rue-l: the cross-cultural new brand changing activewear’s reputation

The label proving why sweatpants are no longer a sign of defeat.

by Hilary Bourke
04 November 2016, 6:45pm

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. Karl Lagerfeld's infamous quote "Sweatpants are a sign of defeat" might no longer ring true.

It was this shift in attitudes that inspired two London College of Fashion graduates to 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 the pair's 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 favorite personal shots of her pals wearing Rue-l's designs around the world.

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?
In Singapore, there is a lot of luxury clothing, and 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; 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 color. 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 duos usually divide themselves between the creative and the business aspects of running a brand. 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. 

What's one thing you've learned in the last year?
Patience. Patience. Patience.



Text Hilary Bourke
Photography Celine Kreis

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