We had the opportunity to chat with Kelly Dawn Riot, a designer who’s reviving our outlook on the beauty of nature through her artistic prints. We covered the ethical nature of her brand and how she sees the future of ethical fashion, as well as her opinions on her icons, from Alfred Hitchcock to Marilyn Manson.
Revival Collective: How did KellyDawn Riot come about?
Kelly: I had finished my MA at The Glasgow School of Art and had no idea what to do when I won the New Talent Award with Scotland Redesigned sponsored by Zero Waste Scotland, which provided me with guidance and funding to launch my brand.
RC: How was the brand’s concept developed?
K: I’ve always had an affinity with nature from an early age, my work aims to bring back that childhood fascination we all had with seeing nature for the first time; the curiosity, excitement and sometimes the feelings of discomfort it can evoke in us. I wanted to mix art and fashion to marry the two and through the guidance of a mentor, Orsola De Castro (co-founder of Fashion Revolution day), I redeveloped my brand into an ethical and sustainable practice, through the use of natural fabrics and cutting right down on waste.
RC: What is the inspiration behind the printed textiles?
K: I was always really drawn to old botany illustrations in science books and so I reworked my illustration style to depict my illustrations in a similar way, I also love traditional painting techniques so I reverted to a very old way of illustrating; sitting in museums and galleries drawing as the old masters would. From that old technique my printed textiles were born but I applied them in a very new way in comparison, taking inspiration from club kids such Leigh Bowery.
RC: Have you got a favourite product?
K: I usually like a bird print coat from each collection as its a large piece of canvas I can really get creative with my placement prints.
RC: What was the inspiration for the textile used in your bird print coat?
K: I always think of Alfred Hitchcock’s the birds when I look at it but at the time I think I just really let loose and to see what happened.
RC: What are your views on the popularisation of ethical fashion?
K: Any step towards educating people on ethical and sustainable fashion is a step in the right direction for me!
RC: What action do you think needs to take place to break the stigma about ethical fashion?
K: I truly believe the stigma is slowly ripping at the seams, people are now aware it’s not thick hemp jumpers or felt hats in comparison to 2/3 years ago when people use to look at me sideways when I described my brand. What I would like to see is people taking small steps to incorporate it into their design fundamentals; buy the organic cotton, only buy what you need, do something with the left overs like accessories, use local manufacturing – it’s small steps like these that if we all worked in this way could have a huge impact.
RC: How would you compare ethical fashion now to how it was 5 years ago?
K: I think it has come a long way, especially with transparency within large brands, but there’s still a long way to go.
RC: How do you see the future for ethical fashion?
K: I hope people adopt it in everyday practice as both a designer and consumer.
RC: As well as your products, I love the creative direction of the photoshoots. Do you work with other people on these?
K: Initially I worked with a fabulous team in Scotland on my first two shoots; Molly Sheridan and Gabriella Silveira. However after leaving Scotland and having difficulty getting exactly what I wanted I went back to the drawing board and decided to do it all myself, as I had also studied photography in Art College in Ireland. So I shot, styled and made the clothes; it was exhausting but I was very happy with the results.
RC: What is your thought process behind the shoots?
K: I wanted to use real people, people who had something unique about them and a really strong personality that would shine through, it also helped having a great rapport with everyone I worked with. Each lookbook I’ve shot I’ve just woke up one night and been like OK I need to find an abandoned swimming pool or I need to find somewhere like a Victorian parlour and I’ve then spent weeks fine-tuning every detail until it’s perfect. I think its slightly obsessive but when I get a picture in my head I have to see it through.
RC: Your website shows that you take inspiration from forward-thinking icons of times gone by, which icons inspire you most and why?
K: I was that kid at school, while most people had boy bands on their folders I was cutting out pictures of Marilyn Manson and Dolly Parton, I don’t know why! My mother must have thought I was nuts, but I’ve always admired those larger than life personalities who pursued their true selves unapologetically. I still love and feel inspired by people like Leigh Bowery, Boy George, Marc Bolan, Marilyn Manson and David Bowie every day.
Kelly Dawn Riot has a traditional, artistic approach to ethical fashion today. If you’re interested in her work as both an artist and designer you can see her collections and find out more about Kelly Dawn Riot on her website – www.kellydawnriot.com