Raquel Sutherland is an upcoming young designer from Hertfordshire. Amongst all the lovely chaos of winning acclaim from British Vogue for her Graduate Fashion Week collection, settling into a cosy home studio and launching an e-commerce site, Raquel took some time out to chat with us.
Raquel wears her Parklife optics in Black.
Can you pinpoint the moment that you knew you wanted to be a fashion designer? What was your moment of realisation like?
I had been drawn to the idea of creating something individual that starts in 2D and is then transformed around the body. I found the catwalk to be a platform for walking art and very interactive. After seeing shows during London and Graduate Fashion Weeks, I was fixated with designers' work and was inspired to create.
Your graduate collection was an eclectic range of pieces that incorporated glasswork by your friend Alice Heaton. As a result, you were featured in British Vogue’s December 2016, January 2017 and February 2017 issues. What was it like to use such a material?
It was extremely exciting to work with a material that hadn’t really been used on the body; it made me think differently compared to how I had designed previously. There were no reference points as to how glass could be used in fashion, so this allowed me to think of glass how I chose. I saw it simply as a very large embroidery feature that complimented my prints and beading.
"The way Alice worked was uniquely free and therefore no piece was ever the same. It was exciting and challenging to work with such a fragile material that is also heavy and unpredictable."
Using leather belts and buckles, I incorporated ways of holding the glass securely. Each toile I created for a new outfit would always change once I received the shape and weight of the glass sculpture.
You combine fine art with fashion. Why were you drawn to that particular pairing?
I feel that fine art can be very personal and is hard to recreate. I much prefer going to art exhibitions to be inspired by silhouettes and colour, rather than trying to recreate fashion from fashion where you can feel a little stuck. I enjoy creating my own artwork and have brought this into my designs through the use of prints. It’s more about using fine art as a base and then combining it with other industries such as craft and fashion.
You talk about reducing waste and making garments specific to each individual customer. Is this a core value of your brand and do you plan on retaining that quality in the future when you scale up the size of your business?
Everyone is different and so it is important to me that each customer feels they can buy something that is tailored to their body. It puts them in charge and allows them to customise their own fit. The fashion industry can often be wasteful with excess inventory and the energy that goes into creating large quantities of stock. It is important to me to find a new way to market clothing that is more eco friendly and personal.
Who is your biggest inspiration / style icon and why?
Designers such as Viktor & Rolf and Issey Miyake for their clever cutting and sculptural techniques. My biggest style icon is probably Tilda Swinton. Her look is so intense and the characters she plays also always have a particular look that inspire me. She is very versatile.
If you could dress any celebrity for the British Fashion Awards in London, who do you think would be a suitable match for your brand?
Emily Blunt’s style and persona is always emphasised by what she is wearing. She is not afraid to take risks with her red carpet choices, yet she manages to downplay them and still make them relatable and not too contrived. Her elegant yet comedic personality best fits my print style and playful fashion. I would love to see her in one of my designs one day.
What do you have planned for your eponymous label for 2017?
I am taking part in a catwalk during London Fashion Week in February 2017 where I hope to grow the brand and identify more stockists. I plan to increase the amount available to purchase on my website by creating lots of mini collections with different inspirations using a wide range of techniques. I also would like to expand into menswear in the future.
What’s your go-to brand for everyday London style?
My go-to brand is Monki. They create fun and quirky street style clothing that always seems to be a step ahead of the general high street London brands such as New Look and River Island.
If you could set up a studio in any part of the world by tomorrow, where would you most like your brand to travel to and why?
I would love to set up a studio in Paris as their fashion culture is iconically stylish and chic. I feel the elegance of the city suits the details within my brand. Their fashion style is different to London’s so it would be interesting to see how my designs are received there.
Do you have any advice for fashion design students at university about making it at GFW?
Make sure you are confident and have a clear idea of the style you want to create. Only create something that you truly love and want to spend time on. Try working with something new so you’re learning as you go, but don’t overthink or try too many ideas at once as too often it can get messy!
All of Raquel's designs are custom made to order. To browse her collection or to get in touch to arrange a fitting, visit raquelsutherland.com.
Missed our last blog story? Catch up with our review of 'HalfNoise at The Camden Assembly'.