Since rag & bone was founded in 2002, the brand's focus has always been on quality and craftsmanship. Each collection is designed in New York but manufactured using some of the oldest, most respected factories and fabric mills around the world. This commitment to authenticity permeates all aspects of the business, from the custom-made furniture outfitting each store to the iconic grainy black and white campaigns, starring everyone from Winona Ryder to Wiz Khalifa. We caught up with CEO and creative director Marcus Wainwright just after he had finished showing at New York Fashion Week to find out what “Quality Guaranteed” means to him.
Hi Marcus! Do you remember the first product you ever made?
A pair of jeans for myself. They were made in the Garment District with some fabric that I found on Broadway and Canal in an old fabric shop, and they were terrible. They didn’t fit and they weren’t what I wanted — but that was the first thing I ever made.
Tell us about your role as Creative Director. What does a typical day at work look like?
There is no typical day. It could be anything from designing a store to board meetings. That’s the joy of it — it’s different every day.
What’s the starting point when you begin conceptualising a new collection?
It always starts with five or six general inspirations and things that I’m really interested in — then we build an inspiration board, pull together vintage pieces from our archive that fit into the references — and off we go.
Everything is designed in New York. What is your studio space like? How does your environment affect your creative process?
The brand started in New York and our headquarters are here so our creative process is affected by the city in many ways. New York is made up of an incredibly inspiring group of individuals. The studio space is pretty laidback and reflects the rag & bone modern, industrial aesthetic — we try to stay as far away from a corporate atmosphere as possible!
We love rag & bone’s philosophy of “Quality Guaranteed”. Can you explain what it means to you and how it came about?
“Quality Guaranteed” is a philosophy, I believe, that rag & bone represents the opposite of what fast fashion stands for. Everything that we make as a company needs to be something that will stand the test of time. Quality, at the end of the day, in my opinion, is miles more important than fashion.
Nihon Menpu Denim Mill
You’re originally from England. Does the concept have anything to do with the British respect for heritage and craftsmanship?
Yes, it has everything to do with it — it’s all I had to draw from with no fashion training. My English upbringing has had a massive impact on what I think clothes should be.
How does this promise of authenticity and integrity affect how you choose fabric mills, suppliers and factories?
I think wherever we possibly can we try and make clothes, or pick fabric, from mills that specialise in and have a long history of doing what they do. That history really plays into how the clothes feel and the execution of the product. Abraham Moon, for example — if I’m going to go and buy a rowing stripe fabric and do something that’s inspired by a British rowing blazer, then I’m going to go to England to find it.
Who are some of the specialist manufacturers you’ve worked with?
We’ve worked with a lot — Hunter, Schoeller, Linton, Abraham Moon, Nihon Menpu . . . there’s hundreds of them.
Abraham Moon Mill
Every collection seems to incorporate some element of tailoring. Do you have any favourite fabrics and or techniques that you constantly come back to?
Yeah, I think one of the first things we ever made was a tailored blazer — we always come back to the idea that every collection should have that perfect blazer and if you walk into a rag & bone store you should be able to find an incredible piece of tailoring. I think aesthetically rag & bone is about that balance and contrast of British tailoring and American workwear.
Do you think there is a movement in the fashion industry and amongst consumers towards quality over quantity?
I very much hope so!
You’ve spoken about how “Quality Guaranteed” isn’t restricted to the design and manufacturing process but permeates through the entire business. How does it influence rag & bone’s marketing strategy?
I think our marketing strategy, like everything else, mirrors the feeling that everything we do at all times has a sense of authenticity. Instead of shooting campaigns on digital, we shoot on film and Super 8. We work with people that we admire for their authenticity and I think that speaks to the “Quality Guaranteed” philosophy of the company. The idea of authenticity guides most of the decisions that we make.
rag & bone Brooklyn Custom Fabrication Shop
How many rag & bone retail stores are there now?
Can you share a bit about how this passion for quality affects the layout, design and materials used in your stores?
It’s so important to us that we even have our own Brooklyn Custom Fabrication Shop in Industry City. We have incredibly skilled craftsmen [who] work for rag & bone and are solely dedicated to creating authentic, beautifully made furniture for our stores and design studio.
rag & bone Brooklyn Custom Fabrication Shop
Australia’s flagship rag & bone store recently opened in Melbourne’s The Strand. Can you tell us what kind of feeling you were trying to create with the interior there?
Just a genuine rag & bone store; a space where the customer can come and understand what the rag & bone aesthetic is and really feel at home — and provide the customer service we’ve become well-known for in the States.
It’s been 15 years since you founded rag & bone. How do you measure the brand’s success?
By how much fun we have doing what we’re doing!
Finally, what do you have planned for rag & bone for the rest of the year? Is there anything exciting in the pipeline that you can share with us?
Our Beak Street store is opening in Soho, London which is very exciting. Other than that, my thoughts are quite short-term these days!
The Melbourne rag & bone store is located at Shop T21 The Strand, 250 Elizabeth St, Melbourne.