In this latest instalment of Wonderful Women, I’m talking to one of my all time favourite childrenswear designers, Rachel Riley.
Her self-titled British luxury fashion brand is based in Marylebone, London, where they design, manufacture and sell luxury children & baby clothes, by retail and wholesale.
They also sell some women’s clothes, which they call ‘Mother Match’.
Rachel’s design philosophy is rooted in her traditional lifestyle and draws inspiration from the forties, fifties and sixties with fine tailoring, beautiful hand smocking, hand embroidery and vintage-inspired prints designed by and exclusive to the brand.
As well as winning multiple awards, she also has a royal fan base as her designs have been worn by none other than Prince George who wore their sailboat smocked dungarees on his first Official Engagement and a striped polo and pocket shorts on his 2nd Official Engagement.
Rachel studied at Cambridge University and worked as a model in Paris, New York & London before setting up her own company twenty years ago when she had children of her own, as she likes to hand sew, embroider and knit.
Over to Rachel…
Describe a typical day for you?
‘Typical’ does not really describe my day, as every day can be so different! My favourite days, of course, are design days, as I am inspired by the creative process, and love putting together fabrics and colours, and embroidery samples.
However, I also enjoy putting together budget figures and planning for next year. I also travel a lot, and have recently enjoyed selling SS17 at the wholesale trade show in New York.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
Setting up my company is my biggest professional achievement, it was important to plan how I wanted this to be. I am proud of the awards we have won, and making customers happy when their children wear our clothes. Of course I am delighted that Prince George has worn our clothes on public occasions. But my biggest achievements have to be the personal ones, the thirty-year relationship with my husband, and the pleasure I have had seeing my 3 children grow.
What’s in your handbag?
It’s hard for me to go without all that I carry around with me! I carry my passport at all times, in case I need to go on an impromptu trip abroad – maybe this is left-over from my modelling days! I carry Fox’s glacier mints, just like my grandmother did. I used to love her so much, and can still remember the ‘click’ of her smart leather handbag. I have lots of pastel-coloured wallets – one for money, one for credit cards, one for my eyeglass polish….
What are your ambitions in life?
Ambitions for me are a follow-on from my achievements. So the most important one would be to succeed in having a long-term and happy relationship with my dear husband. However, I am quite ambitious in my business, so I would like to expand this, both in the UK and internationally, as long as it would maintain the integrity and the core values of the brand.
What advice would you give your pre-baby self, that you now know?
I would try to teach myself patience, although that is maybe something you can only learn through experience. I would also recommend keeping calm, not rising to indignation or anger, but keeping an even keel. I would try to spend more time analysing, planning, strategising, as I am very fast off the starting block but would definitely have benefited from the advice ‘more haste, less speed’!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
In five year’s time I would like to be doing more of what I do now. I am lucky enough to enjoy all aspects of my business and have always enjoyed steady growth. I am cautious by nature, so have never expanded beyond what we can handle, but if we can achieve growth in both the UK and internationally, I will have a sense of achievement that my business is reaching it’s potential.
What advice would you give a budding Fashion Designer?
I often speak to young people who want to design clothes & start their own business. I always ask them first if they know how to sew, and if they don’t I advise them to learn. Once you know how to make things it makes it much easier in the design & manufacturing process. I was lucky enough to have learnt ‘needlework and dressmaking’ at school, my mother taught me to knit, and I signed up for pattern-making classes when I lived in Paris.
Finally, happiness is…
Picking flowers in my garden from plants I have grown from seed. My sweet peas are over 6 feet tall, and are in beautiful pastel colours & smell so sweet! We are coming into the dahlia season, and I love the pompom shapes and mixing bright colours. I would be preparing a bouquet for the dining room table for my grown-up children coming for lunch, and my husband would be cooking – he’s an excellent cook!