Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey
Four years ago, London College of Fashion graduates Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey spotted a gap in the market for affordable, vintage-inspired dresses which would flatter all ages. They launched their business on a shoestring, did everything themselves, and through a mixture of flair, skill and determination, have turned RIXO into one of the most talked-about contemporary brands.
Clemmie Ziegler - 4th December 2019
Henrietta, can you remember the moment when you and Orlagh decided to start a business together?
Orlagh and I met at London College of Fashion where we were both studying Fashion Management, and became best friends through our shared love of vintage. We’d scour charity shops and vintage fairs all over London and the UK and even plan our holidays around where we could find the best flea markets and vintage.
It was during a joint project at university that we realised how well we worked together, and from then we always had the idea we would do something. After graduating, we realised there was a gap in the contemporary market for really beautiful timeless pieces that were flattering and made from high quality fabrics, but also at a more attainable price point.
Inspired by this gap and our love for our favourite vintage silk pieces we owned and kept returning to again and again, RIXO was born.
The RIXO store at 94 King's Road
The ‘RIXO’ brand name is fantastic – short, memorable, intriguing. Was it always the first choice?
When we set up the business, we knew we didn’t have money to pay for online marketing or advertising. We had to find a name that wasn’t a common word so if people googled it, it would come up first in search results and wouldn’t be associated with anything or anyone else. 'RIXO' – a combination of my surname and the 'O' from Orlagh – just seemed to work.
To the outsider, RIXO looks like an overnight success. Is that the way it seems to you?
Not at all! It’s been the result of a lot of hard work and personal sacrifice from both Orlagh and me – we’ve basically given up our twenties for RIXO so we’re determined to make it a success.
We launched in September 2015 and for the first two years or so we did everything, from design to wholesale and PR and running our e-commerce site – every day we’d pick and pack orders that came through and take them to the Post Office.
We now have over 140 global wholesale partners, as well as our e-commerce site and King’s Road pop-up store, and in the past year and a half the company's growth has allowed us to expand to around 30 employees.
We've grown an amazing team and it’s a huge responsibility that we take very seriously since we’re accountable for these people and their livelihood. We personally interviewed every single person who has joined the company and each of them is as passionate about RIXO as we are. It makes us even more excited about what the future holds.
YOU HAVE TO BE COMPLETELY IMMERSED AND PASSIONATE ABOUT YOUR BRAND. OTHERWISE THE LONG HOURS AND SACRIFICES WILL GET THE BETTER OF YOU.
In most successful partnerships, the founders have different but complimentary skills. Is that the way it is with the two of you?
We used to do everything together, but as the company has grown Orlagh and I now focus on different areas of the business. Orlagh leads up the design and production side, while I oversee our marketing and commercial side – social media, press, customer marketing and pop-ups.
The reason we work so well together is because our outlook on life, our work ethic, our vision for RIXO, our eye and personal taste are the same. We’re both really positive and driven, we don’t dwell on negatives or think about issues before they might arise – we always say “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.
Our lack of experience actually turned out to be an advantage as we had no preconceptions of how things were ‘meant’ to be done. We just worked it out as we went along, doing things in whatever way made sense to us, rather than a certain way just because that’s how other companies did it.
I think that’s really contributed to why we’ve grown so quickly, because we’ve been agile and adaptable. We take every great opportunity we can, no matter how last minute or impossible it might seem (we once turned around a pop-up store in only a couple of days!), and rather than focusing on forecasting problems or spending too much time thinking about how the status quo do it, we’re quick to solutions and open to new ways of working.
London Fashion Week presentation for the 'Back to the Garden' collection
What have you found the biggest challenge so far?
When we launched RIXO, and even to this day, people – mainly men in suits wanting to invest – said we couldn’t do it on our own; that we weren’t old enough, experienced enough and didn’t have enough money to succeed.
At the time it was really hard not to give in to these people and we did get to a point where we doubted ourselves, but not giving in and staying headstrong was the best thing we did.
Not having investors meant we retained control of our business, could remain agile and make decisions quickly and do what we knew in our gut was genuinely right for RIXO. To this day RIXO is still privately owned, completely self-funded and female led. We’re really proud of where we have got to, but we still feel like we have so much more that we want to do and so much more to achieve!
London Fashion Week presentation for the 'Liberated Territory' collection
So many people dream of starting their own clothing brand. What Dos and Don’ts would you pass on?
Find a genuine gap in the market that no one else is doing better than you.
Put yourself out there by making calls, sending DMs or attending events to tell people your story and product – you never know who you might meet and there’s no better way to tell your story or explain your brand to someone than in person!
Also, don’t be scared to lean on your community to ask for help or advice if you need it – there will always be someone who knows someone who knows someone who might be able to help.
Be willing to put the brand above everything else. We gave up our twenties for RIXO and there’s no sign of slowing down. You have to be completely immersed and passionate about your brand, otherwise the long hours and sacrifices you have to make will get the better of you.
Finally, follow your gut and don’t let other people’s negative thoughts or opinions deter you. There will always be people out that that will want you to fail or will want to break you down to take a part of what is yours to benefit themselves. Stay true to your brand DNA and what you feel is best for you and your brand.
Your pop-up in the King’s Road is sumptuous. How long will you be there and is a permanent shop the next step?
We’ll be at 94 King’s Road until sometime next year. A permanent RIXO flagship in London is definitely something we want to launch at some point in the future, but it has to be at the right time, at the right location and in the right way – we want to make sure that when we do launch it, it’s perfect!
Inside the King's Road store
Thank you Henrietta!