Rebecca Kellett, the designer that’s transforming the female silhouette to empower women
After studying Fashion Textiles at the University for the Creative Arts Rochester, Rebecca Kellett quickly became recognised by British and Italian Vogue as well as Show Studio for her stunning designs. Rebecca transforms the female silhouette through fabric manipulation and exemplifying the ferocity and vulnerability that a woman beholds within her. Rebecca’s designs are an art with which Generation Z can identify with. Here to speak more on her work, is the talented Rebecca Kellett.
In our day and age, where everybody identifies as an entrepreneur, designer, photographer and self-advocate, what were the challenges you encountered starting up your own fashion brand?
When launching my brand in 2015, sourcing the funding to start the company was probably the most challenging task. Launching in Europe, especially in London amidst one of the world’s leading fashion capitals, where there's a lot of competition, it is difficult to start your own brand, especially if you don’t receive support from your school. Indeed, when competing with thousands of graduates who are also establishing their own brands, any support a college will give greatly changes the game. Nonetheless, not having that much support taught me how to build my own network, push my own PR and social media and to not rely on the press which was at the show - and in a sense, that is also an uplifting experience; you really fend for yourself and learning how to dominate your realm of interest becomes an inspiring experience in itself.
What do you feel it takes to launch a successful fashion brand?
Again, funding is paramount. One must have a well-thought-out marketing strategy and business plan as well as being aware of the costs of production in order to be able to launch a successful brand. As a designer, it is really easy to focus on the creative side of the company, but if you do not have knowledge of production, its costs and outcomes, the brand will suffer. Perhaps, designers ought to be taught more about business strategy at university. Another important point is that designers should be taught how to portray themselves at interviews. It is really important that young designers know that they shouldn’t send in all their work, or their portfolios because once they do, there’s no security as to where they go and who will see them, or use them. There have been so many stories of young graduates trying and seeking desperately to get into the fashion industry, sending in their best work to huge fashion companies, and later on, those graduates will see their work on a runway, meanwhile they are still looking for employment - and that I must say, is not only appalling for them, but also infuriating, you’ve technically lost all your work to a bigger name.
In your eyes, what is the future of fashion, and how do you think this will impact your brand?
The movement of ‘see now, buy now’ is absolutely incredible. To be witnessing an instantaneous movement in the fashion industry, which is driving the market forward, is truly spectacular. Nonetheless, this does put pressure on younger designers, who are not able to produce 20 garments. The way in which I see this affecting my brand is by making my designs more wearable. Indeed, one-off pieces and haute couture are much more attractive to stylists and Generation Z: the fresh and conceptual new designs, which are still wearable, and this therefore links to sustainability and ecology: if you’re going to make such kind of garments, you are going to have to find more ethically-sourced materials, since buyers today are looking for garments which have much better value for money.
So essentially, it is about being able to find the quintessential balance between fast fashion, ecology and one-of-a-kind pieces, it is very exciting for the fashion industry to experience such a revolution and I look forward to seeing how it will expand.
How did you find the link between maintaining your vision and making saleable pieces?
In order to maintain my vision and making saleable pieces, first and foremost it is about having faith in my own work. The link between these two essential parts of a brand lies in being persuaded to look at what is on trend, to be able to predict the trends, to be completely focused on the fashion market and top designers. I personally really try to grasp what I am feeling towards the news, towards the general feeling of the time, grasping what people are experiencing. Whether it be through music, or something else it is important to understand what drives your creative vision and how that can relate to your consumer. I believe that unless you are an established brand, you shouldn’t try to break through ‘social norms’, but instead question what is happening in the now and react upon that.
From the intricacy found in the garments, I am assuming they are hand-made, if so, are you designing and making the garments?
