Image courtesy Rie Yamagata
Interview

Rie Yamagata

10.15.15

In 2011 Rie Yamagata introduced a knitwear capsule, but it quickly turned into a full collection. The Parsons and Central St Martins-educated Yamagata was raised in LA and has fashion and art in her blood. Yamagata honed her craft working for Tsumori Chisato and Phillip Lim before launching Rhié, a ready-to-wear collection of expertly tailored graphic prints and menswear-inspired silhouettes. While Yamagata solidifies her position in the womenswear market, retailers have already taken notice. Barneys was an early supporter, and continues to be, as well as other designer boutiques around the world.

Interview

When did you know it was the right time to expand beyond knitwear?

A few years ago I knew I wanted to offer items to pair with the knitwear to make a fuller collection.

Did your customer dictate the timing at all?

We had a following with the sweaters already, but adding the wovens element really expanded our customer base as we could now offer a variety of styles.

Have they embraced the evolution?

Yes definitely. Rhié is known for its shirting and great outerwear in addition to the sweaters. The women who wear our clothes love our prints as well.

In four short years, you have cultivated an impressive stocklist – what are the commonalities among the retailers that carry your brand?

Our stockists carry some of the best brands in the world and they have an eye for brands with a unique vision and who know what women love to wear. They all have a great following.

Precision and ease are hallmarks of your brand – how do you balance these two qualities that can seem counterintuitive?

I am adamant about doing multiple fittings to tweak fit and tailored styles to make sure that even at the sample stage, the fit is perfect. I also make sure that everything feels great to wear and is not contrived.

Why do you think so many designers don’t understand the importance of fine tailoring?

Do they not? Maybe it’s because tailoring isn’t as common in everyday wear so they might not feel it’s necessary to have in a collection.

How do you refine this element in your design process?

I am very specific about the fit of our tailoring. I like to have a very slight shaping that is not too shaped or tight, and is very forgiving while at the same time creates a great structure. I like to add another element to it since tailoring is such an exact discipline.

I read you had a previous career in riding? How did this previous life impact your current design life?

I used to horseback ride competitively when I was a teenager. We had to wear tailored jackets and button down shirts and breeches when we competed, it was a very traditional uniform but we were able to make it our own by playing with the fabrication and color. It was actually very chic in retrospect. One of the disciplines I competed in was called “equitation” where the riders are judged on the aesthetics of their form on the horse and how easily and beautifully they ride a course. I think it trained my eye to know about good form on the body.

Now that you’re based in New York, do you miss LA? Anything specifically?

I miss LA. I am trying to be bicoastal and spend more time there. I miss the beach and the never changing good weather that was mind numbing when growing up there, but as I get older I’ve started to appreciate it more and more during the bone chilling East Coast winters.

What’s next for your brand?

We are looking forward to bringing more awareness to the brand on the West Coast, as well as celebrating Rhié here in New York. We also are planning some really great collaborations with other brands and style makers.

You just presented SS16 – how was the reception to this collection?

The reception was really wonderful, some great supporters came such as Mark Lee and Roopal Patel. Overall we received a great reaction from everyone who attended.

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