Charlotte Rakowski is the designer behind our brand and our first collection! Learn more about her design influences, her past work at Ralph Lauren in New York, and her tips for how to contribute to a more sustainable, circular economy. It's all about the small steps we take each day and the habits we develop.
Q: Who is Charlotte Rakowski and what is your first memory?
A: I am not sure I remember my first memory, but one of my favourite things about my childhood was playing outside when the spring season came and I could run around in bare feet.
Q: Do you remember your first drawing and what was about?
A: No. My mum taught painting to people when I was younger, so we spent a lot of time together painting flowers and things in nature, even painting rocks.
Q: When and how did you discover your passion for design and product development?
A: I was always a free spirit and creating things when I was younger, so I think that skill was embedded in me since my childhood. That's one of the beautiful things about childhood - your imagination runs wild and free. I grew up in the United States in the 70s, so resources were limited. I used to make things all the time from recycled materials around the house and things I found in nature.
It wasn’t until I worked for Ralph Lauren that I found my love of design and product development in a commercial sense. Working in the 650 Madison Ave design office in NYC was like attending university all over again. As a designer you were exposed to so much knowledge and opportunity to develop amazing products with great suppliers and a research and development centre who were always on hand to help bring your ideas to life.
Q: What does sustainable fashion means to you and what is it all about?
A: Sustainability in fashion is just good business and should not be a choice but a way of doing business for everything we make and consume, not just fashion. We only have one planet with limited resources on it, so we all have a responsibility to design and produce products with a minimal environmental impact using organic, recycled and circular materials wherever possible. Sustainability to me is about our children and our grandchildren, and the world we will leave them.
Q: Which are the biggest challenges in the process of developing a sustainable collection?
A: Price and scalability are the biggest challenges when developing or using innovative and disruptive technologies.
Q: A sustainable textile industry is still a vision or are we on the right track?
A: The textile industry is making progress, but more needs to be done to educate the consumer on why more sustainable products are better all around. Scalability and better pricing needs to be achieved before we see a real impact.
Q: How can fashion and textile industries accelerate the sustainable revolution?
A: Collaboration, education, scalability, and better pricing
Q: Name three brands or projects that inspire you the most
A: Patagonia, Eco-Alf, Eileen Fisher
Q: What has been the impact of COVID-19 in terms of new market opportunities or challenges?
A: The COVID pandemic has had catastrophic impact on all of our lives, but particularly for those in third world economies. If I take away anything from all of this, is the pandemic proved, at least in the Western world, that we can all live a more sustainable life. Buy better, but less. Shop locally. Sustain a better work-life balance by working from home, travel less, collaborate more. We were cruelly reminded that all life is precious and family and community are most important. Getting out in nature is not only better for one’s physical health but also one’s mental health. One thing I have be reminded during all of this is that even if one door closes unexpectedly, another one soon opens.
Q: In your opinion what is the future of fabrics? Can you predict new trends sustained on environmental conscious?
A: The future needs to be in real circularity. Collaboration is key, and circularity starts on the design floor. A designer must think where is this product they are creating going to end up at the end of its life.
Q: If you had the power, which were the things you would eliminate from the fashion industry?
A: Slave labour, cheap fast fashion, and virgin polyester.
Q: Can you share with us what was the last piece of clothes you have bought?
A: Denim jeans from Levi’s made with recycled fibres.
Q: And what about Barbeau? Can you share with us your inspiration, the process and how it all started?
A: My inspiration for the creation of this brand is my true love of the sea. The smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves crashing on the sand and the pure joy I get from walking on the beach with my family. I'm a surfer at heart and there are no words that can ever describe the feeling of sitting on your board out amongst fellow surfers looking out at the sea. There is just a cools sense of calm and peace. Until, of course, the next set of waves comes in!!
It started because I worked with David, the CEO of the company behind Barbeau, on a project a few years ago. By coincidence, I contacted him about another brand I was working on and we were discussing sustainability and how after many years in the industry how we could work together to bring about change in the industry.
David and I share similar values and we love of beautifully made products, so we thought we would collaborate and design and develop every-day essentials products, produced in the most sustainable ways possible. We love a good disruptive technology and we both have the courage, will and the patience to bring these technologies to market. It’s never easy to do anything new, but if it was, everyone would do it.
David is the brains behind the disruptive technology and perhaps you can see me as the creative story teller that helped bring something as simple as a beach towel to life.
Q: What are your expectations or wishes for Barbeau?
A: My biggest hope for Barbeau is that the brand and the products becomes a global household name, like the “Patagonia” of the oceans. I want everyone who loves the beach to know about Barbeau and feel confident and proud that by buying the products that they are buying products that are build to last and buy supporting the brand that they are helping the movement to save the oceans and sea life in it for future generations.
Q: Name a person you would love to see wearing Barbeau.
Personally, my surfing tribe.
Professionally, Hugo Tagholm, from Surfers Against Sewage
If it was a celebrity, then Kelly Slater, the professional surfer
Thank you for your time Charlotte!