The knitwear is indeed all hand knitted, combining the use of PVC and rubber. I actually decided to create my own yarn and then hand-knitted the pieces by using different processes and different methods of construction, which represents my aesthetic. I feel that it is a shame that in current times, handcrafting has been somewhat lost, especially with the introduction of mass production and this has lead to designers becoming more and more digital. Nonetheless, I still adore digital print, but I especially love to combine it with the hand woven aspect, which adds a personal feel to a garment. I also believe that one must recognise their strengths and weaknesses and that relates back to the evolution of my brand: knowing where I can succeed such as with the textiles, prints and hand processes and knowing that the production and construction aspects of the garments should be left to more skilled people than I.
After understanding how Rebecca was herself such a successful business woman, whom managed to rapidly establish her brand, create a solid network within the industry and become recognised by top magazines through her own methods of PR, I wondered how Rebecca was also such a fantastic designer, and therefore launched into a series of questions specific to her designs:
What made you want to push the 3D boundaries of the silhouette, was it to show what fabric can do today or is there more to it?
It was much more about personal feelings, my style and how I like to dress by layering my clothes. I tried to push the collections in terms of structure in order to empower women, the silhouette is very much alike to one of armour, which I created to show the comparison between beauty, elegance and softness and power, broadness and fierceness. I believe that women are able to feel empowered equally in both styles, and this collection essentially displayed a journey about my personal feelings at that time: combining beauty with a touch of harshness and aggressiveness. It reflected upon how the same woman can be beautiful and gentle as well as powerful and militaristic.
Do you think your designs are targeting Generation Z, or do you have another target audience in mind?
I definitely believe I am targeting Generation Z, and that this Generation is very relevant to all designers. Beforehand it was much more flexible when brands had an older clientele but in today’s market, we have to question Generation Z and observe how they will change the way in which they are purchasing and the way in which they will change certain aspects of the fashion industry in the future. Generation Z has been introduced to technology and social media from such a young age. This mean that they are having to adapt much quicker than any other generations.
Today we have to question what is happening next with technology and see what we can cope with - and observe how social media reflects the ‘see now, buy now’ phase in fashion, where influencers are posting images of the runway as the models are walking. A brand has to take the initiative to target the millennials and Generation Z, since that is where the money is. These younger generations are entrepreneurial and, like me, when you are competing, seeing someone your age starting a fashion line and opening a company, you question yourself as to why you shouldn’t do it as well.
I love the differences in media in your prints, such as the use of ink, paint and digital media - is this your way of portraying how contemporary fashion is able to use previous methods of design as well as the new revolutionary technology or did you have something else in mind?
Yes, exactly - I couldn’t have said it better myself!
Are you trying to send out a message with your garments, whether it be political, social or other, are you trying to ignite a conversation?
Initially, it wasn't the driving force behind my work, but I think in the future it will have a political stance. Although, perhaps my past collections did incorporate a political aspect in the sense of questioning the female form as well as questioning the hierarchy within the fashion industry, looking at the equality between men and women. I believe that perhaps the silhouette I created could be interpreted as quite masculine and bold and how a woman believes she should be in the workplace and therefore recreating a more powerful stance for women. I think we are at a time in London, in Europe and with Trump in America where you cannot shy away from a political element within your designs, whether that be an unconscious or conscious motive.
Does your past have anything to do with your collections, or are you more focused on the future?
It did, yes. Any feelings towards growing up, being an outcast and insecure, where people would make fun of me for the way I dressed. Being bullied and now looking towards the future and where I am at the moment... that vulnerability will always be present and I plan to challenge that into the future.
On Press and Pathways: How did it feel to be featured in Italian Vogue?
I love Italian Vogue. For me it is the most conceptual and forward thinking Vogue, therefore I felt that it was the best suited to showcase my work.
Who or what would you say inspired you to commence the fashion pathway?
Being young, I loved dressing up in my grandma’s clothes and fur coat. I looked at fashion pages but I never thought I could be designer, instead I would do a lot of painting and illustrations. It is when I went to art college and thought I wanted to do portrait work and fashion illustrations, that someone asked me why I wouldn’t go into Fashion, they said: ‘look at the way you’re dressed!’, so it was when I was nineteen that I actually decided to follow the Fashion pathway.