In 2008, Rachael Ruddick established her own namesake label of luxury leather goods after identifying a gap in the market for a product range driven by quality and longevity. Since it's establishment, Rachael Ruddick's unique Australian leather goods have become highly coveted and are available around the world. Rachael's upbringing in Tasmania coupled with her life of extensive travel continues to be an underlying inspiration for having a brand that values functionality in every product while showing a hint of chic minimalism. X-Files speaks to Rachael about her longstanding career in fashion, where it all began & what is next.
A message from Rachael during COVID-19: Business owners / founders need to think about how they can shift to play in the current world we live in. A pivot for this moment in time must be authentic to the brand and not dilute the core values in any way. Search for optimism and keep things real, otherwise, shifting back will be more difficult. Look at what we are facing as an opportunity to explore and pull together ideas, it can be more transparent.
Tell us about your professional background? Where did your career begin?
I started a business with a school friend when we were 14, called Party Concepts. It started as a result of helping our parents and their friends serve at dinners and cocktail events, we thought there was definitely an opportunity to make some money and expand our repertoire of service and decoration. We registered the business and went from waitering ourselves, to providing staff (willing and able school friends) supported a large catering company and thereafter providing decorations and party favours. We sold the business when I left Tasmania to move overseas. After college in Sydney I worked briefly in hotels, then joined LVMH in the beauty division when I was 21. This led to a lengthy career with the group as an executive as well as consultant in business and marketing in fashion and latterly wines and spirits.
Rachael wears Isabel Marant Brinlya blouse with Chloé flared pant and the Saint Laurent Loulou small flap bag. Images via Laura Goodall.
You’ve lived in Australia, London and now you live in New York. Tell us more about this.
At 17 I moved from Tasmania to France. This was such a pivotal moment in my life. It changed my mindset and outlook on what I really wanted to do and my influences. I was based in Sydney after college. In my roles at LVMH I was traveling, often to Asia and France. It wasn’t until my daughter was 1 that we moved to London. Just prior to this I launched my travel and accessories business.
My move to London enabled our successful launch in Harrods, Browns and Selfridges. The UK swiftly became our largest global market. Rachael Ruddick was positioned alongside Marc Jacobs and Diane Von Furstenberg with a permanent position on Oxford Street ground level in My daughter and I were commuting between London and Sao Paulo and eventually relocated after a year in London, to Brazil. In 2013 we moved to NYC. I have been based in SoHo for close to 8 years and now spend time between both coasts. New York is a melting pot of energy, culture and tenacity. It's this strength and vibrance that attracts me to it and people who live there. I shifted my business online in 2015, closed the stores we had in Australia which enabled me to start working on start ups and consulting, I guess juggling my creative and business brain.
Tell us about your name-sake company? Was it always the plan to start your own business?
I am entrepreneurial however also love working in a team and structured environment. I love the shift between worlds. I started my brand whilst at LVMH in 2008. I could see a gap in the market at the time for timeless essential accessories for travel and everyday, made using local leathers and materials. Limited logos and pieces for a lifetime. It's interesting that this is where the world is now.
I was at Dior at the time, and then moved to Moet Hennessy, I worked on a limited edition trunk for Moet & Chandon rose and it prompted my passion for design and leather.
Rachel wears Ellery Limoges halterneck top, Valentino logo pleated skirt with Saint Laurent Lexi lace heel. Left image via Laura Goodall.
As a business owner, what is your main role?
I wear a few hats. I love brainstorming, both creative and business led ideas. I believe I am a strong collaborator, and best at decision making under pressure. In many cases I will take a creative lead.
You have just launched two new brands in New York - can you share more with us about these exciting projects?
The past two months have given me great clarity and also focus. In between calls and time with my daughter, I’ve had a huge amount of mind space to think, create, refine and brainstorm. I have found collaborating with friends on their passion projects and brands inspiring, and have aimed to do this each day.
The first brand which we launched this week is a new sport swim capsule ‘ Naeya’
Necat and I met four years ago in New York. Her Mother had a bikini shop and hotel in Izmir, Turkey and the family spent their days on their Father’s boat, NAYA. Necat and her brother were #1 ranked tennis players, and to this day, sport is their life in New York, Florida and Europe.
Ne had a vision to recreate the amazing swim suits her Mother had loved and worn. Over Thanksgiving 2017 on Anna Maria Island we spoke about it. This week it has come to life and we are so happy to make to order at this time, with a vision of sharing images and experiences of travel and Summer.
My namesake brand was due to launch a comprehensive home collection in March. Including essential table accessories, mixology pieces and storage . This time has given us the opportunity to refine and broaden what we are doing, with a view to launch in July 2020. There have been so many changes to priorities and mindset over this time. We had already pivoted our view and interpretation of travel and entertaining so I hope when it comes to our launching our new collection, the brand connects with our existing and new clients.
Rachel wears Valentino feather print blouse, Cedric Charlier knife pleated skirt and Saint Laurent Amber sandal.
Do you have a mentor, or someone who has influenced you professionally?
My parents. Anyone who knows them well, appreciates their passion and vision for whatever they put their minds too. They are both hardworking, committed and fearless. My brother and I were fortunate to have them guide us professionally and learn through experience from walking across building sites to working in the distillery in Tasmania.
What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
I like to think I’ve already had a few renaissance moments personally and professionally. Definitely my early roles with Dior and LVMH looking after the Oceania business and the travel involved. The launch of Rachael Ruddick was pivotal in my life and has shaped so much of who I am today. Its terrifying putting your name to a product and brand, it’s a double edged sword in many ways. Launching store in store spaces in David Jones, Selfridges and educating teams and customers. Latterly, sharing my experience to work with others, shaping their brands and strategising.
What advise do you have for creatives/business people wanting to follow a career path similar to yours?
Much of what I will say sounds contrived, however its very true:
Follow your passions relentlessly.
Turn failures into learnings. You need learnings to appreciate success and break through moments. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with people who can support you and your vision.
Rachel wears Paco Rabanne iconic disc top, iconic disc skirt with square mesh folded earrings. Images via Laura Goodall.
What is the most valuable and fundamental lesson you’ve learnt?
In life and love, go with your gut instinct and put yourself first.
What is your style approach?
Classic. I have signature pieces that have been with me for many years. When we first left Australia, we had a suitcase each and storage in Sydney for 6 years. You realise how little you actually need.
Which brands or styles are must have pieces in your wardrobe?
Fendi swimsuits, Christopher Esber knit dress, Loewe shirt dress. All classics
What is next for you professionally?
To build on the foundation developed for each brand. Work on an upcoming podcast and spend more time in Australia, personally and professionally.
See more from Rachael Ruddick, and shop her style at Parlour X.