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Interview: Patricia Haywood on creating fun, flirty fashion label Patricia Rox

Lawyer and fashion entrepreneur Patricia Haywood is a free spirit who loves life and seeks out colourful experiences. We find out more about her new label, Patricia Rox, which includes lovingly handcrafted clothing, scarves and enamel jewellery, amidst the lush foliage of Rochester Park.

Tell us about your background in fashion and law, and how you came to combine the two.
Growing up in Jamaica, I was always interested in making things. We didn’t have malls and couldn’t afford new clothes all the time, so we learnt to make our own.

Though I studied fashion at school in Jamaica, I still wasn’t sure what to do with my career. Where I’m from, people didn’t consider fashion much of a career; and as I was the first person in my family to study and graduate, I had no one to advise me.

One day, we had a career event at school and a lawyer came in to speak to us, and the whole job sounded so glamorous – the court proceedings, the cases and the remuneration.    So I studied corporate commercial and banking law, and then did graduate studies in taxation, business and fashion law in Paris. As fashion is such a big industry there, there was a lot to learn with respect to local companies and licensing laws, and that’s where my strong interest in fashion law began.

Following this, I moved to New York to further my studies at Fordham Law School, focusing on intellectual property, counterfeit and copyright law and much more.

From all this experience, I started my company, Asian Fashion Law, giving legal advice to smaller brands and designers. Bigger companies can afford to use major law firms, but I found my niche working with smaller firms and offering more affordable services. It’s ideal for me because I’m able to blend my passion with my professional qualifications.

How did the concept for the Patricia Rox label come about?
I definitely didn’t come up with a master plan overnight! I started making garments in small runs from remnants of Italian fabric, and people liked them. But in the end I couldn’t supply the demand. That’s why I decided to do something on a larger scale.

I like to think about the brand creation as me going full circle and coming back to my roots. Fashion was always the very beginning for me; I have always expressed myself through bright hues and shades – even in court! I remember I wore red shoes once, which was a big no-no. After getting into trouble a few times, I switched to wearing colourful scarves that I could quickly take off.

Patricia looking lovely in one of her label's billowy dresses
Patricia looking lovely in one of her label’s billowy dresses

 

As a designer, what inspires you?
On the whole, I’m inspired simply by living and doing things. I’ve had quite a colourful and varied life, and that’s definitely injected into the brand. I believe everyone should live in colour, not in black and white.

I feel we impose too many restrictions on what we can or cannot wear; in nature, it’s the complete opposite. I take a lot of inspiration from the freedom of the natural world. I love to go diving, and see fish and wildlife in beautiful colours and patterns. Flowers don’t care if they’re blooming next to a clashing colour! I’ve also taken inspiration from my travels, so you’ll find influences from African culture and Indonesian batik in my pieces.

Where do you source your materials?
We source them from Europe and Asia, and being based in Singapore we’re close to the production. We use only viscose and natural fabrics, like silks, cottons and linens. Our prints are hand-drawn and then digitally printed onto the fabric.

You’re a big supporter of local artisans and quality craftsmanship; how have you incorporated this into the label?
All of our garments are handmade and our embroidery is also done by hand. Even the garment-cutting is done one piece at a time. I tell my producers to ensure everything lines up the same way, as I want the best quality for our customers. We produce in both Italy and Indonesia, and even our producer in Indonesia is Italian, so there’s a seamless understanding of our quality expectations.

Our suppliers also work with a number of big brand names in the industry. On the one hand, this is great for the quality of our clothes; on the other, it means the price of our products is that little bit higher. What also adds value is that I work directly with my producers – I know them personally and I visit them often.

This is extremely important to me because of the horror stories you hear about the manufacturing industry in some countries – and with my legal background, I take the human rights aspect very seriously. I make sure to work with factories where the workers are paid a fair wage and have a clean working environment. When we put something out, the value doesn’t just reflect the workmanship but also our promise to work with ethical producers who treat their staff well.

Rocking a bright, vibrant dress that matches her colourful personality
Rocking a bright, vibrant dress that matches her colourful personality

 

We love your floaty shapes and flattering designs. Is this one of your main design goals?
I consciously try to make my garments easy for women of different shapes and sizes to wear. I wanted to create a womenswear brand that could be worn anywhere at any time. These pieces can just as easily be worn layered and belted over tights or jeans as they can at a holiday resort or for simply running about town. I wear them everywhere, even to meetings! They’re very versatile and easy to travel with too.

Can you envision a particular celebrity wearing your clothing?
I like to think of the Patricia Rox woman as a medium-maintenance woman who likes nice things, and likes to know where products come from. I love Beyoncé; she’s a strong woman who wears lots of colours and prints; Michelle Obama would be another one. For me, though, every woman who appreciates what we’re doing is a rock star. I believe in treating everyone the same, no matter who they are or where they come from.

Do you follow seasonal trends?
On a personal level, I’m not very trend-led, and I want my garments to last for several seasons. When I was growing up, we had special clothes we wore only for certain occasions; I don’t like to live like that now. If I want to wear a gown to pick up the groceries, I’ll do it!

Despite working in fashion, I don’t shop all the time. I just buy a few pieces I love and I wear them all the time, but I vary the styling. I advocate investing in quality pieces that you can work around.

 

This embroidered number is perfect for island escapades
This embroidered number is perfect for island escapades

 

Does the Patricia Rox brand reflect this?
Yes. We don’t follow the traditional mould of four collections per year, because people don’t shop like that here, mainly due to the climate. I don’t want our customers to feel they can’t wear a piece because it’s “last season”.

We do make our own prints in-house, so it’s easy for us to introduce something new. As our team doesn’t have to wait for fabric houses to release their offerings for the season, we can make independent design decisions.

Tell us about your sizing.
We offer extra-small, small, medium, large and one-size garments across our collections. The letter sizes correspond to Italian sizing, which means the cut is just a little bit sleeker.

The reason certain pieces might be pricier is because of the care taken with the garments during their manufacturing. When you work with skilled artisans, each product takes on a little individuality of its own.

I believe in sending out good karma with everything I do, and to each person who buys our products; this happens when the people who craft them are doing it because they want to. We do our hand-embroidery in Indonesia, where it is part of the tradition and culture. Young Indonesian woman learn to weave while they’re growing up. They’re not forced into doing it, as they may be in some other parts of the world, where they get shut into a warehouse to work in poor conditions.

What’s in store for Patricia Rox for 2015?
We’re continuing to build up the website. I also want to continue our membership drive, and I hope to grow and branch out into women’s lifestyle products, too.

Above all, through the label I want to foster creativity and create a community of culturally aware people who are conscious of where products come from – food, clothes and furniture, for example – and concerned with ecological and ethically responsible manufacturing.

 

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