A lot has changed for Rixo in the almost five years it's been in business. It's grown from a team of two — co-founders Orlaugh McCloskey and Henrietta Rix — to one of around 30. Its community is now global, coming together under the hashtag #HumansofRixo. Some things, however, remain the same: First off, McCloskey and Rix are still roommates; and the brand's signature prints are still core to every collection it releases.
Bold graphics once again lead the way in Rixo's latest offering. But this time, the brand is unveiling a different kind of collection: a collaborative project with the Christian Lacroix archives. Rixo reimagined some of the French fashion house's haute couture prints for a see-now-buy-now capsule. And it's truly limited edition, as in the brand is releasing only 50 of each piece online, at Browns in London and at Galeries Lafayette Champs-Elysées in Paris.
Ahead of the big London Fashion Week reveal, we caught up with McCloskey and Rix to talk Rixo's growth, its future and why this collection is a sort of full-circle moment for the fashion school grads.
You two met in fashion school. What did you study?
Orlagh McCloskey: I started off doing art and design, but changed courses after two years. Henrietta came [after] — I'm a couple of years older — and we both then studied fashion management, to learn the business side of it. Then, we kind of split off into design and marketing [at Rixo], which is quite a good balance.
Was there a particular course or skill from your fashion education that's been especially useful to you in running a business?
Henrietta Rix: It was a four-year management course, and we had to do one year in industry. Out of all the four years, that was the most valuable for both of us. You learn actual, real-life practices — how to communicate with suppliers or even just in a working environment, how fast-paced it all can be in a head office in London. We reference back to our placement years all the time, even if it's in regards to what we learned not to do, just as much as what we learned to do.
You launched Rixo in 2015, not long after you finished school. What would you say have been the most impactful milestones for your business?
HR: Launching on Net-a-Porter was a great moment for us. It gives the brand global awareness straight away. We're sold globally, alongside other brands in the marketplace and in marketing. They selected us as one of their key contemporary brands. That really helps market your brand, get it out there, tell your story with an amazing partner and then connects with other designers that were in the same contemporary collective. We made industry connections during that.
OMC: One of the other things that really helped the brand was getting our products on celebrities and and shot in magazines quite organically. We didn't pay stylists or influencers. We actually just worked directly with them, and they put it on the backs of celebrities like Kylie Minogue. That gives us a lot of awareness, which helped the brand just keep growing over time. Then, having a wholesale presence helped get the brand more global, as well as doing all of our press internally — that really helped grow the reputation.
Was there a particular moment or celebrity that, in your opinion, really put Rixo on the map?
HR: Probably Selena Gomez or Taylor Swift. They've been two massive ones that, again, happened really organically and have really taken Rixo on a global stage. We built connections with stylists and girls directly through DM. Our Instagram presence is now a quarter of a million [followers]. When it comes to girls that are A-list famous — such as Selena, Taylor and Margot Robbie — it's more kudos, press and being tagged and reposted on Instagram. It's great for engagement. You don't necessarily find a direct correlation when it comes to sales. Whereas when you have local influencers in a local market, that helps and is more relatable.
You first started having a presence at London Fashion Week in September 2018. What went into the decision to join the calendar? What made you feel ready to take that step?
HR: We really wanted to showcase to everyone what the brand really was about. The presentation is a two-hour slot — it's not just a 10- or 15-minute catwalk. You really get to see how we want our clothes to be worn and who wears them. We have real customers and models wearing them. It allows you to have a whole collection and a lifestyle portrayed to loads of different women. For instance, we've been in a market where you can see the girls walking around and enjoying wine and pizza — it wasn't something static, like photo shoot or other imagery. At a presentation, you can have the press, wholesale customers and whole community come and see Rixo how we see it being worn.
Has your approach to London Fashion Week changed at all, now that it's your fourth season presenting?
HR: I think it's just evolved. What we really loved from our first [presentation] was having some customers come. We got great feedback from them coming. Our last presentation had a whole festival theme and we had a lot more of our community. We want it to be a real event where people can stay — they can bring a plus one, bring their friends. We just want it to be a really nice day, for people to really be able to experience what the brand is about.
How are you continuing that for Fall 2020?
OMC: We're doing a 'buy now, wear now' collection, because we really want the customers to be a part of the show and buy into it the way that influencers and press get access to. We've done a collaboration with Christian Lacroix — we put our twist on the old picture archive. It's a bit different than what we've done before. At the price point that we can sell the collection, it's accessible for our customers who can buy into the Christian Lacroix side of things.
HR: We went into their archive, pulled out parts that we liked and then worked [with the] prints in terms of composition, color and scale. The full production was done underneath Rixo and the inspiration and some of the prints were taken from the archives directly. For the styling, we've got original, vintage Christian Lacroix bags, and we'll have archive pieces at the show so people can see how we've taken old pieces and styled them in a really modern way with the collection.
Over the past few seasons, you've introduced a bunch of new categories to the business — like accessories and swim. What has been the thinking behind these launches, in terms of growing the brand?
OMC: There's quite a lot of things that we actually want [to do]. We don't have investors and we don't want someone pushing and saying, 'You've got to do this by next year.' So a lot of the time, it's based on research and development — reviewing that and deciding when we think we've got the right supplier, the right product, the right price points. We feel that there are a lot of categories that we can go into that fit the brand, but we're a growing company. It's about finding the right suppliers and growing the team.
What's a category that you really want to go into?
HR: I would love to go into shoes more. Denim, more tweed, more knitwear. Even more plain colors. Bridal and bridesmaid dresses. Interiors.
OMC: Long-term, we'd love to do Rixo home, so you can have a complete lifestyle. Our customers are just crying out for it all. It goes back to us picking up the right things when they happen, but also making sure that the product and the price point are right.
HR: There are loads of things we'd like to do, but it's just about doing them at the right time.
How is your business split between wholesale and online?
HR: When we launched Rixo, we launched our website straightaway and always wanted to be direct-to-consumer. Within the first month we had our own pop-up shop in London. Then Orlagh and I spent four months working from the shop, every single day. Being in communication directly with [the customer] was always so important to us, because that's how we started the business. And then we thought, 'How are we going to let people in outside of our initial circle, outside of London [if] they didn't know about the brand?' That's when we went into wholesale. And we built it up off the ground. It's grown significantly — we've now got a wholesale manager that joined late last year. It has allowed us to really expand the brand. It's great marketing in different countries where there's no way we could have the reach. But direct-to-consumer is something that we're already focusing on. We love having that direct communication with the customer. If anything that would be what we really want to build upon. But I think you can't have one without the other.
How do you two work together?
OMC: I do design and print, Henrietta does marketing, social and the press side of things. We come together for an overall creative vision — the look and aesthetic of the brand, the direction of the collections, the scale of it.
Lastly, how do you see Fall 2020 — and the Christian Lacroix collaboration — continuing the Rixo mission? How does it build upon your past work?
OMC: This has been a real pinch-me moment, that we got to work with the couture house that we'd obsessed over on 1stdibs. It's always been a source of an inspiration. To actually be able go out there with the collection and make it very vintage, in a contemporary way, it's true Rixo product. We feel like the collection will hopefully be a sell-out, whereas maybe three or four years ago, that wouldn't have necessarily been what would sell. I do think people have got used to what the Rixo look is. They're actually not afraid to wear things that maybe before had been classed as too vintage.
See all the looks in the Rixo x Christian Lacroix collection in the gallery below:
This interview has been edited and condensed.