An interview with Laura Ralph
"We make sure that each piece of clothing is flattering on the figure, whatever the body shape, focusing mainly on the fabric print."
Laura Ralph began creating her eye-catching clothes back in 2013 whilst she was studying at the University of Brighton.
Starting with some fabric, a needle and thread, Laura’s unique eye for design has allowed her brand to expand comfortably over the past few years. Her independent label, Laura Ralph Designs, has appeared in both Grazia and Elle magazines, and she was featured in The Daily Telegraph for having one of the “top ten UK student jobs”. She also sells her clothing at festivals including Secret Garden Party and Wilderness as well as taking part in pop-up shops and vintage market fairs across the country.
OX’s Charlotte Smith caught up with Laura to talk bespoke tailoring, colour and print, and her future plans for the business.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I’m 24 and from Oxfordshire. I graduated just over a year ago from The University of Brighton where I studied textiles with business. I now live in Brighton but visit my parents’ home in Woodstock weekly to use my main studio.
How and why did you start your business?
Four years ago I had just finished my first year in Brighton and I made myself a crop top made from vintage fabric, then made a few more and started selling them on Ebay. At the time I mostly made clothes as a hobby, as although my course didn’t include making clothes, I still wanted to put my designs together. A few months later I was approached by the owner of independent brands website The Little Deer and started selling them on that platform, but June 2013 is really when it all kicked off. I made the first two-piece – a matching crop top and high-waisted shorts - and instantly I was getting orders from friends. I soon set up a Facebook page and the brand grew from there. I was getting more orders a day than I could manage and would sell out as soon as I got a new fabric. It was great fun and I look back on that time with enormous gratitude. We introduced new products which now cover everything from festival outfits, daywear, workwear and wedding outfits.
What makes your clothing stand out from high-street brands?
The fabrics we use. All of our fabrics are handpicked and most of them only make a few items so they add a bespoke value to the clothing. We make sure that each piece of clothing is flattering on the figure, whatever the body shape, focusing mainly on the fabric print. All clothing is handmade in the UK by myself or a team of seamstresses during busier months. So much love goes into each item and we offer a bespoke service where the customer can choose the fabric and garment and we make it to fit them perfectly.
Where do you source your materials?
All over the place! A lot of my fabrics are furnishing fabrics as I prefer the quality and most of the time the print. Vintage fabrics are always fantastic, but they’re becoming more difficult to source. I recently worked with the Maggie Semple team to create a collection using prints from the British library archive as well as a collection of Olga Hirshs decorative papers. This was such a fun project and I’m really keen to collaborate with other designers in the future.
What are your future goals for the business?
I’m looking to have a studio in Brighton as well as Oxfordshire so I’m able to hold open studio events in both regions.
What gets you through a long day in the studio?
Knowing that people are engaging with my brand as well as looking towards the next aim - it could be a pop up shop, a new garment or the next season. It’s important to have goals otherwise it’s very easy to stay still and continue with exactly what you’re doing without introducing or trying new things.
What inspires you?
There is nothing I like to do more than fabric shop. It’s my retail therapy and I love finding a fabric and being so excited to get it home and make a new dress, jacket or two-piece from it.
Do you have any advice that you could give to young designers wanting to start their own business?
Just do it. Don’t think about it too much, find something you like, get friends opinions on it and just try it and keep going. Social media is an amazing tool for promotion and I would be nowhere without it. A great thing I have learnt in the last couple of years, which I think is so important, is making friends with other independent designers. I’ve got a great network here in Brighton with other designers and when you’re having a bad week it really helps to speak to someone who understands and they want to help and they give you advice and you give them advice when they need it.
- Charlotte Smith
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