An Interview with Model and Creative Rachel Rutt from RUTT
Rachel Rutt proves practicality and good design can be best friends.
Rachel Rutt has creativity in her bones. Her designs ooze individuality while staying relevant and holding true to her ethos of practicality. Down to earth, kind and deeply rooted in human connection, Rachel is a breath of fresh air in this fast paced fashion industry.
RUTT centres around knitwear and crochet. You talk a lot about your love of knitting. How did this come about?
Knitting and my life in Australia came hand in hand. Assimilating to a new culture, as I’m sure many others can attest to, is difficult as you depart from the known into the new, guaranteed with the passage of time that your identity will merge into a hybrid of the two. This was overwhelming, and I found it difficult to ground myself. When a friend of my mom’s introduced me to knitting, she shared the quality of renewal that knitting possessed in its innate ability to be unravelled, begun again. It was a gift, something I could take wherever I went, and enjoy, by myself, for myself. A quiet, present, therapeutic place, and one ultimately of renewal and hope. Stemming from this, knitting steadily wound up finding space in each aspect of my life.
You have been a successful model for many years before launching RUTT. How has this shaped the RUTT journey?
Modelling has been my fashion education. I wasn’t interested in fashion at all prior to working as a model, which I find funny because my entire adult life has now been steeped in it. Through mere exposure I began to learn about fast fashion, what it is, how it operates, and why I didn’t like it. On the other end, there is the total luxury aspect, the depth and privilege of beautiful craftsmanship, tailoring, and design. But where was the middle ground? Through knitting I discovered weaving, and over two years took up studies at the Hand Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild of NSW. I learned a lot about how textiles work on a ground level. It provided a narrative between the land, the process, the maker, and the wearer. That rather than being linear, it was a circular process. And that circle is crucial to a sustainable system. The combination of these two journeys resulted in what I feel most passionate about with RUTT. High quality craftsmanship that celebrates the artisans and fibre processes, and ignites interest and creates understanding behind why hand-made is so special and to be treasured.
What was your first product in the RUTT catalogue?
A wool hat that came at the behest of a friend searching for the perfect combination of a beanie with a brim. I shared it on social media to gauge further interest and the response was absolutely wonderful. It’s named the Charlotte Hat, after her, and continues to be a best-seller in the colder months. RUTT technically started, without intention, as an instagram direct message ordering system, which was fun. And it grew from there.
A family in Peru does your crocheting for you. Have you always used this family or were you doing it yourself in the early days?
At the moment I work with a few different makers, and they are based in Peru, India, and Australia. Initially, I did all the knitting myself, and still do for some of the Australian merino wool pieces. The Clouds Bags are hand knitted in Sydney by either myself or my wonderful local knitters, and are made from premium merino that has been grown in Tasmania on a small family farm, processed in Victoria, then spun and dyed here in NSW at one of our oldest mills, that is operated by just 10 people. This story is very close to my heart, as so many people used to tell me that it would be very difficult to create an entirely Australian hand made product.
In Lima, the Antena Hats are hand crocheted by a three generation family/women owned workshop, which is really special. In India, the Fizz! Bottle Slings are hand crocheted in hand spun cotton by a company that has been working in natural fibres and dying since the early 90s.
You use a lot of dead-stock yarn in your products. This material is gaining a lot of traction which is really exciting. What are the pro's and cons of using deadstock materials as a designer?
Dead stock is wonderful because it reduces land fill and gets the creative juices flowing. It creates a parameter with which to work, and that challenge is exciting. Also, you can make smaller quantities, which means limited edition. On the other hand, it can be difficult because not every option is available, for example colours or quanitity, and you must be happy to compromise a little
What is your design process? Do you have a muse or is it a free-flowing process?
My muse is practicality. My very early creations, long before starting RUTT, were solely artistic expressions: wearable artworks generally centred around an emotional theme. Total free form, highly impractical! Now I’m on the complete opposite end where I am thinking about what people want, what is useful, easy, natural, and effortless. What would I want from this piece? Can I throw it on and forget about it? I love to talk to people about what they want, what they would add, or, often more importantly, take away. These have become the biggest factors for me, alongside bold colour, texture, and of course, execution of fine craft.
Your brand is led by your values which is so refreshing. What values do you stand by for your business?
A strong and deep connection with the makers and fibres; sharing and supporting their stories. Hand made, ensuring that processes are gentle on the planet, and progressive towards keeping artisan craft thriving. Ultimately reinforcing the value system that the people and planet are one and the same, we have to take care of each other.
We love what you are doing, what's next for RUTT?
This year I launched a beautiful swimwear piece called Piko which I am really proud of. It is the result of a long time dream to create a crochet swimsuit that was actually comfortable instead of the usual difficult to wear when wet, but pretty, examples that are readily available. This required technical innovation with regard to developing a unique recycled fibre (Polyester and Elastane), that allowed for it to behave like Lycra, whilst retaining a classic 70s aesthetic. I’ve fallen in love with creating in this way, and 2022 will see the swimwear range grow further, as well as new accessories in the beach/lifestyle aspect.
I also encourage parents to serve vegetables at every meal. Even if fussier kids don’t touch or acknowledge they are there, it reinforces how normal it is to have veggies available all of the time. Eventually, when they are ready, they will start to explore. It does take time, and consistency, but you will make progress!
Have you got a standout book that has helped you get to where you are today?
Dune, by Frank Herbert and The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin. Both are science fiction works that explore the interchange of evolution between society, culture and ecosystem, and offer opportunities (like all sci-fi) to reflect on the nature of human condition in a slightly alternate universe.