20 questions with childrenswear designer Rachel Riley

Inspired by her mother’s dressmaking skills, designer Rachel Riley found her own creative streak very early on. Rachel went on to embroider and hand knit clothes for her three young children, which soon led to the opening of her stores in London and New York. As her range comes to ACHICA this week, we caught up with Rachel to ask her 20 questions...

1. Why kidswear?

I love to making things, and hand embroidery, smocking and knitting lends itself so well to little things. I also love to design my own prints and admire the themes for children that are so whimsical and innocent -a 50s bunny print or ice-cream cones in pastel colours.

2. What three words best describe your work?

Handcrafted, classic, nostalgic.

3. Where you into fashion as a child?

My mum sent me to nursery school in a matching navy turtle-neck sweater and tights, and a kilt. But one day I asked her why I didn’t have a skirt on, and she said I was dressed as ‘Wonder Woman’. I liked girlie things but I always wanted comfort and still do.

4. Favourite designer?

l love Christian Dior from the late 40s, Schiaparelli from the 50s and Balenciaga from the 60s.

5. The one thing you can’t live without?

My husband. He is so attentive and makes me laugh. He's a photographer and we met on a photoshoot a long time ago when I was modelling in Paris. He sees the world differently and always opens my eyes up to new things.

6. What was the last thing you bought?

A Mac computer for our design office, so we can work more quickly on our exclusive prints.

7. What’s your motto?

My favourite is a saying from Confucius: ‘Wherever you go, go with all your heart’.

8. What's your favourite item of clothing?

I bought a 40s vintage men's coat by Daks, made out of caramel-coloured mohair that looks like teddy fur. It's a very classic shape like a raincoat and very warm.

9. What inspires your work?

Everything that I see around me. I can sit on a London bus on a rainy day and appreciate how nice red looks with grey, or I see something in the street or on telly. I often photograph things and I'm a big fan of Instagram. I have also been collecting prints from the 30s to the 60s since I was a teenager, so I have fabulous archives.

10. How did your Ladies collection come about?

When our customers told us that their children were better dressed than themselves I decided to add a female adult collection of dresses and cardigans to the range, and they are really popular. I also love the ‘mother match’ idea – I understand you can’t do it often, but occasions such as reading a story with my daughter in bed while wearing the same pyjamas, or wearing matching dresses for my brother's wedding are fond memories.

11. What’s your favourite colour?

At the moment I am designing a Spring/Summer 2014 collection and am loving bright periwinkle blue with a strong coral pink.

12. What can we expect in 2013?

Our new swimwear range is out in February and our new babywear range will be out in time for Kate and William's baby. I expect the news about the Royal baby is going to create a baby boom, so I'm sure lots of mothers will be looking for stylish and practical baby clothes.

13. How do you like to relax?

By working! I enjoy creating things in my work. But, I also like to cycle, swim, watch Mad Men episodes over and over again and snoop around antique markets.

14. Favourite place in the world?

I studied Social Anthropology at Cambridge, so I am always curious. I love Japan, Hong Kong, America, parts of France and Italy.

15. Cats or dogs?

Neither (unless you count the cat and dog prints I have done). I would never have time to feed them or take them out. Looking after my family is about all I can manage.

16. Dinner host or dinner guest?

Definitely a guest. I love to dress up, take the perfect present wrapped in fabulous printed paper and make interesting conversation. I am not a good cook so I don’t think anyone would come to my house to eat, unless it was a takeaway.

17. Wine – red or white?

Red, but I like both!

18. Best childhood memory?

Coming second in The Sunday Times Magazine knitting competition. It helped me understand that I would make my living by being creative.

19. Crackers and cheese or chocolate cake?

Crackers and cheese with a glass of red wine of course.

20. Finish the sentence:'If I could go back in time I would...'

...live in the 50s in the USA - maybe California (as long as I had my husband and children with me). I could wear a pinny with a Ric Rac trim, and have my hair set at the beauty parlour.

To shop Rachel Riley's vintage-inspired range of childrenswear, shop at ACHICA.


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shop at ACHICA.

Keya Modessa, ACHICA Features Writer

View all posts by Keya Modessa, ACHICA Features Writer