Fashion designer Riti Shah on the role Istituto Marangoni played in shaping her career
The story of how she founded her label
Defining equality through her clothes, Riti Shah’s love for garments and textiles was present for as long as she can remember it. Honing her skill and turning her passion for fashion into a career, she began her journey at Istituto Marangoni, London, post which she began learning from the industry’s best—Mary Katrantzou, OSMAN, and Irynvigre to name a few. This led to her starting her own line, RSR—a contemporary label which blurs the lines between genders. Celebrating androgyny, her label combines bold silhouettes that are structural, with a touch of embroidery.
Read on as she talks about the concept behind her label, her favourite pieces, and her journey so far:
ELLE: Tell us a bit more about your fashion journey. How did it start and what role did Istituto Marangoni play in shaping your design career?
Riti Shah: I have always been fascinated by clothes, fashion shows, textiles and textures. I enjoy all forms of creative art; from reading about art and fashion history to dancing and playing the piano. For me, art has always been a medium of expression, and design was my natural inclination. My journey as a student, intern, employee to now having my own label, has been a huge learning curve. Istituto Marangoni is only reason I have been able to convert these dreams into a reality. The quality of education, the teachers that have taught me and the exposure I gained due to the internship opportunities that were offered to me by the school were extremely beneficial to my career. The after school support has also helped me set up a base in terms of having my own label. My most important lesson was to understand my aesthetic and to stay true to it, along with balancing design with the more practical business-related angle.
ELLE: How was RSR by Riti Rahul Shah conceptualised? What was the message you wanted to bring through the brand?
RS: I have always wanted to have my own label, and it was something I have been visualising since a very young age. RSR , the name is a tribute to my parents and family without whose support I would not have taken the first step towards making my big fashion dream a reality. The label stands for equality and I show this by de-gendering a few fabrics and silhouettes in the collection. It stands for power and strength balanced with a soft accents that is shown in the patterns and the use of fabric in the garments. Most importantly each collection is extremely well researched and tells a story or explains a concept through the medium of fashion.
ELLE: How did the label’s signature style and cuts come to being?
RS: I have always looked at events of the past, theories related to geometry, shapes, and structures as forms of inspiration and, with my research, design and personal aesthetic, turned them into futuristic concepts for my collections. My collections consist of clean cut lines, geometric shapes and three-dimensional elements. It is an aesthetic that bridges strong silhouettes with elegance; celebrating the woman’s body. I worked on my final year project Equipoise which was inspired by the Stomachion theory, the Bauhaus movement and the ancient Russian Drama illustrations of the 1800’s. This project was key in shaping and forming my signature style and cuts.
ELLE: Take us through your design process.
RS: My design process consists of four major steps, I start with an in-depth research of a topic that interests me, which includes reading books, blogs and articles that relate to my study. I then go on to mind mapping, understanding the right fabrics, textures, silhouettes, prints, colours and three-dimensional elements that fit well with my research. This is followed by experimentation in calico and then finalising the sketches and working towards the production, sourcing and creating the actual collection.
ELLE: Is there a piece in the collection (past or present) that is really close to your heart
RS: I worked on this blue and white three-dimensional dress with black inserts for my graduate collection; it is a piece that is extremely close to my heart. It is the perfect balance of structure, shape and power. It was the first piece I worked on and also led to discovering what my aesthetic truly is, and what I wanted to do in terms of garment construction.