For London label, Riyka, being a sustainable label wasn’t a decision that had to be made, it was simply a continuation of an existing lifestyle. Rebecca and Verden, the husband and wife team behind the label, consume as little as possible, buy only what they need and buy sustainable, organic products wherever possible. Taking this ethos and way of life forward into their business was a natural, logical step.
The duo describe their brand as a product of love, reflecting their dedication to quality, sustainability and timelessness. Certainly, timelessness is a focal point of Riyka’s narrative. Each new collection is a clear progression from the last, strong in its identity and free from the influences of the fleeting trends which date our wardrobes and encourage the endless consumption of the new.
Whilst many labels distance themselves from previous collections, capitalising on our desire to own the next new thing, Riyka continually sell previous seasons. Their visual identity is built around bold, geometric shapes and vibrant colour contrasts. This signature aesthetic informs each collection and has allowed them to create a recognisable, definitively ‘Riyka’ style. The distinction between seasons, therefore, comes not from wiping the slate clean and starting over but from developing and evolving.
Each collection is a carefully considered fusion of the label’s own style and their rich cultural reference points. Designer Rebecca talked me through the influences behind SS16:
“This season we have taken inspiration from the subculture of mid-70s Northern Soul and the energy, freedom and equality this music genre stands for. We found inspiration in the merging of working class youth in 70s British and American soul; both of which stand for a raw, hard-edged and anti-establishment point of view. The combination of a fast, uplifting beat and the stripped back sporty aesthetic have influenced the design of this collection which features loose, oversized dresses, blouses and jerseys made of light linens, organic cotton and super comfortable slouchy sweatshirts. Each piece is made with comfort and ease of wear in mind, not forgetting our signature vibrant splashes of colour.”
Aside from a ‘slow fashion’ approach to design Riyka utilise, and advocate for, sustainable materials and methods of production. The label follows a zero waste policy, using leftover fabrics from previous seasons where possible and sending any unusable fabric off-cuts for upcycling. Fabric sourcing – a combination of ‘end of line’, fair-trade, organic and British made – is incredibly important and, in fact, leads the design process.
There are no compromises in Riyka’s production. No compromises in quality. No compromises in design. No compromises in environmental impact. No compromises in human cost. Every step of the process reflects their belief in ‘being honest and creating happy clothes’, from their vibrant designs to their fair wage production unit.
Riyka represents responsibility and accountability within the fashion world and, whilst it’s something that is increasingly important to consumers, it’s a point on which big brands fail time and time again. I spoke to Rebecca about the future of sustainability and the recent shift in the fashion landscape:
“I can see the sustainable fashion market itself getting bigger, which is good, as I consume sustainable fashion myself. There is much more on offer than there was five years ago, so I believe it will continue to get bigger and better. I hope that this will have an effect on a larger group of consumers as it grows. Many more people are aware of ethical and sustainable fashion now, but we have to be careful that this does not simply become a trend. We see this with some big, high street retailers; ‘greenwashing’ instead of actually becoming more transparent and sustainable.”
Rebecca’s comment hits the nail on the head. The high street is tripping over all of its good intentions but the reality of their grand statements is often far removed from the reality.
As an independent label, Riyka really can ensure ethical practices at every stage. This independence also allows them the freedom to comment upon and support social and cultural issues without any corporate repercussions (eye roll…) and this includes issues feminism. I asked Rebecca if, as a designer for a womenswear label, feminism comes into her design process or affects the way she markets the label:
“I have never really been attracted to the classic way of how women should dress. I have always been a bit of a tomboy. Since I started designing, it has always been about what makes me feel comfortable and at ease. I have never followed the ‘rules’ of what women should wear. I like the idea of creating something timeless, rather than trend or gender-specific; something that mixes up womenswear and menswear ideas. I guess I strive for having a freedom from what we are expected to wear as women. The rules are boring!”