This week, we interviewed award winning designer Rachel Riley. Rachel is married with 3 grown-up children. The family split their time between London and a chateau on the banks of the Loire in France.
You studied dressmaking and worked as a model during summer breaks, what is it about fashion that inspires you?
Actually, I worked as a model during my holidays when I was at university. I studied Social Anthropology at Cambridge, and although now I would have loved to have gone to Fashion school, at the time my parents thought I was ‘academic’ so I was encouraged to go in that direction. Fashion is important in my life, as how I dress definitely affects the way I feel and act.
Why did you choose to design children’s fashion and is it easier to design for boys or for girls?
Children’s fashion is such fun as it is innocent and juvenile – or maybe that is just what I like – all those sweet ‘bunny’ prints for Easter, or kittens or lollipops. They are many amusing opportunities for embroideries and hand-work that doesn’t really exist in adult fashion. I like to make things with my hands – knitting, smocking and embroidery, and that really lends itself to small things, beautifully made. Of course, there is more choice for girls, but boys are fun too. This season we did elephants marching across a cardigan in soft greys, and a matching ribbon trim.
You have three children with your husband, the French photographer Daniel Jouanneau, what is it like to be a bilingual family?
It means that we are quite noisy and loud! Some words sound better in one language than another so it is quite fun to use a word that expresses the meaning best! Actually, when they were little they could speak both languages, depending on whom they were speaking with, but they had no understanding of translation. I read a lot about bilingual children, and think it gives them such an advantage, as they never had to make the effort to ‘learn’ a language, they just grew up with both.
What wisdom would you like to pass on to your children?
Hard work, passion, determination, believing in yourself, but also being adaptable and able to change. I love proverbs like: ‘strike while the iron is hot’, and ‘a stitch in time saves nine’. And I have a favourite saying from Confucius: ‘Wherever you go, go with all your heart’.
You travel between your homes in London and France quite a bit, do you have any tricks to keep the children happy when travelling?
We always used to drive a lot, and actually they are so close in age that they were often quite naughty. My favourite distraction was ‘let’s play I-spy’ or the number plate game (counting on number plates, starting with 1 and going as high as possible). And feeding them most of the journey used to work quite well too!
The festive season is coming up – what are your children getting this Christmas? We promise we won’t tell them!
Hmmm, haven’t quite got started on the Christmas present list yet, but I love Christmas, and I love ‘things’ so everyone always does quite well. Of course, I am always attracted by textile items, interesting prints, warm check flannels, soft cashmere, and sometimes I make things too. In fact, I need to remember to start knitting the cable knit hat for my husband….
What’s the one baby product you cannot live without?
I am quite self-sufficient, and I was pretty relaxed about not needing too much stuff when they were babies. Of course, I loved them to have sweet clothes, and because I breast-feed, I just took them around with me, so I suppose the one thing that was important to me was for us to be together so I could feed them!
What’s your top tip for Christmas Day?
I love being with the family, and it’s nice to spend the day doing family things. We will play cards or games. I suppose the most important thing is to relax, enjoy it, and not be too competitive (we all like to win!).
What’s your New Year’s resolution?
Hmmm, I have not got that far to start thinking about what I need to change. I would always like to be more patient, and kinder and less ‘quick-to-react’ so maybe to count to ten before I reply (the only problem is the people around me might find that very tedious!
How would you sum yourself up in one sentence.
Gosh, that’s a difficult one! ‘Creativity and making things stokes my enthusiasm, but I am proud that I am reliable and dependable and that those close to me can count on me’!