Designer 1-2-1: Catherine Rawson

Jan 25 2022. views 189


One of the hippest fashion brands to emerge from Galle, The Old Railway has come a long way since its launch in 2013. Its founder, Brit Catherine Rawson, made Galle her home when she married Galle Resident Rasika. Their store in the heart of Galle Town is a trove of fashionable clothing and is the go-to place for the large expatriate community in Galle and its environs. Catherine’s work ethic is admirable and her coterie of local staff work together to execute some fabulous designs which Catherine creates effortlessly.

What sparked your interest in fashion design?
Finger knitting and sewing with my grandmother.
 
What made you take fashion more seriously and make a career out of it?
A teacher at Art Foundation College told me to apply for Fashion Design at Uni, I had always thought I would be a fashion photographer and she said she thought I should try something textile-based. I realised that I had strong ideas and I enjoyed the whole process from design to production. 

Are you self-taught or did you study fashion design?
I studied Fashion Design with Knitwear at Central Saint Martins University in London. It was the best 4 years full of creativity, fun, and a lot of hard work.

How has your work evolved since you began your own label?
It has become much more practical, especially as I have a retail space in the studio where I can see immediate reactions from customers as they try things on, we are able to alter the piece there and then to perfect it for them which gives us invaluable feedback.

Are there any types of clothing that you avoid designing?
Formal wear with lots of lace or embellished jewels or using overly shiny fabric... Sri Lanka is saturated with it and it does not interest me.

Where do you look for creative inspiration?
How long have you got? Everywhere. Often a random item or moment will inspire an outfit or even a whole collection just from the colours or textures within it. 

Describe your latest collection.
Carefree super relaxed casual wear for men and women. This is a collection that is just easy, ready to throw on, and requires no thought. Mix and match vibe with some unisex pieces.

Who is your muse?
My customers. I have a few different clients who have bought consistently from me over the years that really inspire my design, whether it be their personal styling or use of print or colour and I tend to design pieces for them without realising it! 

What are your sustainability credentials?
We produce everything we sell under our design studio/retail space roof. There are no factories involved. We source remnants of fabric discarded by the garment industry, upcycle and recycle clothing and haberdashery whenever possible and donate any unwanted small scraps of fabric to local home tailors who use them to do repairs and applique. The Old Railway is a safe and empowering work environment where everyone plays a vital part in the success of the business and all voices are heard. We strive to provide stable supportive employment to talented Sri Lankan women so that they are able in turn to support and nurture their own families.

What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
I have always been excited by fashion photography and styling and I love a good documentary. I think often our photoshoots or the way we capture our clothing in snapshots can be confusing for others as they might be expecting a pretty face on a beach at sunset. I prefer reality and relatability and you can see this in this series of shots all very low-key and natural, taken on an iPhone just up the road from the studio. Fashion doesn’t have to be about glamour and being the most ‘’’beautiful’’ version of yourself - only about being yourself.

What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your company?
Learning to say no to people. I wasn’t very good at this when we first started out as I didn’t really have any idea of how to put a monetary value on my skills, learned knowledge, and working experience. I was often bullied into projects that I didn’t want to do and that brought more stress than satisfaction. I have become much better at valuing myself and my creative time and only taking on jobs or agreeing to projects that I feel will bring joy and creative satisfaction to the team. This is all about not being embarrassed to value yourself and your own ability.

What’s your motto?
Don’t worry about what others think and always have biscuits in the studio. 

Which international or local designers are you inspired by?
Dries Van Noten is called ‘the master’ for a reason! His use of print and fabric manipulation is awe-inspiring.

What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?
It is paramount in helping companies engage faster with their customers and get immediate feedback, especially for small brands. It’s a place to really cultivate and increase awareness of a brand image to network and build a client portfolio who champion your ethos and work.

What is your favourite part about being a designer?
Fabric and haberdashery hunting. I can spend hours sorting through mountains of fabric remnants or boxes of old buttons and not get bored. 

How do you want people to feel when wearing your clothes?
To feel like the most authentic version of themselves. To be comfortable in their own skin.
(PIX - CR)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is a journalist specialising in travel, fashion, lifestyle, cuisine and personalities. She is also the Features Editor for Hi!! Magazine. An intrepid traveller, she likes to show readers the world through her eyes and experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - tinajourno tinajourno@gmail.com

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