BEHIND THE BRAND – ALICE RITTERMarch 2, 2015
We’ve been big fans of Alice Ritter for a long time now, so we’re thrilled to be debuting her first Alice & UO collaboration. Alice herself seems just as excited, telling us, “I’m French, and Urban has always had an aura of ultra-coolness for us. I was really impressed by the decisiveness surrounding this collab, and was so excited to start working on the project.” In fact, the designer’s love of her job was apparent the moment we sat down to talk to her, and her enthusiasm for fashion and the clothes she designs was infectious.
We took a trip to her New York City studio to speak to Alice about her inspirations, what she likes to do when she’s feeling creatively stifled, and the most important lesson she’s learned in her years as a designer.
UO: Can you walk us through your design process?
ALICE: First, I went to tour a couple of new UO stores to get into the groove of the brand. The first one was the store at Herald Square in NYC (where I live) and the second was Space Ninety 8 in Brooklyn. I’m always plugged into fashion and trends; it’s what I breathe, so after the visits, I started working on colour palettes, fabrics and silhouettes. It came very naturally.
UO: Were you feeling inspired by anyone or anything in particular?
A: I was inspired by UO as a strong and daring brand, and always loved the images that they produce. I’m also inspired by street style, the history of fashion, new wave movies, music and art.
I’ve been living in New York City for a long time and there’s nothing I love more than mixing the cool and daring American girl with the chic and nonchalant French thing. They go together beautifully. I was picturing structured pieces, like the sleeveless tailored jumpsuit, something almost uniform-like, and then mixing with the high waist cut-off jeans and soft sweaters. Now that the collection is in stores, it’s exactly what I thought and it really works.
UO: Where do you end up getting most of your work done?
A: I work essentially in my studio in Manhattan and use my computer to draw, usually silhouettes with the help of my digital tablet. The drawings look like illustrations but the computer offers more flexibility to change proportions, colours, and prints. I love love working on prints.
Besides working in my studio in NYC, I have a “mobile” office, my laptop and tablet that I can use on the road. For example, I recently did some designing in Hong Kong and Paris.
UO: If you start to feel a little stumped creatively, are there any things you like to do to get yourself out of a rut?
A: If I stall creatively, I try to not think about fashion (hard for me). I go to an art exhibition, I read, I look at other things. That’s why I love going on a trip after working on a new season. I usually go to Paris after a collection. Seeing other people, other styles, other stores, is like a mental and creative cleanse. It’s always when you stop forcing the process that the ideas flow better. And this is true for many blockages in life.
UO: What’s your favourite thing in your studio?
A: The studio is in transition right now. I might move a few doors down in a few weeks so it’s a bit in disarray. My books are the most important. I can immerse myself for hours in art books or those about past giants of fashion, like Jeanne Lanvin or Madeleine Vionnet (my all time favourite). I have a book on the Russian ballets and Diaghilev, for example, which transports me to Paris in 1910. It’s like time traveling.
UO: What’s the most valuable lesson or idea you’ve learned in your years as a designer?
A: That it takes years to become a bit better at your craft. That the work is never done, and you have to be patient and trust that the process is slow. That simplicity is hard to achieve but you always should strive for it. For me, the hardest part is not having ideas – it’s keeping the best idea. Good editing is the key and you need help for that, so working with a good team is crucial.