Retarded Velvet: Diary of a collection S/s 12

22nd June 2012

Retarded Velvet Aka Theresa James and Roger Prince hit my radar in March when their stunning collection hit the Lakme Fashion Week catwalk. Their prints just blew me away. They used iconic Indian imagery from the Thumbs Up logo to the Amul girl and reworked them into these fresh, innovative statement prints. Retarded Velvet is exactly what makes the emerging designer category in LFW so exciting. I asked Theresa if she could put together a diary of that collection to get an insight into how they work and what inspires them. T’s been fab and sent through an amazing write up and images! So ENJOY!

August 2011 – Having just returned from showcasing at Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) in Mumbai, our head’s are swimming with explosive Indian inspiration and we’ve decided, for the first time, to develop our own prints. We’ve never attempted to design our digital prints before but it feels like the only way to fully express ourselves, rather than relying on commercial fabric and textiles we have no connection to. Among a multitude, we have compiled a bunch of pix that have really stuck with us and that make up our mood board as it evolves. ‘Iconic India’ is our inspiration and we plan on taking common items from the subcontinent and transforming them into pop art prints for our style.

September 2011 – Success! We’ve found a digital textile print supplier in Delhi through a designer friend in Mumbai, and we’ve decided to apply for Lakme Fashion Week again – next season’s show is in March 2012. Applications are due in October(!), so we have a heap of work to do to get our samples ready. Since we’re applicants from Canada, we feel like the pressure is on – we really have to impress the advisory board to demonstrate that we are as deserving as aspiring design talent from within India. For now, it’s back to sketching. The way things are shaping up is that we’re leaning towards easy, comfortable silhouettes that involve soft draping with a casual, relaxed sensibility. Our last collection was unisex and referenced different cultural items like Navajo Indian motifs, Ghanaian batik, South Indian lunghi cotton, and printed Ikat. We tend to be drawn to global elements and this collection will add to that continuum, though the focus will be on women’s ready-to-wear

October 2011 – We still haven’t found a factory to actually produce our collection but we’ve been researching workshops in Canada as well as in India. We’re sure something will fall into place. We just found a new jobber to sew our samples but we’ve never worked together before, so we’re counting on her having some mad skills. Since we moved to St. John’s from Vancouver in July 2011, we’ve had to basically start fresh when it comes to sourcing fabric and contractors, which has been a bit challenging. Our LFW application is nearly complete – we have to include images from last season and we’re just putting the final touches on it and our samples for inclusion. Fingers-crossed.

November 2011 – Flight booked! We haven’t been able to find the right kind of fabric for this collection and it’s difficult to approve digital print samples when we’re oceans away. So, Roger and I have decided that I should make a trip to Delhi to meet with the digital printer, approve samples, source trims and bring back sample yardage. It’s an expense but meeting face-to-face makes things more personal and if we’re going to be participating in LFW again and manufacturing over there, it makes sense for us to source materials locally. The digital print designs are finished and now we have far too many – time to start editing.

December 2011 – Rad, we did it! We’ve been accepted to present at LFW next season! It’s suddenly very real and with the holidays on the horizon and family commitments we have to seriously manage our tasks in order to get our patterns finalized, so there’s enough time for our sewer to get everything ready by mid-February. I was able to bring back the sample yardage only to find that some of it was defective (boooo!) – holes in the fabric and ink smudges. But, we have no time no complain. We just have to work around the fabric issues and motor on because it’s the only yardage we have for the time being. I’m documenting all of the problems though, so that I can take it up with the supplier when we return to Delhi in March.

January 2012 – The patterns are almost finished but it’s totally crunch time and we just lost our sample sewer! She gave birth over the holidays and really doesn’t have the time or energy to devote to our garments. We have about two weeks tops to find a replacement or else we won’t have any pieces to take to LFW. Time to kick it into high gear and contact anyone and everyone who might be able to hook us up. Besides that, we have to organize a photoshoot before the end of February, so we have a proper lookbook to offer the media and buyers. We also need to organize flights, get our travel visas, immunizations, find a place to stay, design a press kit, oh, and contract a factory for production. No big deal, right?

February 2012 – It’s midnight before our 3am flight to Mumbai and we’re waiting for our (new) sample sewer to bring the last of our finished garments over. Talk about getting down to the wire. Itinerary: St John’s  Toronto  Vienna  Mumbai – more than 35 hours of travel, including layovers. We’ve saved just enough room in our bags for the final pieces, and we had to accommodate our press kits, business cards, RV-branded labels, hang tags, and a poster for our trade show booth. That doesn’t leave very much room for clothes of our own, which means we’re going to have to do some creative styling and accessorizing if we don’t want to look like we’re wearing the same thing to every event! We’re nervous with anticipation for what the next few days has in store for us and are anxious to get on the plane. Roger and I are taking our entire collection carry-on in two cabin bags because what would we do if one of our check-in bags was lost in transit?

March 2012 – One word. Whirlwind. We arrive, and as is Roger’s ritual, he got a haircut straight away to clean himself up before the festivities. We get swept away in model fittings, runway choreography, selecting the right music, approving hair and make-up, setting up the trade show booth, doing press interviews, and catching up with old friends, all the while spending hoards of time rickshaw-ing between appointments. The day of the show is intense but goes off without a hitch and everything is perfection. After all the glitz and glam of the opening party comes the work of negotiating with buyers and selling ourselves and our collection. When it’s all said and done, we’ve secured stockists in Delhi, Mumbai, Dubai and online, and after some searching, we find a small workshop to handle our production and manufacture our first run of styles. It’s time to return home and start the process all over again with a fresh collection, a new season, and reinvigorated inspiration. But first, sleeeeeeeep

HUGE thanks to T & Roger and can’t wait to see the next collection

To find your nearest stockist or to buy on-line go to Retarded Velvet

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3 thoughts on “Retarded Velvet: Diary of a collection S/s 12

  1. atembe says:

    This was a really enjoyable read. Those prints are everything! Love the incorporation of Indian culture without making it look gimmicky. Cheers!

  2. […] Both WIFW and Lakme Fashion Week have really championed new talent this year and Retarded Velvet are one of my fav new ‘ones to watch’ there print ROCK. To read more click here. […]

  3. […] make their mark. Previously I’ve shone my spotlight on the print-tastic Karishma Shahani and Retarded Velvet and this time it shines on Huemn. Huemn by Pranav Mishra & Shyma Shetty’s paired down […]

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