A quiet, unassuming street in Fulham, West London. In amongst the red brick terraced houses is a brilliantly pastel purple house. “Our landlord was painting it and he asked us if there was a colour we wanted,” Orlagh McCloskey explains, “we said light lilac and we didn’t think he’d do it because he’s this big, burly man.” But he did, and it’s from this light purple house that Orlagh and her business partner Henrietta Rix live and work on their clothing brand, RIXO London.
Founded in 2015, RIXO is an emerging label heavily influenced by vintage prints and shapes. Colourful and carefully crafted, the pieces are unique but timeless, a testament to British design. Millie Mackintosh, Edith Bowman, and Hannah Murray have all worn RIXO pieces and the designs can be found in boutiques across the UK and Paris, with an online presence in the US coming soon. The prints are designed and hand painted by Orlagh and Henrietta in their front room: large floral prints colourfully displayed on a black silky background; an astrology-inspired print in navy or red. The lightweight prints float in soft pleats on midi-skirts and maxi dresses. “The Camellia is such an easy dress just to put on and you can really dress it down with trainers in the daytime or dress it up and even wear it to weddings,” says Henrietta of the floaty midi-dress with a thigh-high slit.
A barefoot Orlagh answers the door; she’s on the phone with a supplier and finishes her conversation before offering me a cup of tea. “We’re big tea people,” she says. She’s the only one home at the moment: Henrietta and the interns are out to the post office and should be back soon.
It’s clear that this living room is more of a workspace than a traditional living space. A table in the middle is covered with laptops, while rails of clothing surround the work table. There’s an oversized pin board with sketches and a sample of a new print hanging on the wall. Sketchbooks are littered with the laptops on the table. When Henrietta arrives, she’s with four or five other girls – the RIXO interns. “Girls, go help yourselves to lunch,” Henrietta tells the interns, and they disappear into the kitchen.
With a common interest in business, Henrietta and Orlagh met on the Fashion Management course at London College of Fashion and instantly became friends. Sharing a passion for vintage, they found a kindred spirit in each other. “It’s just one of those things and when we met each other, it was perfect because we had this partner in crime we could go vintage shopping with,” Orlagh says.
Hailing from rural Ireland, Orlagh, 26, is the older of the two. She started seeking out vintage from a young age. “I used to get the bus to Belfast, which was a good couple of hours away and try to find this one vintage shop with this old owner,” she says, “I was 16 and I would buy old granny coats.”
She did a foundation year at LCF in art and design. However, she found this wasn’t exactly the right fit for her. So she took a year off, working in retail and living in New York for three months. She then reapplied for the Fashion Management course where she met Henrietta.
Growing up in Cheshire, Henrietta, 23, went straight from A-levels (in business studies, art, textiles, and English) to the Fashion Management course. She used to take weekend trips to London with her mother to go to vintage fairs. “Even if it wasn’t my job, it’s what I’d be doing in my spare time because it’s kind of what I’ve done since I was twelve or something with my mum and my grandma,” she says. “Every weekend, every Sunday was dedicated to go either to an antique fair or an auction or a vintage fair. This is my dream.”
The pair finished their three years of studies and then went onto the required year in industry. Henrietta worked for ASOS and Orlagh for TK Maxx. It was during this year that they met many of their key contacts and suppliers. “I think that was really fundamental for both of us, to get our experience,” says Henrietta.
They knew they wanted to start their own label together, however, and so they quit their jobs to create RIXO. “Every single day, we’re like, ‘Oh my God, we’re so lucky we found each other!’ Because I’d never have the guts to leave a job and do this,” says Henrietta. “I’d never have the guts to do it alone.”
It’s hard to imagine two people who work better together. Although Orlagh has a twin sister, it’s almost as if Henrietta is the twin. They finish each other’s sentences and rarely disagree on their vision for the brand. “There’s nothing we can’t say to each other,” says Orlagh. “And we’re lucky because I think we have similar, well, pretty much identical visions when it comes to the way it looks and the styling of it, but also in the way we approach the business, as well,” her partner adds.
RIXO only launched in 2015, but it’s already seen plenty of growth. From making contact with key stylists and getting their clothes into boutiques across the UK and in Europe, all while designing clothing and hand painting prints, Henrietta and Orlagh live and breathe RIXO. “We’re so passionate and dedicated to RIXO, it’s literally our baby and that’s all we want to just grow is RIXO,” says Henrietta, “we’re both on the same wavelength with it, everything takes the backseat.”
Ever ambitious, they have their sights set on RIXO’s future: they dream of a true British It Girl like Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, or Alexa Chung in their designs and believe they’ll find success in markets like Australia and the US. Once they’ve grown some, they want to be able to drop new prints and pieces every two weeks or so. “We’d like to do stuff like have a new print every month and then have newness of that print dropping down throughout that month,” says Orlagh.
In the meantime, they hope to be able to bring RIXO’s price point down for a slightly younger customer: “Girls like us,” Henrietta calls them. “And we definitely want to go into jewellery and accessories. We are obsessed,” says Orlagh, “absolutely obsessed.”
“Eventually one day, maybe say this day five years’ time, all this will be styled up with RIXO stuff, vintage inspired everything,” Henrietta says. “Head-to-toe RIXO girl.” Ambitious and driven, these girls are well on their way to making a name for themselves. With business trips to Paris and New York, they focus on making connections in person and growing their business. Though they find inspiration from decades past, their sights are set firmly on the future.
About Karina Reddy
Karina Reddy holds an MA in Fashion Communication from Central Saint Martins. In addition, she studied at Boston University and London College of Fashion. With an undergraduate degree in history, her research at Central Saint Martins explored how the body was fashioned in the 1920s. A self-proclaimed museum nerd, she has a keen interest in fashion museums and volunteered at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. You can read more of her writing at reddy-to-wear.com.