Photography / Editorial / Print

As featured in Unfolded Magazine Issue 10

‘Are you dancing yet?’ is the name of the A/W12 collection from Riyka, a fledgling label based in London, UK and the brainchild of Rebecca Johnson. Born in the UK, from a young age she has always had an interest in fashion. That passion led her to graduate with a fashion degree from  Shenkar College of Design in Israel in 2008 and launch Riyka, which designs subtly sophisticated pieces that are based on simple shapes that can be worn at any time or place. Contrasting colours, angular shapes and a combination of diverse fabrics are the signature of the label.

To the background tune of roots reggae and ska music, in a small but airy studio in Dalston, AW12 was inspired by the gentleman of Bakongo, a clique of extraordinarily dressed dandies from the Congo. In the midst of war and poverty these men dress in three-piece suits, immaculate brogues and it’s this obsession and love for dress that captures hearts, as does their vibrant peacock colours."  Ska is a form of music that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae, combining elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues.

The use of navy, royal blue, bubblegum pink and purple colours on a teasing anagram of textures and fabrics such as leather, denim, cotton and jersey create a striking look that although at first looks simple, is quite complex in construction. Johnson's staple wardrobe pieces are a denim skirt and a hoodie, and there is a rebellious, girlish charm to the pieces, with navy pleated skirts and zipper sweats adding a youthful irreverence to the overall look.

Johnson describes fashion as "expressing your identity through what you wear. That is what most interests me. Something different and unique." On the sport-luxe trend, the label has been viewed as, Johnson says "it is not something we purposely sought out to be identified as. Personally I think clothes should be comfortable, be wearable. I have much more of a basic approach to fashion but it still has to have that something extra, an identifier. Shapes and colours are important." The collections are more innovative than the usual sport-luxe look, the geometric look is not harsh and sharp and the design is a minimalistic joy, fun and whimsical.

Africa features heavily as a source of inspiration and triangles are a recurrent theme. On the use of triangular shapes, Johnson says she "Loves the shape. The triangle symbolises perfection or me, it's about balance. When you mirror the shape, it creates a bit of a dynamic feeling which connects to the music we listen to." The signature geometric panelling and mirrored use of the triangle nods to the African textiles so coveted by the brand.

The collections use a palette of four colours, "There will always be navy and denim because those are my two favourite things" she says. From an ethical standpoint Johnson tells us the "All the denim is reclaimed. All the jersey for A/W is made in the UK. As we evolve, we are finding new ways to be ethical with our fabric sourcing. It is not easy, it means you have to work a little hard to be sustainable. Its part of the challenge really."

Johnson's husband Vedran takes care of most of the financial and business aspects of the brand. "He did an MA in business, but is also attracted to the whole ethos of the brand. We balance each other out," says Johnson and in terms of menswear and a dedicated line, Johnson notes "we have found that our pieces have been selling to guys. The growth is organic and we are looking at unisex options for the label." Currently stocked in their online store and in 69b, Shop 172, NOT JUST A LABEL and Behave Clothing, the label caters for "intelligent, expressive and restless souls who like to be comfortable and are constantly on the move" - so check out the imagery and videos and get your 'Ska' and 'Reggae' groove on.
Interview by Nardip Singh
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