Camilla Ridley, founder of the unique bespoke fashion label Ridley London, is yet another example of how inspirational and empowering female-led brands can be. Originally trained as a textile designer and having worked in the fashion industry for nearly 30 years with previous labels she established, Camilla believes that “to look and feel truly fabulous, every woman needs to embrace their individuality with clothing created to fit and flatter her.” I absolutely love the Ridley prints and their classically feminine beautiful silk and natural cotton dresses, so I caught up with Camilla to find out how it all began, and to get her insights into the midlife and PRO AGE issues close to Studio10’s heart.
Ridley London currently have some fantastic savings across their summer collection and are offering our Studio10 customers an extra 10% off right across their website and in store with the exclusive checkout code: Studio10.
Tell us about Ridley London and how it all began?
I started Ridley London six years ago having worked in fashion for nearly 30 years. Previously, I started and ran a children’s wear label, I had a made to measure formal womenswear shop on the Fulham Road, and also a women’s accessories business that sold velvet scarves wholesale all over the world – so Ridley London is the accumulation of everything I’ve learned. I run the business with my husband and a wonderful team to design and individually make every item to order.
What is it that makes Ridley London different to other luxury clothing brands?
We believe everyone is completely unique and deserves to look and feel fabulous. That’s why we individually make every piece of clothing to order, enabling our customers to have any of our styles made up in any of our colours or prints, and customised for their most flattering fit. Everything is made to last using exceptional, sustainably sourced natural materials and traditional tailoring techniques. This approach increases wearability and minimises the waste and carbon footprint of every item, so customers can go out looking and feeling their absolute best.
What are the main factors women should consider when it comes to choosing a bespoke tailored outfit?
My main advice is to be as open minded as possible, and that you really can’t beat going in store to try different things on. Often customers have a specific dress they’ve seen in mind or would think about buying online, but actually sometimes another style or colour would make them look fantastic. When you have a versatile garment that makes you look and feel great, you’re going to wear it time and time and again and feel fabulous and confident. So be open minded, and whether you’re shopping online or in store, our team of Ridley stylists can help you find the styles, colours and prints that are really going to flatter you most.
With 30 years in the fashion business, what are the most significant changes you’ve seen – particularly for midlife woman?
In fashion things are always moving from season to season, but I think the biggest changes I’ve seen, that particularly benefit midlife women, are happening right now. Today there’s the idea that individual style, physical differences and diversity are to be celebrated, whereas 30 years ago we all felt we needed to look like a supermodel. This coincides with the emergence of social media and influencers surpassing traditional top-down advertising, which in turn has helped small, emerging labels with fresh ideas to compete and break through.
We’re also starting to see a real shift away from fast fashion, towards a more sustainable ‘buy less - buy better’ style of conscious consumption. So garment provenance, impact, wearability, versatility, durability and clever styling are becoming increasingly important. And finally, there’s a shift away from the 20th century mass production model to the re-emergence of personalisation. 200 years ago everyone had their clothes made for them, and now technology and a new breed of innovative labels are once again making this possible.
Fashion is becoming a tool to express our unique values and authenticity, not just to acquire status. I think this is really exciting as it all stands to benefit the consumer and our planet over the conglomerate and their profits.
Three fashion positives for women to feel less invisible and more confident with age?
Have something that fits properly and wear a colour or print that flatters you and is up-lifting. Don’t hide in black – I see so many women who are self-conscious, particularly about their weight, wearing black, but it’s so draining and ageing. Part of our process involves colour psychology, and I can tell you that in reality hardly anyone suits black. Finally, wear a bright and fun lipstick.
One wardrobe staple no woman should be without?
I would say a made to measure Ridley shirt dress. They’re incredibly comfortable, versatile, can easily be dressed up or down with trainers or heels, and they are so easy to wear, whatever the occasion. There’s a whole range of beautiful new printed silks and coloured cottons for this season, which I’m really excited by. I absolutely live in my Ridley shirt dresses, and they’re a real favourite with our customers.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Recently I lost my friend Dame Deborah James, aka @bowelbabe, and the world lost someone truly special. When she was diagnosed with incurable stage four bowel cancer five years ago it would have been very easy to give up, or to spend the last few years with family or indulging oneself. Instead she used the time she had left to try and change things for the better, to break down barriers, tear up taboos, drive awareness and ultimately save lives. She was always incredibly positive, had a smile on her face, time for everyone, and kept dancing and fighting. Most of all she taught us to make the most of every moment and opportunity and to live our best lives. She was a true inspiration and will be hugely missed, but her legacy will live on. We can all continue to help keep the battle against cancer going through her @bowelbabe fund.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
For me, fashion is about helping people look and feel great about themselves. I absolutely love it when we make someone a dress or an outfit that really flatters them and makes them feel absolutely brilliant – particularly if it’s someone who, for whatever reason, has lost a bit of confidence in themselves. They just walk taller and leave the shop with a spring in their step. Fundamentally this is what we’re all about here at Ridley, and we get so much positive feedback form customers of all ages, sizes and backgrounds who return. I also love the wonderful team of talented seamstresses and stylists we’ve built and how we’ve managed to keep going through some really tough times over the last few years.
What is the hardest challenge you’ve had to face?
Probably when my first women’s accessories business went bust. At the time it was awful, having previously sold velvet scarves to huge department stores all over the world. Suddenly I was penniless and had to liquidate everything to pay off my suppliers. It really hit my confidence – but it also taught me some of the most valuable lessons about business, and was largely responsible for steering me to pursue our streamlined ‘made to order' model for Ridley.
Top beauty ‘must have’ in your makeup bag?
I love the fact that the cosmetics industry is now catching on to the idea of customisation, and individually tailoring the products we use and skin care regimes to better suit each of us. I recently underwent a skin analysis and was prescribed Alumier’s Sheer Hydration SP40. It's already impressed me and has definitely left my skin feeling softer and more hydrated.
I also love your Studio10 Perfect Canvas Foundation SPF30 – it really does everything. It’s incredibly easy to apply, hydrates and leaves a really even skin tone with a nice healthy glow. I'm currently using Clinique’s high impact mascara, and I love a good lip gloss – Liquid Matte 265 by Christian Dior – it’s a fantastic colour, has a really natural feel and lasts for hours. Definitely a good investment.
Desert Island disc, book and luxury item?
Easy! Kate Bush – ‘Wuthering Heights’. This is a kitchen disco favourite and, much to my thirteen year old daughter’s displeasure, I try and dance to it like Kate Bush when I’ve had a glass of wine or two! They shot two videos for this, which you can see on YouTube, and for me it’s the one in the red dress. I also love ‘Running up that Hill’; it’s great that the Netflix series Stranger Things has helped connect a younger audience with her brilliant music.
My book would be Persuasion by Jane Austen – it’s a wonderful observation of human nature.
My luxury item would be time out spent with family and friends. Running a growing business is absolutely full on and it would be lovely just to have some down time with the people I love without feeling pressured with work. But – if this is playing by the desert Island disc rules, I can’t have anyone else on my island, and so I would go for gardening equipment. I love gardening, growing beautiful flowers, as well as home grown vegetables and salads that all taste so much better. It’s such a positive nurturing process, and I could imagine wanting to turn my island into a beautiful floral paradise full of amazing tropical plants and wild flowers.
And finally, your favourite quote to live by?
“If you follow your dreams anything is possible”. Strangely enough I discovered it stencilled onto the wall of the rear corridor of our shop in Barnes when we took the lease on five years ago, and it’s still there to this day as an excellent mantra to live by.