by Rowena at Revival April 07, 2020
This summer we have added a number of dresses to our own range. I thought you might be interested how and why we made the choices we did in creating these new garments.
The summer collection consists of classic styles that will never go out of fashion, designed to flatter a variety of body shapes so there should be something for everyone. We are also committed to gradually increasing our size range, consulting and testing as we go, we now offering sizes UK 6 to UK 22.
We wanted to consider not just the people who would wear these dresses but also the planet we live in.
The choice of fabrics is crucial, not just for aesthetic value but in meeting our needs and values that are, more often than not, shared with customers who shop at our small business.
We believe that everyday dresses should be machine washable Summers should not be filled with visits to the dry cleaners! We're not anti synthetic materials in summer but natural fibres do have certain advantages.
We wanted some fantastic colours for summer that weren't pastels. Sometimes there's too much pastel pink, mint and baby blue in vintage inspired fashion and in our opinion it sometimes verges on being too girly and youthful. We are big fans of sophisticated, classic styles and it was important for us to find a summer colour palette that reflected that.
Small shops, small businesses and small producers are limited in what fabrics they have access to because we don't buy the massive volumes that the big established companies do, we also have to consider costs and ensure we are producing items that we know our customers consider to be 'worth' the price tag so we make a complex range of decisions that constitute a 'best practise' approach to our impact on the environment, our waste reduction and our attempts to be 'sustainable'
Cotton therefore became our 'go to' choice and our fabric sourcing led us to a GOTS certified organic cotton. This medium weight cotton had a good handle and was available in a tempting range of colours. Put simply G.O.T.S certification means every part of the production process has been reviewed to ensure any negative impact on the planet is reduced.
We also know our customers value clothing that is built to last. Building sustainability into our summer clothing range looks not just at our suppliers processes but also our customers attitudes. We know you understand that the throwaway culture of high street fashion is a problem and the value of our garments is that you will enjoy wearing them for years to come.
Choosing cotton had an impact on the design process, these were not going to be floaty ethereal pieces, they were intended to be classic, stylish and practical garments. All dresses must have pockets! That's a given but we need to think about how we can achieve best fit, comfort and feel good factor.
As I've discussed in previous blogs, i have no training or experience in design or garment construction, for me it always starts with the conversations I have with customers and staff at Revival. Ideas and inspiration always come from talking to people in our small shop, where conversation comes easily and we know many of the regulars on a first name basis.
Designing for different womens shapes was central to the development of this collection. Our staff are often able to commiserate and celebrate with customers when we share the same shopping frustrations, our knowedge and expertise over shopping to fit your shape not just your size is integral to our success. Rowena has a big bust and despairs with dresses that have no room up top but Charlotte is the opposite looking to emphasise her waist opposed to her big hips. Mary, Laura and Charlie are again different and contributed their experience reflecting the diversity of needs and wants that we were trying to cater to.
The Notting Hill Dress was an idea developed by Rowena after binge watching season 2 of The Marvellous Mrs Maisel when they all depart for the holiday camp with the most ridiculous amount of luggage to ensure they are the best dressed women there. Miriam just looks amazing in everything, the wardrobe department for that production just comes up with dress after dress that is to die for. My dress isn't based on any one worn by Rachel Brosnahan, I actually wanted a very simple style that would be flattering on lots of different body shapes. I also wanted a decent twirl! Maybe the holiday camp put me in the frame of mind but as Secret Cinema launches Dirty Dancing this summer I wanted a beauty of a dress inspired by the 1950s but was so classic I would feel comfortable wearing it any day of the week.
The whole team got involved, inspired by the challenge and there were many sample fittings on staff and customers as we developed the fit to sut as broad a range of womens shapes as possible. The dress was originally envisaged with sleeves finishing above the elbow, but for that classic fifties shape it was absoloutly important to nip in at the waist. Early toiles of the dress proved to us that technically we wouldn't be able to have both. Dresses to us should be practical as well as pretty and not being able to lift your arms up (in a Dirty Dancing lift or just to fill the kettle!) is non negotiable. So, the dress ended up having cap sleeves as a sacrifice. Actually, many of us preferred it this way.
Charlotte was instrumental in the design of the Blackpool Dress. It is, in her words. "her dream 1950s dress". As an employer I believe that where talent and enthusiasm exists people should be allowed to shine, it's not for me to hog centre stage. Charlotte has developed a beautiful 1950s inspired shirt style dress with button down bodice and gathered skirt. She was adamant it needed be sleeveless, despite my reservations, but she's right. It's a great dress and I love the colours of mesa rose or prussian blue that she has chosen. The buttons are a key part of the design and we had extensive discussion on contrast versus tone on tone, size, composition etc etc One thing we all agreed on was that sourcing beautiful heritage buttons from a small business that is reviving the manufacture of natural buttons here in the UK was a wonderful idea. You can read more about that in another blog.
Rowena was adamant that one of the dresses in the collection be created to fit and flatter women with bigger boobs. It's really hard to find a great fitting dress on the high street that has ample room in the bust and hips yet maintains a fitted waist. The Brighton dress is exactly that. You will no doubt recognise the design inspiration from classic 1950s fashion couture. I'm so grad we got there finally as the first versions of this dress were far from the mark and we became quite despondent. We had to park it for a few weeks, returning with fresh ideas and attitudes. Not everything is a straight line to success!
There are more designs than these of course but this blog has already become longer than I intended. I will share this last one with you before I go though. We will continue our use of Liberty prints launching a dress and a blouse in the beautiful 'Bell Flower' floral. Sometimes when I walk in to our factory and see our stuff on the cutting table or coming together on the machines it brings a massive smile to my face "I made that!" or rather, "WE made that" everything is a collaboration at our small shop and i want to thank everyone from our Fran our pattern cutter to Balbir who gives me our factory slots, Julie our sample machinist and Anh who helped with the grading. As usual all of the items in our own range are made in Britain.
I'm really proud of the new summer collection and I'm super grateful for the support and encouragement of the people around me who helped this come to be.
Shop Small this Summer
The Revival Retro Boutique
30 Windmill Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 2JL
The owner and founder of Revival Retro. Rowena is exacting in her choices and a perfectionist. Her recommendations come from the heart and she has a great eye for detail. You can trust Rowena to nail it perfectly and she won't settle for less.
by Mary Lowe Mar 01, 2021
by Rowena Howie Oct 06, 2020
by Rowena Howie Aug 04, 2020
The Revival Retro Boutique
30 Windmill Street, London, W1T 2JL (Goodge Street, Tube)