How Rixo has navigated change yet stuck to its roots

Amy de Klerk
·6-min read
Photo credit: Courtesy of Rixo
Photo credit: Courtesy of Rixo

From Harper's BAZAAR

It has been a memorable five years for Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey, the founders of London Fashion Week label Rixo, who, after launching their very own brand from the kitchen of their student house half a decade ago, have gone on to run one of the most successful and exciting mid-range designer labels in the industry.

Celebrating Rixo’s five-year anniversary this week, the designers are looking back – both literally and figuratively – on their success, choosing to reinvent some of their first designs for a special birthday collection, and are also reflecting on what has worked so well for them in a notoriously competitive industry during a particularly transformative period.

“For a long time, it was just myself and Henrietta working across the business,” McCloskey says of how far they have come. “The spare room was our warehouse, prints were created at the kitchen table and we would regularly work through the night. Now, we employ over 40 people and our product is sold around the globe – we’ve had the most amazing journey and work with so many brilliant people.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of Rixo
Photo credit: Courtesy of Rixo

Although the business has gone from brand-new to thriving in such a short space of time, the focus and mantra of Rixo’s collections remain exactly the same, McCloskey says.

“There has been a lot of change on the business side but our collections are still born from the same philosophy; to evoke a wanderlust and free spirit in all our wearers, filling a gap in the contemporary market with easy-to-wear, feminine shapes and high-quality materials.”

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Rixo’s designs are instantly recognisable for those in the know – the brand’s vintage-inspired prints and ladylike, easy-to-wear silhouettes have amassed such a fan base that a Rixo design is quite easily identifiable. This focus on prints sits at the heart of each design, the team explains, and is the reason for this distinctive style.

“Rixo was born from our shared love of vintage; we noticed a gap in the market for a brand that isn’t defined by trends,” Rix says. “For us, the best part of Rixo is the hand-painted prints combined with a classic, feminine shape that transcends time and can be worn by your sister as well as your mum or grandma! Our prints define Rixo’s DNA.”

Photo credit: David M. Benett - Getty Images
Photo credit: David M. Benett - Getty Images

In many ways, it seems that Rix and McCloskey foresaw changes that were about to take place in the fashion industry when they launched Rixo, banking on the idea that trend-focused one-season designs were going to fall out of fashion in favour of those investment pieces that you would be able to wear for decades, and indeed that could be worn by women at various stages of their lives.

“Consumers today have a conscience, they want to cut down on a wasteful wardrobe and buy pieces that will last – and that can be worn time and time again,” Rix says.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Rixo
Photo credit: Courtesy of Rixo

The growth in the contemporary designer market has been huge in recent years, with consumers at both ends of the scale choosing to invest in these emerging mid-range labels, perhaps in part due to a more conscious effort to avoid shopping throwaway fashion on the high street, but also because social media has allowed these brands to have an opportunity to compete with established fashion houses, where they wouldn’t have been able to previously.

“Social media gives smaller brands without huge advertising budgets a voice,” Rix explains. “It’s an amazing tool for discovery.”

Investing in and focusing on its social-media strategy has been key to Rixo’s success, the founders argue. This has been particularly true during difficult times, including through this year’s pandemic, when the brand attempted to connect with and support its community through various initiatives on Instagram, from teaming up with artists and interior designers to fitness instructors and more to create engaging content and encourage positivity and creativity during lockdown.

But that of course wasn’t the only impact of the pandemic. Rix explains that it “flipped everything on its head” and that the business was forced to remain agile and look at the industry from a new perspective. Part of this change was understanding the best way to approach the seasons.

“The traditional fashion schedule has been a topic of conversation for a while now, and we understand that customers don’t really want to wait to buy a piece they saw six months ago,” McCloskey says. “At Rixo, we have turned to a more concentrated collection format, stepping away from the calendar to produce more specific, monthly drops in line with the true season.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of Rixo
Photo credit: Courtesy of Rixo

This new approach has already begun for the label, whose five-year anniversary collection was revealed and released on the same day, giving customers an immediate opportunity to shop these new designs. This will continue with Rixo’s January 2021 drop.

“These will cater more towards what customers actually want and need that month and help with our bid to encourage more considered shopping and less waste in production. Our customers love this instant access and I think the pandemic will force more brands to adapt to this format.”

For Rixo (as with many other labels), adapting to these changing circumstances is key to continued success, however, this needs to be combined with standing strong on the brand DNA and remaining committed to what makes it stand out, something which is clearly at the forefront of the Rixo strategy.

“Rixo’s roots are so important to us and our five-year anniversary collection is testament to this,” Rix explains. “We are so excited to bring the icons of Rixo back from the archives – these original prints and shapes hold such a special place in both of our hearts.”

“The casting for this collection also represents the diverse nature that Rixo holds at its core. Our audience can range from an 18 to an 80 year old, so representing that in our campaigns is really important to us. We have models from our first ever campaign starring in our campaign today, wearing the same print as five years ago – sticking to our roots is extremely important to us!”

You can shop Rixo's five-year anniversary collection here.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Rixo
Photo credit: Courtesy of Rixo

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