Emily Maree discusses Georgia O’Keeffe, Ted Baker, the Midlands Fashion Awards, London Fashion Week debuts and new collection ‘Portraits of Elegance’ with graduate fashion designer Rhona Anne Halford
When did you first decide you wanted to go into fashion design?
Having always been very creative from a young age – and with Art being my best subject – I started mixing up different medias in my artwork including fabric, which leaned more towards design. I have always had a keen interest in styling and putting looks together which was passed on to me from my mum and nan. Fashion is a passion of mine and I have a belief that what you wear expresses who you are as a person. Personal style is really important to me and I love putting looks together. This led me to look into Fashion Design as a career.
What institutions and designers did you study with?
I started studying for a BTEC National Diploma in Fashion Design at Warwickshire College and then I was offered an unconditional place at Kingston University in London, where I gained a BA (Hons) Degree in Fashion and I was taught by many industry professionals. Upon graduation, I was offered a three-month internship within the design studio at Amanda Wakeley. From there I went on to work for Danielle Scutt, Ted Baker and for the high street at Miss Selfridge.
When did you start your eponymous label?
I started working on my own label at the beginning of 2013 after working for various designers/companies, I decided working for myself was better for me as an individual and for developing my career as a designer. I work really well to deadlines and can discipline myself well and work really hard towards what I want to achieve, hence showcasing during London Fashion Week. I developed my label from scratch, trying to get the best out of what I was taught and using my qualifications but also connecting with others from the industry as I wanted to get it 100% right and for my label to look and feel professional. I eventually launched my label in June this year after a very long and hard road to build a business that I can feel proud of.
What was your first collection about and how have your designs evolved since then?
My first collection was my graduate collection called ‘The Elegance Of Frilled Ombre’ where I looked at a personal aesthetic taking my experiences of being a ballerina, looking into modern ballet and how the fabric falls on the body. I love working on the stand and have a keen interest in drape so you will see my collections have a lot of drape throughout the design development. I also love florals and looked into the works of my favourite artist Georgia O’Keeffe. I adored the ombre colours in her paintings so developed this idea by using a dip dye process of dying fabrics to create the ombre look and applying this to my designs. The frills were then seamed through various garments and portrayed the shapes of florals and the colour changes, which I was hugely inspired by. My designs have evolved into more of a signature style.
What has influenced your latest collection?
My current collection was taken from the key pieces of my graduate collection and brought a more modern feel. Some designs I kept like the ballet wrap leather jacket but developed the fabric ideas such as bringing in pops of leopard prints which is personal to me as a designer. I wanted to show this in my first collection as an individual designer to make people aware that it reflects who I am as a person. I took the modern ballet influences again and created classy silhouettes but introduced the ruffles as a unique feature.
Who is the Rhona Anne woman?
The Rhona Anne woman is classy and sophisticated with her own sense of style. Her love for quality, drape and colour leads her to investigate beautiful garments, closely relying on attention to detail. She adores, she creates, she inspires.
What did becoming a finalist at the Midlands Fashion Awards 2014 mean to you?
Becoming a finalist at The Midlands Fashion Awards 2014 was the most amazing feeling in the whole world and such a huge achievement. I couldn’t believe it when I was told I had been selected. I’m still having to pinch myself now! To be selected out of many other designers is a great honour and makes me feel like all my hard work is worthwhile. I’m really looking forward to showcasing again this month.
How did it feel to show your designs during London Fashion Week?
Showcasing during London Fashion Week was a dream come true! It felt amazing and so real to see my models walk down the catwalk in my designs. I felt a huge sense of pride and it has given me a boost towards my career.
Who would you most love to see wearing your designs?
I would love to see famous and stylish women in my designs such as the Duchess of Cambridge, Olivia Palermo, Cheryl Cole, Jennifer Lawrence, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Keegan and Emma Watson.
Who are your main style influences? What national/international designers do you look up to?
I look to many people for style influences, I love how Olivia Palermo dresses with her unique sense of style, Cheryl Cole with her sophistication and Mischa Barton, who always looks trendy. I also look to many designers for inspiration like Amanda Wakeley as I love her design philosophy and beautiful elegant designs, Bora Aksu for his take on individuality and total uniqueness, Ashley Isham, Elie Saab, Chanel and Dior.
What has been your career-defining moment to date?
Definately has to be showcasing during London Fashion Week.
What does the future hold for you and the Rhona Anne brand?
I already feel very inspired to develop my next collection and to appeal to a wide customer base in the UK and abroad, for people to notice me as a designer. I would also love to showcase during London Fashion Week again in future seasons and to show on schedule at Somerset House would be a bonus.
Images c/o Rhona Anne, Facebook, whoismikey.net, Michael Mba