RaspberryPlum | Aleksandra Matthews On Designing With Love
RaspberryPlum - founded in 2014 by Aleksandra Matthews - began as a labour of love.
As she explains in her own words "When I started the brand I didn’t think I was going to make a lot of money and sell all over the world. I did it because I had something to say. I did not like the ethics of the companies I worked for previously and I wanted to do things differently. I also wanted kids to be confident by wearing my clothes, as they are unusual and will not allow you to be a wallflower."
Bold, colourful and full of personality, RaspberryPlum clothing promises all of the above and much more.
Eight years on, and with one daughter, Luna (affectionately referred to as her as her "mini design critic") we caught up with Aleksandra, the woman and mother behind the brand to discover what it is that inspires her most and delve into the ethical guidelines upon which the label is founded.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind RaspberryPlum and how becoming a mother influenced your designs?
I became a mother five years after I started the brand and it changed the way I design. I consider practicality a little bit more. My daughter is also my biggest critic and I do take her advice – but not too much, as I would end up with unicorns on every item and the whole collection would be pink!
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a fashion designer and all my life I have worked towards that. Having graduated with a BA(Hons) in Fashion Design and getting my MA in Textile Design at The Royal College of Art, I began working in womenswear (mostly as a textile designer) for lots of different brands worldwide. When I returned to London as a freelancer, I became bored. You end up sitting behind a computer or drawing and painting behind a desk. It wasn’t very versatile. I like to use lots of different skills so I decided to branch out. Womenswear was over-saturated, while the childrenswear industry seemed nicer and wasn’t as crowded as it is now. I thought I could enjoy more freedom and creativity in kidswear. You have to follow your heart, follow your passion. If you’re bored and doing something you don’t really enjoy, it will show in your work. Life is too short to spend time doing what you don’t enjoy.
Aleksandra says ...
"Our slogan is, 'Why be a follower when you can be a pioneer of style?' I’ve always stood out from the crowd and done my own thing."
RaspberryPlum set out to be ethically and sustainably produced from day one. What are the challenges of staying true to these values within the world of children's fashion?
Environmental issues are very important to us. Our packaging is kept to a minimum and all of it is made from recycled materials. We aim to produce all of our products within Europe, in order to maintain a low carbon footprint and we also use biodegradable and compostable packaging for our online orders.
When RaspberryPlum started as a fully organic / sustainable brand nine years ago, it had a very different look. After three or four seasons, we started to rebrand, as being entirely organic was limiting our creativity and colour, at that time. I decided then that we’re always going to be an ethical brand, whatever we’re doing, but that we don’t have to be 100% organic. I think as long as you do your best, everyone can make a difference. I don’t feel pressured to be 100% anything. That stops us from even trying to make a difference.
At Childrensalon we have a core company value of people before profit and we love that RaspberryPlum holds this same ethos at its heart. Why has this been so important to you?
The ready-to-wear collection is manufactured in Serbia by small, independent businesses. It is our aim to help re-establish and promote a once thriving apparel industry, which has suffered greatly as a result of political turmoil in the region in the last two decades. This is a very personal project to us. We would like every member of our team to love being a part of RaspberryPlum, to enjoy their work and to feel appreciated. All the materials are sourced in Europe.
Aleksandra Loves ...
"I love the red flared velour jumpsuit – it reminds me of Ziggi Stardust."
Your pieces feel as much a work of art as an item of clothing. Can you tell us a bit about your design process behind the bold colours and prints?
I try to stay away from trends. Our slogan is, “Why be a follower when you can be a pioneer of style?” It reflects my personality, I’ve always stood out from the crowd and done my own thing. It’s important to build the confidence of children so that they feel they can be themselves. I try to do that in all my collections. I used to be a very shy child and my mom dressed me very differently from the other kids. They used to make fun of me but it gave me a lot of confidence to be different from other children. That really stuck with me and that is the impulse I follow in the way I design.
I am the sole designer and I like that. I usually take inspiration from things that interest me – art, music, cultural events. I love art, music and fashion from the 20th century (until the 1970s) so often people will describe my style as ‘retro’. I prefer not to be pigeonholed as each season is so different and I don’t like to get tied down to one style.
I’m very hands-on and still do all my own pattern cutting, all the prints, embroideries and fabric sourcing. I worked with a pattern cutter and realised that when I do it myself I get inspired. I get lots of applications from designers, but I think, design? I’m doing all that by myself, I’m not giving that away!
"Luna loves the brown Teddy dress (above) as she likes the print and she likes very girly clothes."
In 2018 you became part of the Novak Djokovic Foundation – please could you tell us more about what that involves and the people it supports?
Yes, since 2018 we have been honoured to be able to work closely with the Novak Djokovic Foundation. The foundation’s aim is to give children the opportunity to receive a quality preschool education, through training and empowering teachers, building and creating self-sustaining schools and programmes, and educating parents. We donate all our old stock to the Novak Djokovic Foundation who, in turn, identify children from underprivileged backgrounds and gift our collections to them. We also work on other projects directly with the foundation to promote their message and give them more visibility.
All images by RaspberryPlum.