We are beyond excited to welcome Rhoi - a womenswear line created by Sarah Choi and Douglas Reker - to our stores for this fall/winter season. Originating around the ease of the caftan, Sarah and Doug's line is just what women want to wear- comfortable, easy but still sophisticated, and beautifully designed with great attention to detail. We chatted with the duo about their collaborative efforts, their history with Calvin Klein, and how they've been reflecting after the rush of one of their busiest seasons. Be sure to stop by either of our stores to preview this gorgeous collection. Thanks Sarah and Douglas!
ET: Can you both tell us a little more about your background? How did you end up working in fashion?
Sarah: My mother was a textile designer, [and] I grew up watching her paint really beautiful and intricate prints all day. She also went to school for design, so she is very supportive of all things design and art oriented. I guess the childhood environment of art classes and my mother's Vogue issues probably had a large influence as to how I wound up working in fashion. I later decided to attend Parsons School of Design and I have been working in the industry ever since then!
Doug: Ever since I was a small child I loved drawing and art, and always dreamed of doing something in design as a professional. I studied fashion design at Savannah College of Art and Design, and following an internship at Trend Union in Paris, I settled in NYC and have been here ever since, working as both a fashion and textile designer.
ET: The two of you met while working at Calvin Klein. Were you also collaborating on projects there? How did the idea for a collaborative line come to fruition?
Sarah: Yes, we met while Douglas was working on prints and I was working in design. Due to our roles, we were collaborating for the job before we even thought of working on a line together. The idea for the line came about as a creative outlet to explore ideas that were more personal to the both of us.
ET: Rhoi is centered around the ease of the caftan, pared down in an updated, more minimal way. How did the caftan come to play such a large roll in your design and silhouettes? Was there a specific caftan that inspired you?
Sarah: It strangely fell into place. At the time, all I was personally wearing were iterations of caftans- be it a sack dress, a vintage piece, or a beach cover up. So when Douglas mentioned wanting the caftan to be the foundation for Rhoi, we were both ecstatic. The very first mood inspiration we put on our board was a very old printout of a black and white fashion illustration. The figure was wearing a beautiful, gigantic caftan and holding a long cigarette, with short finger-waves in her hair. It was a very glamorous image. And while we are offering more than caftans, in our mind it's all about the laid back luxury of it all. To be a little indulgent while still being completely at ease and comfortable...understated and subtle, but still rich.
ET: Can you talk a little more about your design process? Do you start with colors, fabrics, a specific reference?
Sarah: It's very organic for us, and it changes a little bit each season depending on what we see. A large part of it is indeed fabric- sometimes we'll see something irresistible and suddenly we are obsessed with designing around that fabric. Other times it's a certain image that we see, or a mood that we are in. Ultimately, it winds up with us surrounded by numerous images, scraps of fabrics, and other finds that are all our favorite and are all a "must." Then comes the editing process, where we focus and refine the collection until we feel that it is strong and concise.
ET: What inspired the current fall/winter collection?
Sarah: A large part of it came from a desire to not be so heavily weighed down by clutter and excess. We were dreaming of a lifestyle that was simpler, nomadic, and easy. We found this beautiful photo from a 1970s issue of National Geographic of an Aymara Indian in a beautiful headdress, which became the starting point for the mood and color of the season. We then branched out to the idea of a modern day explorer that would pick up different influences as she traveled. So while the color palette was inspired by a photo of a South American Indian, the print influence came from a vintage turkish rug, and the braid inspiration came from a vintage macrame belt.
ET: How do you two unwind after a collection? What do your lives look like outside of work?
Sarah: After a collection we take some time away from fashion. We both like to take trips out of the city and do things that we wouldn't necessarily do at home. After this particular collection, Douglas went white water rafting for the first time. I bolted upstate to Woodstock and spent time with friends, peach picking, cooking, and trying our first hand at indigo shibori dying. It's important for us to maintain a life outside of fashion and to bring our outside experiences into our work. After we come back from these breaks we always come back refreshed, and with a reinvigorated point of view.