“It is a tough industry out there, and to be honest, one that seems built on a dying model, thanks to the digital age we are in,” comments Rebecca Morter, one half of London based fashion house: Rein. An echo, resoundingly in tune, with the overarching sentiment outlined in Li Edelkoort’s Anti-Fashion Manifesto: asking the fashion industry to suit-up, and accept that the once entrenched, tumultuous turnover of “fast-fashion” systems are obsolete, as we embrace a brave new world of personal expression, within a savvy, socially connected, digitally driven, marketplace; one with increasingly elevated expectations. Here, #ootd and #fwis hashtags become the building blocks of brand stories, and for the consumer, self-actualisation is as valuable as any monetary currency: the “statusphere” of aligning oneself to a cause, or belief, by wearing and sharing; clothing as a vehicle for expression, that goes beyond the aesthetic.
On top of this brave new world, and fuelled with genuine altruistic passion to celebrate the female form - and the explore the relationship between body and clothing - are Rebecca Morter and Gemma Vanson: Co-Founders / Designers at London fashion house, Rein. We talked to them about their experience of setting up a newly established brand, and their unique, compelling backstory.
Who or what inspired yourself and Gemma to « make it rein »?
We graduated in 2013 and were lucky enough for our collection to receive a great wealth of press: worn by Lady Gaga, EVE, Charlie XCX, Little Mix, and so on. It was around this time that we decided to continue making garments focusing on empowering women, especially the strong, incredible women who had already worn our pieces and really brought them to life. We began exploring how the clothing could act as a voice; to challenging the socially acceptable, women as a victim to the male gaze, and how the pieces could empower through both revealing, and concealing, the body. We were lucky to be offered a spot to showcase at London Fashion Week Showrooms, and from that point we officially founded REIN, showcasing our first full collection, in February 2015.
With Rein being created for, and inspired by, women, do you feel aligned with / influenced by, the sense of « girl gang »culture that feels particularly of the moment?
To an extent, yes. We are all about empowering and uniting to give women strength and wholeheartedly supportive of women succeeding. However, for us, it’s about full blown equality, not man-hating. Rather, striving towards an ‘equal playing field’’ feel, where women, where everyone, has the same rights / voice / responsibilities / expectations.
You have a growing fan base of musicians and artists. How important is music and that scene, to your brand?
For us, music has always been at the forefront where there are powerful, exciting people. The artists that we are drawn to are those who stand out; are experimental and unafraid to be themselves. I like to think that our collections are balanced, offering a spectrum of innovative and original garments, from day to evening. From the wearable, to the outlandish and statement pieces; it’s these pieces that come alive when mixed with theatrics, performance and music.
As a young company, how has your experience been establishing a brand, in London; the good and the bad? Do you see your future long-term in the city?
It’s been a crazy process! A huge learning curve, full of trial and error. We only properly launched this year, in February, so we are still in the stages of setting up the brand, and it will take time before we can settle into a company routine.
It is a tough industry out there, and to be honest, one that seems built on a dying model, thanks to the digital age we are in. It has its pros and cons, but ultimately you become caught in a catch 22. It’s the best time to be a new brand, because you have direct access to your customers, via social media, and you can build a following; test and learn without having to go via wholesale stores. However, this takes time to grow, with a lot of focus on digital platforms, and shouting above all the noise from everyone else. The customers want to know you are in stores (that they can buy you easily) and on the other hand, the boutiques are reluctant to order from new brands, as business isn’t great, unless they are one of the few who have adapted well online like, net a porter, even asos; they want to see hype, and a strong social media following, before taking the risk. So, you can see why it’s such a crazy vicious circle! It’s about figuring out where you can fit into this.
London itself is the heart of innovative, edgy fashion. It also is the only city, in my opinion, that values the purpose and concept behind the artistic decisions you make as a designer.
Your collections, although sexy, have a real stealth mode wearability about them; the sense that women can just get dressed and get on with the business of « living », while wearing the clothes. Was the balance of looking great and practicality of clothing important, in your design process?
We want the garments to be versatile. The silhouettes are classic, simple, and wearable; pieces that form the look and remove the need to worry about how the desired look will come together. The applications and techniques we use are innovative, different and unusual; this is our brand’s purpose and backbone. We want the women that put on our clothes to feel strong, confident and special. We want to give them the opportunity to wear clothing that is different and exciting, to take a stand on their own individuality. Neither myself, nor Gemma, have time to spend hours getting ready, and we think that reflects the vast majority of womens’ lives, so it’s important to us that the pieces are comfortable, versatile and long-wearing.
A lot of people worry that laser cutting is very fragile, but when using the right materials it is very durable and strong wearing; even enough to be put through the washing machine! Our knitwear is made from a sustainable possum wool, because it contains fur, the knits are very lightweight. They prevent odour from sweat, are washable and so much more! In every way we can we use the most forward thinking materials and techniques, and preserve comfort and practicality in the process.
Do you have any rules to live and design by: what keeps you focused?
Focus comes from the motivation of knowing exactly what you want. I’m not so good with rules, Gemma tries to enforce the same rule every season: « No drinks in the sample room, end of story. » Somehow, I’m always the one forgetting and breaking the rules; not a great role model for our interns!
Keeping true to REIN’s purpose is always at the forefront: “creating clothing to empower.”
Becky Willoughby is a UK based Fashion Writer and Digital autumn Content Curator with a passion for cutting edge, young independent design. She contributes to magazines and trend agencies, focusing on cool kids and cultural innovation. Excited by all current and emerging symbiosis between visual and material futures, she CoCurates Ello’s official community about tech, culture and innovation, ‘Ello Future’ and is a Staff Writer for Fizzy Mag, in Germany.
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