From buyers to designers, these creative designer girls give us an insight about what it's like to transition in the fashion industry from one concept to another. Having both sharing a great amount of experience in the industry with working as buyers at asos, Orlagh and Henrietta tell us all about their friendship, travelling and creating their new and up coming brand RIXO.
Tell us about both of you! Your fashion experience and how you were perviously working for asos and your studies!
Tell us a little bit about your buying careers what that entailed?
Orlagh: I started off wanting to do fashion design so I moved from Ireland to London after getting accepted into the London College of Fashion. I quickly realised I didn't want to do 4 years at university solidly focusing on design so after the first year I took a gap year travelling, worked in New York and reapplied for the fashion management course at LCF which is where myself and Henrietta's paths met. Henrietta had just finished her A levels in Cheshire and moved to London.
We became inseparable from first semester, working on uni projects together, spending our weekends trawling vintage and antique markets and found someone to share our vintage obsession with. We would literally sued to ring each other at 3 in the morning after finding an insane 1970's prints or a vintage 1930's bias cut dresses.
Henrietta worked at Kerry Taylor auctions during our time at university, (a really famous vintage auction house outside London), whilst also working at Selfridges. Every spare minute we had we would be sourcing the best vintage, materials, fabrics, print designs. Even on vacations we turned professional trawler to explore the fashion and vintage whatever country we where in.
We decided even before we finished university that we would start RIXO but wanted to get some experience under our belt first. This has been the key to our success so far. I worked at TK Maxx buying off-price and the buying principals really inspired me to think in a different way when working with anyone along the supply chain, from our factory to material sourcing. We both then worked at ASOS in womenswear own brand where Henrietta worked on Dresses and I worked on Accessories, Bags and Swimwear so we had quite a broad insight into the development and production.
Our buying job roles varied massively day to day from the exciting tasks of souring inspiration, developing product and ranges to the not so exciting but extremely important critical path control, sales analysis, cost price negotiations and endless fit sessions. There is never enough hours in the day.
Coming from buying in contrast to purely just a design degree background has really helped us understand how to make our passion into an actual business, not just a hobby, where we can see a real growth potential for what we are doing.
What made you both create RIXO? When was your moment?
We really felt like their was a huge gap in the market for a contemporary brand that offered real value for money at that £250 price point. We've got such a strong but over saturated high street market within the UK but our contemporary premium brands are few and far between. On one hand you've got lots of scandi minimal black and white premium labels or the opposite,really street graphic brands such as House of Holland. There is nothing that offers a more premium gown up bohemian vibe ... Think Kate Moss/ Olsen twinesque. We noticed how well certain Australian and LA brands where doing over here in the UK with a premium price point. RIXO has that bohemian element except we are doing it the British way, less beach like more London cool and take huge inspiration from the Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell era's. Having done our time in the buying office we decided come that come New Year 2015 it would be our year to bring the world what we so strongly feel is missing - someone who knows their own style and is willing to pay a little bit more than Topshop prices to really invest in pieces that are not just one season wonders but wardrobe staples they will wear day and hight.
The virtues of rosemary is your first collection for your new brand. Tell us what was your inspiration behind this collection?
Our first collection was actually inspired by 15th Century manuscripts of old italian herbs which lay hidden away in the British Library. We were genuinely so excited - like kids in candy shop routing through these huge big old books finding everything from carrots to Rosemary & Poppies that inspired us. We were also inspired by vintage treasures we had collected over the years from details and shapes like the scalloping of our blouses and the jackets lapels int he collection.
How long did it take for you to sketch your idea on pen and paper to creating your collection?
From initial sketching to creating samples it took a couple of months. I was still working full time so every evening and weekend consisted of designing shapes and working on the print elements. We also didn't develop a few pieces we had originally sketched and planned in the range. We constantly challenged ourselves troll over our designs and think how well they work individually as well as a collection. Some pieces weren't as strong so we had no hesitation on whittling down to the pieces we absolutely loved and couldn't live without. You can't be too precious and personal about your designs as you have to keep in mind what will work best and constantly self critique to get the best result.
How did you source your material for this collection?
We sourced all our materials in London. We wanted beautiful silks that flattered the body. We felt really strongly about the fabric bases we put our shapes into - They can really make a garment. Even with linings we really focused on where best to use and not to use them on each piece so they feel beautiful when worn.
Will it be mass production or unique collectibles?
We are keeping our production units quite low. What we are trying to move away form is the mass production that is happening all over the highstreet. We still want to be global but we aren't trying to be something to to everyone, we want to be the brand that cool confident ladies any age, any country fell they need in their wardrobe and can afford to buy into.
I spotted some embroidery on this collection… along with hand painted original prints! How long did it take to complete this and what is the process?
The prints were inspired by the 15th Century manuscripts. We sketched the elements and painted everyone ourselves using watercolour. After this we arranged the elements onto huge card boards to get the spacing and alignment right. We actually done this about 4-5 times over before we got the placement just right. After this we scanned in we played with base colours. My sister is and architect and interior designer so we borrowed for her whizz kid photoshop skills and played around with it until we got our final prints. It probably took around 2-3 weeks and few late nights to get them nailed with a lot of minor tweaking but we loved the final outcome.
Advice to all students and people who aspire to get into the design industry?
Top advice is to meet as many people in person as possible when starting out. Contacts are key and building a face to face personable relationship is always best. A lot better than just emails alone! Email everyone first though asking for a quick meeting/coffee from manufactures, buyers, press, bloggers/influencers and definitely use your contact from your university years - These are the people that are the future of the fashion industry. Instagram is amazing for networking and finding out who you need to get in contact with in an informal way. Linkedin is also amazing for contacts. You have to be creative when trying to get in contact with right people but you will get there if you put some effort in.
Second best bit of advice is to always be nice to everyone no matter what level they are at. There is a a lot of people that you work with in the industry that think it's acceptable to treat this people below their position with diregard. We at RIXO have a strict 'No Flex Zone' in place - no egos please. Work hard and be nice.. that's our motto. We love a bit of Rae summoned in the studio.
Don't be disheartened by anyone telling you how hard it is to crack the fashion industry- every job worth having is hard in this world, you may as well do one that you have a passion for. Believe you can do it and figure it out bit by bit, if there is a will there is a way and things will click into place.
Where we have got in the last year I couldn't have predicted the lucky breaks we have got, but if you put yourself out there and keeping trying things will come your way.
Heels or Flats?
If I could go anywhere right now i'd go to…..
We want a Holiday and tan so Ibiza old town.
My most prized item in my wardrobe.
We have too many to choose but one of our favourites are
Orlagh: Purple vintage pucci dress.
Henrietta: 1920's oriental hand embroidered kimono
I never leave home without my….
Eight hour cream
Weirdest thing thats ever happen to you?
A weird encounter.. Meeting an eccentric artist in a coffee shop in north London retail park who happened to live in a derelict building just around the corner... 2 weeks later we shot our first lookbook there, although he turned slightly crazy on the day it was worth the final outcome and the building beautiful architectural details.