For the woman who loves to standout, experiment with unconventional design and embrace colour, it’s time to get acquainted with Retarded Velvet .
Theresa James and Roger Prince are the duo behind Retarded Velvet, the 80s, pop cultre inspired line that has showed at Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai, and Vancouver Fashion Week in Canada. We had the chance to speak with Theresa James on the inspiration, aesthetics and people behind the dynamic brand. (PS. Scroll to the bottom of the story for an exclusive Retarded Velvet discount code for Jugni Style readers).
Jugni Style: How did you come up withe name Retarded Velvet?
Retarded Velvet: ‘Retarded Velvet’ is slang for ‘incredibly effortless or smooth’. We came up with it during a night of antics and general goofing around. It just stuck. It’s definitely polarizing, just like our brand. Either you get it or you don’t.
JS: Where did your partnership evolve from?
RV: Roger and I have been together since 2006 and when we moved to Vancouver we decided that we wanted to work together, rather than apart, doing something creative. Fashion was an obvious choice for the both of us, so we took the plunge, enrolled in the Fashion Design Program at the Blanche MacDonald Center for Applied Design, followed by our debut collection at Vancouver Fashion Week in 2010. We ended up moving to St. John’s last year and after two successful runway presentations at Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai, things have really taken off.
JS: Do you ever find it hard to design with a partner? Are your artistic visions generally unified or is their compromise?
RV: Roger and I discovered that our strengths really compliment each other and we’re fortunate to have that second eye to help edit designs and bounce print ideas off of. Our artistic visions are very similar but can diverge when it comes to colour and styling. There’s definitely some compromise and there are always pieces that we may not agree on or that would be considered ‘runway only’, but part of the enjoyment is letting ourselves experiment. By not putting too many restrictions on what we create, the collections evolve into a series of distinct and strong ‘pieces’ that, although may not be 100% commercial, represent us as a design team and we don’t want to compromise on that.
JS: How would you describe your aesthetic?
RV: It’s definitely irreverent, progressive and visually electric, making use of explosive colour, riotous prints, and laidback silhouettes. The pieces are designed to be comfortable enough for a casual day out, but with the impact to make a statement at an event. Many are transformational in nature and each can stand alone on its own unique strengths. I rarely wear tight fitting clothing and, like a lot of brown girls, I’m ridiculously high-waisted, so you’ll notice that most of the garments play with volume, fluidity, and proportions, to create flattering silhouettes.
JS: Your clothing can be described as avant garde and experimental. How do you describe the woman you think would wear Retarded Velvet? Who is your ideal customer?
RV: It’s always interesting to hear someone else’s take on what we do! We’ve never really considered our designs to be avant-garde because everything is wearable and especially since our last collection was the most ‘commercial’ that we’ve put together. The woman who wears RV is independent, expresses her personal style through how she puts herself together, but doesn’t take herself or fashion too seriously. Like you or I, she has a closet full of clothes but there’s only a handful of stand-out pieces that she’ll never part with. We hope RV is represented in those few.
JS: What inspires you and your clothing?
RV: We’re primarily influenced by travel, the 80s, and pop culture. We believe that fashion should always be on the cutting edge, without sacrificing pleasure in the creation process. We frequently travel to mine different cultures and landscapes for inspiration in order to bring that sense of adventure to each collection. Most of all we’re always challenging ourselves to take things further, adding to the continuity from one season to the next.
JS: You’ve presented in Vancouver in the past, and more recently at Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai. Are you making a distinct shift to the Indian market? What was the reception like to your last collection in Mumbai?
RV: We decided to apply to LFW because we have a love affair with India. After graduating from our program, Roger and I took two months to travel around the country and became intensely inspired by just about everything. We had no idea whether they would even consider our application as designers from abroad but they welcomed us and it was an overwhelmingly positive experience. India is a tricky market for designers who create western-style clothing exclusively, rather than saris, lenghas, salwaars, and kurtas. It’s only in recent years that the concept of ‘separates’ has gained momentum and in a nation where consumers are used to buying complete, ready-made outfits, and personal styling is a skill that a big segment of the population is getting more comfortable with.
JS: You live in Canada, not necessarily a centre for international fashion, and on top of that, in St. John’s! Do you find distance helps your creativity, or is it hard being away from fashion hubs like Mumbai, Delhi, New York, London, Paris, etc.
JV: Wherever you live and wherever you create from ends up influencing your work but I don’t think that you need to be in a fashion hub to be a compelling designer or operate a business in this industry. In fact, I think our physical distance sets us apart because we’re less influenced by what everyone else is doing. As long as you have access to the Internet and a strong network of suppliers, anything is possible. There may be opportunities that we miss out on by being off the beaten path but it’s also a lifestyle choice. It gives us the freedom to choose the events and partnerships that best suit our brand. Just recently we sent a selection of garments to two different stylists in Vancouver and one in Detroit for photo shoots and at least one of those has landed us an editorial spread.
JS: What can we expect from your next collection? When will it come out and when/where will your next runway show be?
RV: Our next collection is going to be more streamlined in design and the prints are going to be a huge departure from what you’ve seen. I don’t want to give anything away just yet, since ideas are still being developed, but you can expect a juxtaposition between Persian aesthetics and a vintage, classic American pastime. We’ll have our lookbook ready by October but we haven’t decided if or where we’re doing a runway presentation. The collection will be up for grabs by 2013 at shop.retardedvelvet.com and at select stockists, which can be found on our website, retardedvelvet.com.
Jugni Style Reader Bonus: For a limited time, Retarded Velvet is offering a 20% off code to Jugni Style readers. Use the code JUGNI2012 to get 20% taken off your purchase before taxes until July 18, 2012. What to buy? We recommend the Gulab Jal Mini Caftan, great for covering up at the beach, or paired with leggings/skinny jeans.