Childrenswear designer Rachel Riley turned her clothes-making hobby into a career when she founded her eponymous brand in 1994.
What started out as a bit of “fun” making baby clothes for her own children, and then friends, has transformed into a go-to kidswear brand for celebrities and royals alike. Today Rachel Riley counts both Prince George and Princess Charlotte among its famous customer base.
Despite employing around 20 people across the UK, EU and the US, Riley is still as involved in the company as she was when it launched 25 years ago: she covers everything from selecting fabric and trims, to working on print design, to planning and budgeting.
Rachel Riley currently has one stand-alone store in London’s Marylebone, as well as a workshop in France and three US showrooms in New York, Atlanta and Dallas. Products are also available via its website and 150 international stockists, including Harrods, Selfridges and House of Fraser in the UK. Wholesale range from £6 for a bib to £60 for a coat.
What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
I always say “hello” to my dear husband.
What was your first job?
Babysitting for neighbours and family friends.
How would you describe the brand in one sentence?
Hand-crafted, classic baby and children’s clothing in joyous prints.
What’s your coffee (or tea) order?
Tea all day: earl grey if possible, and a slice of shortbread.
Where are your favourite places to shop?
Vintage shops and markets – especially [antique fairs in] Brimfield, Massachusetts. I love the thrill of the chase and finding one-off pieces.
Last fashion purchase? Why did it catch your eye?
A pair of black and white tasselled loafers from a boutique in New York. I like them because they are practical and stylish.
Emails or phone calls?
Both have advantages: emails are efficient, but phone calls are more personal.
Most important lesson you’ve learned during your career?
Having my own business has taught me the importance of determination, persistence, creativity, flair and adaptability.
What would be your ideal office/meeting space?
I’m not that fussed to be honest. I can work anywhere, as I carry my laptop with me at all times and get it out wherever I am, be it the office, a coffee shop, train, airport, sofa…
What’s your favourite part of the creative process?
Selecting fabrics and trims… It’s amazing how excited I can get about choosing the right sparkle button or polka-dot ribbon.
What has been your proudest moment since launching/setting up the company?
It has to be when Prince George wore a Rachel Riley outfit to his first official engagement. It was on the front page of all the newspapers.
What’s the last book you read?
I prefer podcasts these days, in particular [business-focused] How I Built This with Guy Raz.
Antiquing in Brimfield.
Who in the fashion/retail industry inspires you?
Designers such as Agnès B and Paul Smith, who have built successful businesses from scratch.
What’s the biggest challenge facing fashion today?
Reversing the culture of “throwaway” fashion and making clothes that are built to last.
One piece of advice would you give your younger self?
It’s about the journey, not the destination
Who do you turn to when you need advice?
My business mentor Manny Silverman [former Moss Bros CEO]. I love working with and him understands the challenges and opportunities that I face.
What would we find you doing at the weekend?
I love gardening, as it really lets me switch off. I also find it so satisfying watching the seasons change and the plants that I have grown develop.
What are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?
The spring 20 collections are so cute. I can’t wait for them to launch!