Spotlight on Designer Jodie Ruffle

While searching for inspiration for a previous post,  I stumbled upon the work of Jodie Ruffle and I became instantly infatuated. The image I saw featured a skirt with a yellow panel and exquisite embellishments. With some research, I found out a bit more about the extremely talented designer.  I learned that Ruffle was from the UK, which made my inner anglophile very happy, and I learned that the designer was especially skilled with embroidery. I reached out for an interview and was ecstatic when Ruffle agreed to answer some questions for me. Of all the featured interviews I must say this is in my top 3. Ruffle is honest, witty and inspiring with her responses on life as a designer. With experiences working at Alexander McQueen and Johnathan Saunders, I think it's safe to say Jodie Ruffle is a name we will all be familiar with in the near future. This is a must read for anyone considering going into the creative business. 

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What sparked your interest in fashion?

I think it’s something that developed naturally. I don’t remember a particular moment or time when I thought ‘this is it, this is what I want to do’, it’s just something I have been interested in since I can remember, it’s always been there.

What inspires you?

I think it depends on the day! I’m always inspired by colour, texture and proportions – whether it’s through art, fashion, film, or something/someone I’ve seen on the street. I love playing with context – putting couture embellishment on sportswear or putting something super feminine with someone really masculine. I love that lines that used to separate things are becoming more and more blurred – gender, culture, class. It kind of makes you feel like there are no boundaries or limits. That’s inspiring

What is the most challenging part of being a designer?

I think it’s what happens after you create something. I find it hard to promote myself – you just want to design and make but in order to sustain that you need to be putting your work out there. I find that bit difficult, it’s hard to send things to people and just be like “look what I’ve done!!” The confidence to talk myself up is not a skill I possess but I’m trying!

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What is your favorite part about being a designer?

Being able to create new things, new ideas, new combinations. I like being able to change existing things by deconstructing or working into them. Part of my work is about making and embracing mistakes. I embroider onto fabric and decide later if I’ll use the front or back, or sometimes I switch half way. This way of working has freed me up quite a lot and made me less precious, Making decisions along the way means things develop naturally so I’m never quite sure how my samples will end up – I love that, it’s easy to stay interested and excited by something if you’re not sure how it ends.

In your career as a designer, what has been your most notable moment?

Between my Degree and my MA I worked for a year at Alexander McQueen – that time was full of amazing, crazy moments that I now have really cherished memories of.

With my own work, last year when I finished my MA was quite amazing. I presented my collection in a showroom during LFW and Tamsin Blanchard came from The Guardian; she wrote that weekend that I was “the future of fashion”. It was incredible to read those words written about me… now I’m just trying to work out how to prove her right!

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Do you remember the point in life when you realised you wanted to make a living as a designer?

I think probably working in industry was and is a huge inspiration. My first internship was at Jonathan Saunders. We were all in this freezing cold studio in Bethnal Green, working till the early hours, exhausted but happy and working to get everything done for the show. He had such a good team there and we worked like crazy but had so much fun. It was the first time I’d been in that kind of adrenaline-fuelled atmosphere and I really loved it, so it was probably then I’d thought it was what I wanted.

What designer do you identify with the most?

I’m inspired by so many designers… I love Margiela for the concepts and that beautiful deconstructed quality. The old school couture houses are a huge inspiration; Chanel and Dior for that incredible embroidery and embellishment. Celine is one of my favourites – I think they have something so special in that they always have the most beautiful textiles but it always feels so effortless.

So maybe I’m aiming for a bit of all of those, with a side of Adidas thrown in.

How do you work? 

I kind of have an on-going mood board. It changes and develops from one project to another but some images always inspire me so they’ve become a permanent fixture.

My first step is always to collect fabric and material samples. I use anything really, it depends how I feel or what’s around me. So for my MA, it was neoprene, embroidery thread, sequins, Swarovski crystals and concrete. For my last project it was mainly denim, airtex, bubblewrap, embroidery thread and sequins: whatever I feel inspired by. So I collect that stuff together, set up an embroidery frame, sit in front of my mood board and just start making samples. I don’t wait to finish sampling before I start designing clothes. Sometimes it’s like that, sometimes I design whilst I’m sampling, sometimes I’ve started making final pieces before I have finished sampling or designing. Because I work quite organically, some decisions or the completion of one piece will affect the decisions for the next. Half the time there isn’t really an end point; I just stop when I feel like it’s enough.

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I have noticed a lot of your work has a great deal of texture, would you like to tell me more about this?

Yeah, I’m obsessed with textures and tactile qualities. I love the idea of building up applied layers of texture, working into something to change its quality. In my MA, I embroidered onto fabric and over printed it with a concrete-wood filler mix. Although it was sturdy, I knew it would gradually wear down and chip off a little – and I liked that you’d gradually see more of the embroidery underneath. At the moment I’m mainly working with deconstructed embroidery, seed beads and bugle beads - I like the combination of something messy with something more intricate and regimented.

On average, how many hours do you spend on a garment?

Generally about 20-25 hours but it can be anything from 5 or 6 hours to 200 hours, it depends on the piece.

Would you say you have a specialty?

This kind of back-to-front deconstructed embroidery I’m doing. It’s developing as I go and sometimes combined with sequins, beads etc. but it’s underpinning everything I do at the moment.

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Is there a theme to your work?

I think it evolves depending on what I feel inspired by. Generally, I am interested in re-contextualizing couture embroidery and embellishment– pulling apart techniques, playing with them and applying them onto more sportswear, androgynous garments.

Has your work changed over time?

Yeah, definitely, it’s become much more textile based. I did a course at LCF on Couture Embroidery and Embellishment a few years ago and I loved it so much it basically informed the direction of my MA, which was all about embroidery and embellishment. Now I can’t imagine that not being a major part of my design process.

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How has your work evolved and where do you see it going?

As I said, it’s evolved into something very textile based. I don’t like to plan too far into the future (I don’t know whether that’s sensible or not!). This coming year, I’m going to be working on a series of smaller projects – one per month, rather than 2 seasonal collections. Some of them I’m hoping will end up being collaborations with artists, other designers/brands, so that’s what I see happening for now!

Do you have any other creative outlets?

Ummm, does dancing around Dalston Superstore count?! Haha. I think because I’m interested in making fashion, textiles, art… whatever… it all feels like a creative outlet to me. I don’t think it has to always be fashion. I think that might end up being part of this year-long project, some of it might evolve into other things.

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What is your ultimate goal with your designs?

Just to be able to keep doing it, to collaborate with others, to do some exciting projects. To keep developing.

Any last words?

I saw a really awful Coco Chanel biopic the other day… but it had a good quote from her: “You don’t grow from successes. You grow from failures”

Who knows if she actually said it, but it’s good!