Words by Christine Breslin
April 19th, 2018
As director of the biggest breakout contemporary womenswear brand of 2017, Orlagh McCloskey is not your typical businesswoman; she co-founded Rixo London with her soul sister Henrietta Rix, has designed and handpainted over 100 prints for Rixo’s collections, she enthusiastically trawls the world for vintage inspiration, and her label is currently stocked in no less than 180 boutiques worldwide.
We caught up with the Northern Irish designer to talk about Rixo’s inspirations, the strong women behind and beside her, her not-so-typical day and more…
The influencing factors of Rixo’s style…
I love looking at old pictures of singers, movie stars, anything goes, really. We don’t pick a gender when looking for inspiration. Rixo’s style comes from a diverse range of influence; it could be pictures of Cher or style images on the King’s Road in the ’70s.
I’m also constantly looking for the next vintage fair or charity shop wherever I go. We are going to New York at the end of the month and then hopping on a flight to Palm Beach so we can go vintage and charity shop hunting. We are suckers for anything tropical or Miami Vice!
The Rixo style philosophy…
We always go with our gut. Designing for a brand that we ourselves would want to wear makes it come naturally. I suppose when it comes to cut, the rule we live by is not to be a slave to a trend, it always needs to be flattering. Something my mum always taught me is if you can make women feel fashionable, whatever that may be, but also make her feel her best, then you are truly winning.
Her design process…
Most of the time I start without a clear or definite picture of where I’m going. One thing leads to another, like a domino effect. You’ve got to take the first step and trust it will come together. In terms of what is embroidered, or handpainted, I usually just ask myself, “what would I want to wear?”.
Mood-boarding and trawling through my saved images every night in bed gets me into the frame of mind. I always think you’ve got to change your mind at least twice to have thought of the best idea. If I’m having a mental block, I love going to a museum, vintage fair or a library; they always spark ideas.
The amalgamation of new and old…
We do this through our styling which is why we have vintage on the website. You can put Rixo with a vintage bag or earrings, and in turn, create a look that resonates with Rixo. We incorporate this in the design process too. There is always that one element you like about a piece of vintage but then it needs an update to make it new and contemporary. People kept asking us about where all the items that we style our products with were from and so, the Vintage Edit was born onsite.
The women who inspire her…
Women in fashion who are leaders. Jane Shepherdson was always someone I admired when I was at uni; I remember how much I loved getting into Topshop when I was younger. She really pioneered great high street product when we were growing up; there was no one else that could compete with it.
Also, the women on my team. A new member just started and she really brings a different element to our business. [She] inspires me and makes me feel excited about learning and growing our business. We design for ourselves, our friends. We create for the woman who wants clothes for work, a wedding, the weekend, evenings out — basically for their full lifestyle —, and also for those who have the confidence to wear these pieces and who invest in different ways, so they can wear these pieces to suit their lifestyle.
Her partnership with Henrietta…
We are like sisters. There is no energy wasted wondering if someone has your back or can be trusted. That for me is our biggest advantage, we don’t have a “normal” business relationship. We have gone from university to working for the same company to owning our own label.
On the elations and tribulations of owning your own brand…
I’ve always been very determined, so I thought it was now or never when starting Rixo. Knowing no one was designing a product of this quality and this price point is why we went for it. When we started we knew that ‘cash flow is king’, which it is, and for that reason, we worked from our living room for two years and never threw money at unnecessary problems. This has played a massive role in keeping our heads above water.
However, learning to control wholesale distribution, holding your ground and doing things that are right for Rixo isn’t always as easy to do but it’s part of the job, I suppose. We have been very lucky as the press was amazing initially and really got behind the brand. They were the true success for believing in us as well as the online retailer, Net-a-Porter. In the past year, we have expanded our team, which will give me extra space to focus more on design. Every day is so different with many new elations and tribulations.
Rixo’s next steps…
We will further develop our accessories range in 2019. Currently, we have our classic neckerchiefs and vintage handbags but we want to expand our range. We also have a collaboration with TV presenter and ‘It’ girl Laura Jackson coming up, and possibly our first presentation in September at London Fashion Week.
And finally, our last five seconds with Orlagh…
How would you transition a piece from day to night?
O: Just change your shoes!
What pieces have buyers responded well to?
O: The Coco sequin dress.
What bores/excites you in fashion this year?
O: I get excited when I see something in a new context. What bores me is seeing the typical Instagram images! You know the ones: those super contrived shots where someone is wearing five trends in one or eating avocado with their passport on the table!
O: There are too many… Rose Bowl Flea Market in L.A. There is also an area in North Paris which has the best vintage ever with lots of vintage antique dealers in one area — it’s amazing!
What sets Rixo apart from other designers?
O: We stay true to ourselves — no one can replicate that. We are also the ones wearing it! Unlike the male designers out there, so I think that gives us an edge.
To find out more or shop the collection, visit rixo.co.uk.
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