Behind The Design: Natalie Rae
As the San Francisco Bay Area Blog Ambassador, I was very excited to interview one of Colabination’s local designers. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Natalie Richardson, the founder and designer of fashion line Natalie Rae. She gave me a tour of her studio in Berkeley, CA, and I even got to see a few of her favorite pieces from her collections. Natalie graduated from the London College of Fashion and then later returned to the states to settle down and grow her fashion line.
GR: How would you describe the style aesthetic of your line Natalie Rae?
NR: My line is easy, casual and not fussy. The pieces can be dressed up or down depending on your mood and occasion. You can put it on and not think too much about it. I like to create pieces that blend well with the pieces you already have in your closet. I play with both sides of feminine and masculine. You will find touches on tomboy and also girly girl in the pieces.
GR: Why did you decide to become a fashion designer?
NR: I had a fascination with fashion from a young age. I loved looking through fashion magazines and I watched TV shows to see what the characters would be wearing. When I was young I did sewing projects such as making clothes for my Barbie. I think I knew early on that I wanted to work in the fashion industry.
GR: What is your favorite part about being a fashion designer?
NR: I love the independence that comes with working on your own line and I really enjoy creating something new and different. I have always like working with my hands and building tangible products. Growing up my dad thought I would be a mechanic because I like constructing and piecing things together. I enjoy the whole process from the beginning stages of pattern drafting, sewing garments, styling photo shoots and then seeing the final images.
GR: When you design, who do you have in mind? Yourself?
NR: I design for my alter ego. There’s a side of me that wants to be the fashionista trend setting type of girl. A girl that’s a little more girly and plans out her outfits to get dressed up. But the reality is that sometimes I tend to be a little lazy and throw on clothes to start the day. So it’s fun for me to live vicariously through my alter ego.
GR: How would you describe your personal style? Does it tie into your designs?
NR: I’ve gone through different style phases throughout the years. My personal aesthetic has gone from very tomboy to even a punk phase in high school. But in current years it has been a hybrid of tomboy and feminine which is definitely paralleled in my line.
GR: How do you select the fabrics you use in your designs?
NR: My main criteria for selecting fabric is that it must be both sustainably and ethically made. I believe that current designers need to go the way of eco fashion. I try my best to find my fabrics and trims locally in the Berkeley area. I prefer fabrics with natural fibers such as organic cottons and bamboo rayons. I go for natural colors with soft muted tones but I try to avoid too many earth tones. I feel there is a stigma that eco fashion has to be frumpy and only for hippies. It can be a challenge to find a variety of colors in natural dyed fabrics but with some effort and innovation it can be done. I also use sites such as makersrow.com to source wholesale products made in the USA.
GR: What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own fashion line?
NR: It’s really hard and definitely needs to be a labor of love. It requires so much effort and at times can really beat you down. You need to know going into it that you won’t make any money at first. I would recommend having a business partner that has skills that complement your own. Know your strong point and your weaknesses so you can partner with someone that has the natural strengths you don’t. Know that you will spend many late nights worrying but the end product will make it worth it. There’s not better feeling than seeing the fruits of your labor.
GR: Who are the women who wear your designs?
NR: The women that I’ve spoken to who buy my designs tend to have very jet set, on the go lifestyles. Because my designs are very easy and casual it fits well with their busy schedules. They are definitely fashion conscious women who have built their own personal style and love to purchase pieces that will fit their esthetic. Sometimes they seek out my brand and other times they come across my pieces as a happy coincidence.
GR: Who would be your dream company/designer to collaborate with?
NR: I have worked with Teal and Gold, a woodworking and handcrafting company based out of Canada. They created gorgeous custom clutches to accompany one of my lines. I reached out to them because I love their work and they use wood from sustainable forests. We have a similar aesthetic and share the same vision of sustainable eco fashion.
GR: Are there any trends that you’re excited to see for upcoming seasons?
NR: I have seen and read articles about a rising trend in bespoke and handcrafted fashion. I would definitely like to see the fashion industry embracing its couture roots and moving away from fast fashion. Also, I’ve noticed unisex fashion is growing which is great.
GR: What do you envision in the future for Natalie Rae?
NR: My goal is to concentrate full time on pushing the label forward and growing the brand. I would like to get a bigger space and hire a staff. I will be concentrating my efforts on growing in the US. I plan on creating two collections per year, one Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter with themes, colors and styles that carry over.
I had a great time chatting with Natalie about her line. She has done incredible work and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her brand Natalie Rae.
By: Gennifer Rose
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