We are back with Rebecca Haddaway, 23 and recently graduated from the London College of Fashion with first class honours whilst also establishing her gender-neutral fashion brand, ATARAXI. Winning LCF Student of the Year, and the LCF craftsmanship award for her designs, she has paved her way into the fashion industry. Having interned at just aged 16, working for prestigious names Maison Margiela, Coach and Lyle and Scott, Rebecca successfully obtained a sponsorship deal for her brand to show at the Mercedes-Benz Malta Fashion Week and awards. We talk to Rebecca about her recent showdown at London’s Fashion Week with ATARAXI’s #GenderationGenderless guerrilla marketing campaign and her ability to think outside of the box.
What is a day in the life of Rebecca like?
No day is ever the same and that’s exactly how I like it. I’m more of a night owl, so I don’t really get going with my day until about 11am (SHOCK HORROR!!!) unless I have morning meetings of course. When the creative flow hits you, you just need to roll with it whatever time. Sometimes I’ll get an idea at 2am and work on it until like 6am, I love it when that happens! First thing, I’ll check social media, then check if there is any pressing emails, pack and ship orders etc. I’m designing the new collection at the moment, I start with writing a narrative and playing around with lots of different fabrics. I always like to take a breaks to give myself time for reflection, walking really helps me to think so I take my dog Pickles for a little walk if I’m working from the studio.
Tell us a bit about your brand ATARAXI
ATARAXI is a gender neutral brand, it’s a lifestyle philosophy, ATARAXI means freedom from emotional distress. Our designs work equally well on men as they do women with a sports-luxe aesthetic. We take standard sportswear silhouettes and make them in unorthodox fabrics and incorporate unusual features.
You studied at London College of Fashion, did you see this as the only gateway entry to accessing a career in fashion?
LCF is a fantastic university with brilliant facilities. I was always drawn to it. From the age of 12 I was getting their prospectus in the post reading about all the different courses to ensure I chose the right one for me. I didn’t see it so much as a gateway but a place where I could explore my creativity and refine my skills. I wanted to be surrounded by like-minded people. I think there are a number of ‘gateways’ into the fashion industry, whether that be apprenticeships, working your way up or Uni. I started interning when I was 15 for New Era and Wale Adeyemi, I wanted as much exposure to the industry as early as possible to learn what I enjoyed most.
What advice would you give to fashion students that are looking for that big break to become respectable designers?
There is no substitute for hard work. Get your face about as much as you can and learn from other designers you respect through internships. The more exposure you get to the industry the easier it is to navigate through it. Get yourself a mentor, somebody you respect that is a good few years ahead of you in there career, mentoring is so valuable. To have someone you look up to fighting your corner is a big bonus.
#GenderationGenderless guerrilla marketing campaign was a huge success, how did you come up with the concept?
Firstly thank you, yes the response was overwhelming we couldn’t have wished for it to be more successful. ATARAXI is a movement and we wanted to do something that demonstrates that, showing on schedule at LFW is costly and as a small brand our marketing budget is literally zero. The zeitgeist of our generation is gender, and ATARXI is all about gender equality. I wanted to utilise the street style photographers to our benefit and get optimum exposure for the brand, the best way to do this was staging the street presentation. Initially people thought it was some kind of protest because of the #GenerationGenderless placard, then some of the fashion editors mistook it be part of the on schedule presentations because of our positioning on the steps on Tate Britain. We just worked the machine that is LFW to be honest. When I woke up the next day and saw pictures in the LFW Daily newspaper next to Olivia Palermo, I knew we had been successful.
Did you ever initially consider a career in fashion?
I come from quite an entrepreneurial and creative family, working for yourself is always really fulfilling and you have the freedom to work in the way that best suites you. I didn’t and still haven’t ruled it out but what I love about being self-employed is the variety. I couldn’t sit at a desk 9-5 looking at spreadsheets, a few hours is bad enough. If I was going to have a career I’d go into fashion show production, I worked on the Maison Margiela show in London, Coach and others, I just love how fast paced it is.
Did you benefit from mentoring or coaching whilst building ATARAXI?
YES! I can’t stress enough the benefit of having supportive people around you. My business mentor Sharon Baylay is incredible, she’s so knowledgeable and pushes me to be the best I can be, while introducing me to some very valuable contacts. It’s really important to surround yourself with people you admire and learn from them.
What has been the most significant areas of personal development that you have gained through your career so far?
I’ve learnt to let me ‘do me’, go at my own pace and not compare myself to others. I have this thing with being in a certain place in life by a certain age. But I’ve realised if you’re happy it really doesn’t matter.
How rewarding does your career feel and how do you measure your own terms of success?
I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to this, I know I’ve achieved a lot but for me it’s a drop in the ocean of what I want to accomplish. I measure my success in terms of how I feel, things always go well if I’m having fun while doing them. I find it really fulfilling and it hits home when I see people wearing my clothes. We’ve had quite a few celebs wearing ATARAXI like Allan Kingdom who was on Kanye’s ‘All Day’ and Mikky Ekko. But I dressed my oldest friend Connor Minney for the National Reality TV awards last week, at school we’d always talk about our dreams and aspirations, seeing him on the red carpet and getting so many compliments on his outfit was so emotional and made me realise how far we’ve come. I’m proud of myself for having the confidence to start my own brand and I’d always encourage people to follow their dreams.
What is on the agenda for 2017?
Well, I’ve just been selected to be part of a new initiative at LCF, I’m going to be lecturing at LCF while simultaneously studying for a Post Graduate certification in Academic practice sponsored by LCF and Shades of Noir, the program aims to diversify the teaching faculty at LCF. I haven’t had a chance to tell people about it yet so thank you for giving me that opportunity…I also must thank Angela Drisdale-Gordon for putting me forward for the initiative. I’m really excited to be able to give back to LCF and inspire the next generation of creatives and fresh young talent and shining a light on what it’s like having your own brand! I’m also working on lots of projects with ATARAXI, new collections, campaign, and stockists to really drive it forward. So watch this space!