London Fashion Week may be have come and gone but given the new circumstances of digital, smaller brands have more opportunity for greater and more international exposure for a much more extended period.
Quite literally on the other side of the world, Antoinette Weida Raphael (a.k.a RAW WAR) has ceased the freedom of a digital exhibition and ability to reconnect with her creativity.
The Australian, one-woman sustainable brand tapped into her terrifying experience of a natural disaster, resulting in creating a touching collection for the AW20 collection, entitled 'Richter'.
Taking us through the visual diary of her oversized and androgynous silhouettes, bold and graphic prints, and the subverted manipulation of fabrics and construction - the quirky designer and creative director does not hold back her passion for creating concepts from meaning and personal reflection.
Obviously, with London Fashion Week being digital this year, how do you feel about that?
See, I was quite happy with the idea of it being digital, because I had created a collection in that time. And I really wanted to showcase internationally for the year. But obviously, everything was unprecedented. And I think the best part of it was I got to display it. And it was just such an efficient way to highlight my stuff as it was through photography and a virtual reality showroom. A good part of it was that the link of the showroom lasted for like three months - the exposure for me was incredible!
Are you hoping that it would carry on past the pandemic?
I would love it to for the next one or two seasons because I think it's a great way to keep introducing yourself to these people. There's something so special about being in person in London and doing the shows - it has an energy, you know? The possibility to network in real life. It's the best part of it being there in person.
I was actually going to ask you that in my next question; do you miss the physical shows?
I do, yeah. There's a lot of people that have been exposed to my brand this year through the digital showroom, but people don't get to see the quality in real life. And when I talk about my brand, I really focus on the quality side, because I do minimal products. I try to keep the production in Australia so that people see a real-life [garment]. It's an entirely different experience., which is definitely something that I really enjoy about the runway.
How did pandemic affect you creatively and personally?
As everyone has experienced, it was very fearful, and you didn't know where to go next, but I found comfort in creativity. So right before we locked down in Australia, I had a mini capsule created, but then the time I had to be creative by myself and really extract a lot of distractions, I really got to have a clear focus. And by having limited capabilities, resources, with being at home, it actually opened up my creativity. So, I have a piece called the quarantine bomber jacket that I created using spare fabrics that I had that I wasn't going to go anywhere. So that kind of highlights the sustainability concept as well. And I'd never have thought to put all those prints on one jacket. Still, I was kind of forced to, and then it actually benefited my creativity side, which is pretty cool.
And the name, how did the brand start? And how did you come up with such a unique name?
Thank you! So the name is actually my initials, which are 'A.W.R.' - Antoinette Wedia Raphael. One day, I was just looking at them, and I always had a fascination with rearranging names and words. So, I was just scribbling them down, and I realised that the words actually make sense! It was during the time that I was studying a Bachelor of Design at the time, where we would be experimenting and trying to find our own style. There was one unit where we had to make a branding suite for a potential brand, (which was 'R.A.W.') and I made the logo, and I loved it. I put all my experiences and everything into it. So, it's quite relevant.
The name is literally you! And I've read that one of your core values is sustainability - but the word has so many different meanings to each person. What does it specifically mean to you?
We studied a lot about sustainability during my course, and the initial thing that I was always told was about sustainable materials, it was a forceful thing at university. And I wanted to know more about the word, but it was only being said to me about materials. Furthermore, I understood that it doesn't just have to be the materials, it can be the quality of something. If it's made in a high-quality environment, or the product uses high-quality materials, then it will last a long time. Also considering design, whether it be a reverse, say, for example, a lot of my bomber jackets are reversible. So when you're purchasing a product, you're actually buying two jackets. So high-quality product plus modular garments mean it can be worn more, in different ways, and for a long, long time. So I think I do try my best to target other parts of stainability. But I think the main one would definitely be that concept of it.
It's difficult to tackle every single aspect of everything. So how important, do you think, sustainability is for the future of fashion?
I think the future of fashion, if we continue to have these strong morals, then in the future, it will just be a natural tendency to do these things. We won't be thinking so much; should we use this bamboo or let's use the best quality zip? It might be expensive, but it will be the most long-lasting, and we're going to use that because we know that's the best alternative. So I think the benefit of the future fashion will be a repetition of behaviour and it will become normality if we keep building.
Your newest collection 'Richter' was inspired by the earthquakes in Greece, which you personally experienced, didn't you? What made you visualise that personal and terrifying experience into creating a collection?
Yeah, for sure. So that was my first and only natural disaster ["touch on wood"] that I've experienced. It came out of nowhere, really, because when you hear about it as you see it in movies, you don't really think about how you're going to experience them, and it definitely took me by shock. I was in a hotel at the time, so feeling a building shaking was just so unfamiliar. It definitely put my life into perspective, and I said, "You don't know what's going to happen in the next minute, so you should always appreciate it". It was at the end of my trip, and that trip was a big turning point for me personally. I've taken into the next step of my creativity and personal life as well.
