Rixo founders Henrietta & Orlagh on their new SS22 collection, sustainability and launch of denim

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  • Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey first launched Rixo in 2015, sharing their love for vintage designs and unique prints with their customers. Fast forward a few years, and they just previewed their Spring/Summer 2022 collection at London Fashion Week.

    Launching next March, their new collection celebrates the (hopefully) return to vacation after being stuck indoors for far too long. It’s the mood booster we all needed. Think of beautiful summery cotton and linen in both plain and printed pieces, finished with crochet, colorful ric-rac and lace. There are also new embroidered collars, button-down dresses with halter neck and puff sleeves, as well as classic shapes reinvented in new prints.

    I sat down with Orlagh and Henrietta to discuss everything.

    What was the inspiration behind the collection?

    thumb: Everyone in the office just felt like they needed a vacation. So we named the collection Bon Voyage. We looked at a lot of old American hotel postcards, especially Miami’s from the 1970s and were inspired by the color. For the scarves, we found like this Mexican-inspired print, and it’s inspired by the old souvenir scarves from various vacation destinations like Florida and Miami. Essentially, it was exactly what we wanted to wear at this time next year. It’s just really fun and very happy.

    Henriette: Orlagh painted a print with little maraca girls and the coconuts and little hula hula woman, it’s all very playful.

    thumb: I think people have probably gotten out of the idea that you can only dress nicely when you go somewhere because obviously we had nowhere to go for the past year and a half. They’ve realized how you dress really affects your mood. Our collection includes pieces that you can wear during the day, but that you feel comfortable and confident about.

    When you first launched, you were the go-to for weddings. How has that changed?

    thumb: People used to think that you should never wear a dress during the day. I know that dresses and sneakers are such a trend because it has made people realize that you can wear things in a casual way and it’s not just for a wedding. COVID probably spurred that even more. You can wear everything in different ways and really get the value out of your clothes. We certainly want to encourage that, because in a sense we don’t really follow trends. You get a longer life from it by styling it in different ways.

    How do you feel that your collections and your business as a whole have changed since you first launched?

    Henriette: We’ve always told ourselves that we really wanted to be direct to the consumer and talk directly to our customer, which is why we opened one of our first stores within two months of launching the brand. We had our own website and then we had a shop in Covent Garden so we could meet that customer and of course go global.

    It got pretty wholesale oriented and we had doors opened worldwide, and then COVID clearly happened and literally 150 doors closed overnight. It touched everyone, so we took stock and wondered what we wanted Rixo to stand for. We thought the product would become a lot more lifestyle and allow people to wear it in different ways. We wanted to go back to our roots about going straight to the consumer and focus on our own channels, so our e-commerce and then our stores, and make sure we have that two-way conversation with customers so we can learn from them.

    thumb: I think the similar approach to design has not changed. It’s more about having the confidence that we can do different variations on what we like and what the customer likes. Like this light green dress we just brought back, two years we didn’t think the customers would get it because we were so busy printing, but now the customer understands Rixo, and she will absolutely love the cut of a dress and she want to have in different prints and colors.

    I think the brand just needs to mature a bit, and you have to be known for certain cuts and certain shapes for that to be really successful. And the same goes for fabrications. Like, because we loved prints so much, we thought we couldn’t use cotton or viscose, even though we wanted to wear them when it was really hot. It is great that we have the feeling that we can get to work creatively in different ways and then actually be successful.

    You’ve branched out into shoes and handbags, do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

    thumb: It’s great that the customer wants different things from us! In the future we also want to do interiors. We have used our prints on our office benches. They do lend themselves to interiors. But we really want to tighten up women’s clothing first. Our top priority is to make sure our customers feel really confident when they wear us.

    Henriette: In January we will launch our sustainable denim collection. We talk to our suppliers and develop that and really listen to our customer, we can see that people want that. We make sure that we also think about everything in a sustainable way and that we communicate this in the best way.

    thumb: And then we also increase our size range. We go up to size 20 and we just try to perfect the designs to size 24. We want to spend the time getting it right, we want to enable people to feel really confident.

    Henriette: It’s not only within the size but also within the age of people and all different ages where we need to make sure we do our best to make sure customers feel like they can put on that red dress and feel great . We want to be more inclusive as we grow as a brand.

    In what ways will the brand become more sustainable?

    Henriette: It has always been in the back of our mind, for example, when we choose suppliers or when we ship things, we don’t have a huge supply, we have a small supply, we don’t take samples with loads from different factories. Some fast fashion brands will design a sample with 20 different suppliers to see which one is the cheapest.

    We know there’s a lot we can do to improve our processes, but I think it’s just as much about educating our customers and educating our headquarters and everyone in there. So we nominated a sustainability representative within the team.

    thumb: It can also be very small things that we do in the office, and we try not to waste anything. When we use fabric for the fashion show, we reuse it with something else, the same goes for props in our shows. It’s about extracting value from everything we buy and use. We still do silk, but we will always do that with our factory in China, because the silk factory is pretty much in the same area where we do our production.

    It’s all about getting the fabric and getting the performance in the same area where you do the production. So you don’t fly all over the world and are just a waste. But we actually also make more similar substances. So we have equal viscose made from India that we’ve never done before.

    If there are also things you can do with your process like we really tightened communication with our factory. In fact, the demands that many designers or brands or retailers place on suppliers, fabrics will be rejected because the color is not right or something, and that will be deducted from their wages so they outsource work to avoid being fined if they are late. Poor communication with suppliers actually affects sustainability.

    When we were in India, we saw a huge room full of rejected fabrics from different buyers and brands. By working closely with your supplier you are more sustainable, because it is no waste. You work in an effective way. So we don’t just do it with the material, we also try to implement it in our processes. We will talk to them and see if there is a solution if something is not right. Because if you don’t, the factory can outsource your work, or someone who works 24 hours a day to get your order done, because you’re going to fine them. We have always had such a good relationship with them, which is why I think we understand the supplier’s point of view very well. It’s so important to be a team.

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