Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The Right Way

For SS15, Riyka have taken their signature geometric panelling and added an infusion of fresh, zesty colours. 'The collection takes its cues from 'Rockers', a documentary/film set in 1970s Jamaica. The atmosphere, colours, and the athletic aesthetic of Kingston's reggae artists were a jumping board for this season'. A look through stills from the film reveal the elements which Riyka have taken, woven together, and refined to create their latest collection. Contrast piping, drawstring waistlines, and velour point the full tracksuits that stand out amongst the flared denim, sharp jackets, and fitted shirts, whilst the introduction of sky blues and citrus-y greens and yellows reflects not only the vibrancy of the cast's outfits throughout the film, but that of the culture, the spirit and the music. (Also, just look at that panelled t-shirt on the right of the first photograph and tell me that doesn't look like it's come straight from the Riyka studio!).

Riyka aren't swayed by trends, and don't create collections that focus on the latest silhouette or must have item; instead they side step the whims and impulses that tend to define (and, more importantly, date) each season to concentrate on following their own message of comfort, quality, and sustainability. It's easy to be unintentionally influenced by trends, so designing garments that do not betray their season is quite the opposite, but Riyka are steadfast in their approach to designing for life, not for seasons. By creating clothes that will survive the coming and going of trends, Riyka avoid falling into the fast fashion cycle. There's no need to second guess their next step or distance themselves from previous collections in order to push their current one. A piece from AW12 will hold its own next to one from SS15 because each collection feels like a natural progression from the last. Sportswear inspired shapes remain at the heart of this season's offering, but are softened with light linen, organdie, and organic velour. Cuts are kept simple but the bold, contrast panelling and chunky hardware mean each piece makes its own statement; no layering or 'dressing up' needed. Easy dressing as its best.Riyka's quest for sustainability doesn't end with designing garments with longevity in mind. They are careful to work with organic, fairtrade and recycled materials wherever possible and, additionally, have teamed up with two charities in order to minimise waste and make the most of their fabric scraps. There is complete transparency where their production is concerned - they know where their clothes are made and who made them.Riyka are not only doing things their own way, they're doing it the right way.
Lookbook images courtesy of Riyka. Photography: Anya Holdstock

Read more about Riyka's use of end waste material in Design Without Sacrifice.

Friday, 24 April 2015

No Rush

Today is Fashion Revolution Day. A day when we're encouraged to take a look at where our clothes actually come from and ask ourselves 'who made my clothes?'. The movement came into being after the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in which 1133 people were killed and a further 2500 injured. It highlighted the urgent need to look at the supply chain and call for accountability within the manufacturing process. It's easy to pull a dress off a rail without considering where it came from as the disconnection between end product and the person/people who made it increases. An understanding of the chain that leads to that dress landing on the shop floor teaches us to value those who worked to create it for us. And, in turn, this will hopefully teach us to value what we buy and not be so ready to toss it aside when we fancy something new...

Georgia Bruton's collection first caught my eye at Graduate Fashion Week last summer (I had a dash round before I went to work back stage with the university whose graduate collections I was styling). It was bright and shiny so, like the predictable magpie that I am, I made a beeline to where it was hanging on the Northbrook stand. Her sequin, lace-trimmed oversized t-shirt dresses were my favourite pieces, with their clashing colours and bold printed slogans, so I made a note to work with the collection in future. Having recently loaned a number of pieces for an editorial shoot, I was able to discover more about the ideas and influences behind the collection and they certainly go a little deeper than mere sequins and trim.

Georgia's SS15 collection, 'Who Gives A Brit', was sponsored by RTS Textile Recyclers. RTS are a fantastic company who are dedicated to working towards reducing UK landfill to zero; no mean feat when we currently send 1 million tons worth of clothes to landfill each year.

Georgia became interested in sustainable fashion after attending a lecture by Dr Noki, founder of the NHS (not that one... Noki's House of Sustainability), and king of customisation. Some may call what he does 'upcycling' but his use of discarded materials pre-dates the coining of that term - he's a pioneer in his field. He takes a DIY yet couture approach to his work; taking something second hand and re-working it into a one of a kind garment. During his lecture, Dr Noki talked the students through his recycled collections and encouraged them to read Culture Jamming. It was this that sparked Georgia's interest in the subject of our throwaway culture. She says, "I started looking into consumer corporate society and how we have so much waste which is having negative effects on our heath and our communities. So, after that, I just became fascinated with it and knew that I had to do a recycled collection!"

It was then that she approached RTS with her idea to source bulk rag through a local company to turn it into something new. RTS were excited by the prospect of working with a fashion student and allowed her to hand pick her way through the mountain of textiles collected from clothes bins and charity shops. 

"There is so much waste in the world, people buy more and more stuff, and don't see the potential of the old so just chuck it out. It was really satisfying to give the rag a new lease of life! I was really lucky RTS were so open minded and let me hand pick all of the clothing, I couldn't have done it without them!"

Pages from Georgia's development book

Georgia looked to the idea of waste and recycling to inspire the design process as well as fabric sourcing, creating motifs inspired by the creases in bin bags and beer cans discarded in flower beds. There was also the challenge of re-working pre-existing garments into something new and the restrictions that came with pre-cut fabrics. Rather than fight against this and try to disguise it, Georgia let the shapes inform her pattern cutting, and influence the cut and fit of her garments.

The result is a collection that, on the face of it, doesn't reveal its humble beginnings amongst piles of unloved wardrobe rejects but, upon closer inspection, embodies exactly that.

So, where does the Brit influence come from? Moving on from exploring our over consumption, Georgia also took a peek into the bleaker aspects of modern British culture - binge drinking, gambling, and fighting to name a few - and considered the decline of traditional figures of Britishness. The red phone box, for instance, is an enduring symbol of Britain, yet you would be hard pushed to find one that hasn't become an unofficial public toilet and a mosaic of call girl's cards. 'No Rush', the slogan that graces two of the dresses I'm wearing below, was a part of one lovely lady's sales pitch on her card but subsequently became an apt tagline for the 'slow fashion' path Georgia took. It's a simple line but, when applied to an industry which is so fascinated with what's coming next, it becomes a bold statement and a message to live by.

T-shirt dress: Georgia Bruton, Turtle neck: Charity shop,
Bag: Made by me

Top and jeans: Georgia Bruton, Jacket: Vintage,
Clutch: Jen Cheema

Dress: Georgia Bruton: Hat: Vintage