So just as if someone would have a personal experience and write it in a diary because I'm quite a visual person, I placed that experience and that exact view, the clarity I had after that into like a garment, something that was not as loud but still showed my brand. So it was kind of a visual diary for my experience.
That's amazing. When I looked at your new collection and read the meaning behind the design, I was like, "Wow, that's really touching". So what else gets your creativity flowing? [when not in a natural disaster...]
I'd say music is a big thing for me. I've got this intense fascination with music videos especially, I think they just encapsulate the energy, and they get you excited, motivating you in a sense. If I've got an idea, or I need to get an idea down sometimes. I'll put something like Kanye West, Travis Scott, something quite energetic. It brings you to their aesthetic and the lifestyle that they have. It's quite exaggerated, but it's quite a fascinating lifestyle. It puts you in that energy, and I feel like I design the street pieces quite naturally with that music.
How do you source your material? You've mentioned that you like to keep the manufacturing and producing within Australia. Do you source your materials locally?
When it comes to more plain fabrics or straight blacks, most things come from Melbourne, east of Australia. So that's where a lot of my materials come from, but either does a little research and have samples sent over to check them out. Or there's actually a great wholesaler in Melbourne that has a representative here in Perth, so I go to their warehouse, and I check out their fabrics. My printed fabric actually comes from Germany, I found the supplier while I was at uni, and I got familiar with the printing, saturation and quality. That's the only thing that would come in, that would be imported, but the rest is either online or in person.
You put quite a lot of emphasis on the "quirkiness" and "edginess" of your brand, which is definitely coming through. What do you think makes your brand so different and unique to what is out there?
I feel there are a few things; the name [of the brand] is my own name, which I know a lot of brands have but when I tell the story behind it, it adds meaning to it. I like to add a lot of importance to the pieces. So visually, for example, like the Richter lines; they look great, especially white on the grey, but when you find out 'why' I think it adds more meaning and people become personally drawn to it.
I do work on retail wholesale, but also in local Perth. I've been working on customised products. I like to specialise in outerwear, bomber jackets. I've had a few opportunities now to customise for artists, D.J.s, and things like that. So, you can see that what could make it unique is the personal side. Still, also you can customise your own, which adds the same sustainability and it's your own personal touch to my collections.
Talking about the Richter line, which was a particular moment that inspired you and your collection. How have certain moments in your life shaped the way you create?
Um, I think very strongly. Whenever something does happen to me, I definitely put it straight into my brand. So, that earthquake is a good example but also like a familiar human feeling of, say, heartbreak, which a lot of people sadly felt. When I've experienced it, it's so much energy. What I've learnt is that I placed that energy, whether it be positive or negative, into my work. It takes so much concentration, and it distracts me. So, it shows that I can add so much meaning and revert that energy some way more positively.
And what do you think are the main problems with fashion today?
Fast fashion is definitely an enormous problem because it's creating an excessive amount of clothing that a lot of people aren't going to use, it's going to be in waste. But I think that stems from a concept of the fact that people believe products can only be worn once. Say, for example, that they wear and then get a photo on it on social media. And even I got into a trend that I used to do that, but I sat back and said, "I can take these pieces and restyle them, keeping them for a long time". That comes from a high-quality product and choosing pieces that can be worn more than once as well.
Do you think the future of fashion can ever be sustainable?
So, I think that it's hard to say it will because of fast fashion. I think I read something the other day, that was saying we should stop critiquing, or questioning why a sustainable brand has high prices. The reason behind that is because we're used to a fast fashion company giving us a T-shirt for 30 AUD. I think its the attitude and what people are used to, we'll have to be transitioned for fast fashion companies to back down.
Who do you think is responsible for to fix these issues?
To fix them? I think definitely fast fashion companies. In this society, what I mentioned before, a lot of people on social media have influence, I think they could have their input and say, encouraging for us to have a healthier future. We should focus on researching and finding brands that provide us with better quality products, which will last us longer. So, people with a strong voice and platform, if they can assist in doing so, that would help.
And what do you think is the most effective way to promote fashion sustainability?
Celebrities, just in the sense that they have so much power and a lot of people naturally follow them. So, if they upheld those values, then that would help change people's perspectives. Even for them to venture in and find out that they can do this in more ways to help fight the impact.
And lastly, do you have any ideas for a next collection or anything else for the future?
Yes, I'm working on my AW21 collection at the moment, aiming around the seasonal release. As I said, that I customised bomber jackets and I want to specialise in it, but also continue to tell people that I do make different silhouettes. So, I'm aiming for the collection to mainly be outerwear. I'm still in the design process and testing, but definitely, that will be my direction from now on.
That sounds great. Can't wait to see it!
Check out RAW WAR's AW20 collection online now!