garment constitution knowledge goes a long way. The difference between the panels is one of the hardest things to learn, especially in BMS where we are dealing with deconstructed garments, and always need specific reprints to get our orders completed. Our reprints often look like “three back lefts, one front right, one left cuff, two right cuffs, a waistband, and three left sleeves”. Our team needs to be able to tell the difference between all of them at a glance.

Anything else you want to add? I think a lot of people assume we print our clothing on big rolls of fabric and then cut it out, but we actually do the complete opposite of that. We cut the pattern pieces out first, place them face down piece by piece on the print paper as it is moving, and then run them through the 200 degree sublimation press. This way Graphics and Design can decide where they want each element down to the millimetre, and each garment will be exactly the same. 

Our press team is very skilled, some of our garments have up to 15 panels and you have to be very fast to lay them out on the press (hello, short overalls!). When something needs to line up across a seam there is no margin for error (think the skeleton design on the front of the Ribs Short Overalls) but our press operators manage to get it in the right spot down to the millimetre. 

Everyone always talks about the packing ninjas in Warehouse, but I think the sublimation ninjas in BMS are just as cool! It is absolutely amazing watching them go, and I am in awe every day over what we are able to achieve. 

Just for fun, show us your pets!! I WANT A DOG OF MY OWN MORE THAN ANYTHING, but unfortunately I don’t have one. My Dad has dogs that I am obsessed with though. He has a big dog Ember, and a tiny dog Smudge who is a Chihuahua. Despite their size difference they are best friends! He also has a pet chicken that likes to hang out with the dogs, and sometimes thinks it’s a dog too.