Renée Bedell – SS16

Photography: Bex Day
Styling: Christiana Perdiou

Can you tell us about your latest collection? What was the inspiration behind it? Was it a challenge compared to other collections or did you have a clear idea from the start?
My latest collection, Spring/Summer 2016 was a natural continuation from my previous one – the colours and general feel of the collection are similar to the last. In this collection I branched out a bit more and started sourcing materials from Japan and Ireland which I hadn’t done before. This was new and exciting for me as before I was sourcing everything within the UK. So yes, it was a challenge but in a different way. I had all the knowledge from doing my graduate collection, Autumn/Winter 2014 and my first season Autumn/Winter 2015 behind me. I remember when I had to make Autumn/Winter 2015 in three months – three months! So it has all been a huge learning curve for me. I am really enjoying the journey of developing my style further.
You mention on your website about the cloth you use being handmade in 30cm pieces, why is it important for you that the fabric is made in this way?
The cloth I used in my Autumn/Winter 2014 collection was made on hand looms that would sit across a small desk. They were made by tribes in very rural villages in China. They didn’t have access to big machinery that would normally make the denim we buy from high street stores. They made everything themselves. The cloth that they made was only about 30cm wide and would be about 2metres long. They originally made it to be pleated and made into skirts because that was their traditional dress. The cloth had special meanings in them though. The patterns on the cloth wasn’t just for decoration, they told a story of their ancestors whom they worshipped. These patterns or stories are sacred and have a very profound meaning for the people who made them.

You also say that you consider yourself a ‘product designer’. Can you explain a little more about what you mean by that?

When I say I consider myself a ‘product designer’ I say this because although it’s important for my whole collection to tie in with each other as a whole, I make sure every single garment is special and works well on its own. Because hardly anyone will go and buy a collection, most of the time we just buy one or two pieces. So I make sure each piece in my collection is a high quality, polished product that someone will treasure and love.

How did you establish the brand and how tough has that process been? 
It’s been extremely tough. I started out completely on my own, scared, naive not having a clue how to really establish and run a brand. I knew the direction I wanted to go, I had the ideas, but not how to actually practically do it. I now work with a really excellent agency, Bloody Gray, who mentor me and support me. The thing is, I’ve come out of an environment completely against everything I’m doing now. Setting your own brand was never encouraged in the university that I came from. Setting up your own brand was something that CSM kids did. So when it did come to setting up my own brand I felt very on my own.

You have another job to supplement your income in order to design. Do you think this gives any extra qualities to your designs?
Yes! But it’s completely unrelated and it by no means gives me any extra qualities to my designs other than a place to think and reflect upon them!

Do you feel the fashion industry is making any strides at helping young and new designers to make a living from their work? 
Yes certain people have shown me a lot of kindness and faith in my brand. But I’m not going to lie, the fashion industry does not readily offer out a helping hand to just any young new designer no matter how talented they are. Most of the time it takes someone else with the right connections to help put in a good word for them.

How do you cope with the fast turn around in seasons whilst having another job?
It’s fine, I don’t work that long in my other job. I do hate going to my other job when I know I’m super busy and I know that I’m going to get a load of calls from people asking me questions about things which I cannot answer though. I also have to pretend that everything is totally fine and I am not under any stress whatsoever when I am at my other job. My other job is so unrelated and not anything to do with my career though so it feels like I am living a double life. When I turn up to work I have to just play it cool. Which makes it awkward when they ask me how my week has been because it feels wrong telling them that I have been super busy working on a collection.

How do you feel about the huge expansion of men’s fashion and men’s fashion week over the last few years?
I think it’s good, I think it’s exciting. I think it shows that men are opening up to the fact that it’s exciting and fun to invest in their wardrobe. I think designers are taking more risks because men are willing to take more risks with what they wear which must be a direct link to whats happening in our society. It is all very positive.

What do you like about the London fashion industry?
I like that it’s eclectic, it has attitude and wit – especially the more established brands. I love looking at the big British brands and feel proud that they still choose to show here. I also think there’s something refined and intelligent about their shows. I also like the focus and importance that’s placed on new and young talent. However, I still think there’s room for that to grow; I think young talent could do with more help and support as they don’t get a lot during university.

From initial sketches to the final show at the end, which part of each fashion season is your favourite?
The photoshoot. The photoshoot is my favourite day in the whole fashion process because that is where I get to see everything come to life. As much as I enjoy the process and sketching, nothing beats seeing it on a body. It also always feels like a celebration and so I enjoy it immensely.

Words by Rachel Speed, all clothes by Renee Bedell SS16

Photography: Bex Day
Styling: Christiana Perdiou
Model: La’mel
With thanks to Box Studios