rue-l are trying to do something about activewear’s reputation
The label on why sweatpants are no longer a sign of defeat.
Photography Celine Kreis
Activewear has been a contentious topic in fashion for years, but in 2016 it feels like it's finally found its place. As traditional luxury houses like Chanel and Dior offer up sneakers for the couture customer and Vetements hoodies reign supreme, it's clear we're no longer just talking about spending all day in yoga pants and calling it a sartorial choice. And Karl Lagerfeld's infamous quote "Sweatpants are a sign of defeat" might no longer ring true.
It was this shift in attitudes that saw two London College of Fashion graduates bring the seemingly incompatible worlds of tailoring and activewear together. Celine Kreis and Suman Gurung launched their label Rue-L last year, an impressive four months after graduation. Defined as streetwear for women, the label is influenced by their urban surroundings and diverse upbringings across Nepal, Singapore, Switzerland and Australia. Before they had time to launch their website they were receiving attention and orders from around the world and had secured Nadia Lee Cohen to shoot their campaign.
We caught up with co-creative director Celine about balancing practicality, class and cheese. She also shared some of her favourite personal shots of her pals wearing their designs around the world.
So you guys are currently in the process of moving from Paris back to London. Neither you nor Suman are French but the label does feel connected to that culture.
I find that because we're not French we can do that, we can kind of put our twist on it. Make it a bit cliché, a little bit cheesy, which I kind of like. I hope when I go back to London we don't lose that. Living in Paris really influenced our product because everyone is quite smart. You don't wear a grey, baggy, dirty tracksuit out to the corner store.
Activewear has been such a debated and discussed term in recent years, why did you decide you wanted to start your fashion career in a less traditional design area?
I felt the time for this kind of brand was right. Then in January Sumun came here (Paris) and we started on the first collection. We both wanted to work with the photographer Nadia Lee Cohen, and we could only get her for a certain date in February. So the collection we shot we literally did in a month. We were hesitant to start production and then as we started photographing the samples we got a bit of a following.
We've touched on how global the brand feels, do you see that as being reflective of your own backgrounds?
I think being from Singapore there is a lot of luxury clothing. So with that comes a standard of packaging and presentation. Even though our label is activewear that's kind of influenced the execution in terms of the little details. Australia is very laid back, very chill, which is what we want to do, and London is quite a mix. You can wear what you want, no one really looks twice, and it gives us that push to be more experimental with colour. With Sumun from Nepal comes this craft, the handwork. So everything [in the collection] is actually fully lined, top-stitched and finished pretty immaculately.
Design-duo's usually divide themselves between the creative and the business, how does it work for you?
Sumun is extremely creative, we both are, but if it was up to him it could go on and on and on. So I kind of reign it in to what's actually wearable, what will sell.
Finally, one thing you've learned in the last 12 months?
Patience. Patience. Patience.
Text Hilary Bourke
Photography Celine Kreis