Thu 16th December

Rue-L is Here to Embrace All Your Curves & Swerves

Text   Dino Bonacic
The future of fashion is flexible. At least in the Rue-L world of Celine Kreis and Suman Gurung, where jersey leads the way and the goal is to dress as many different bodies as possible.

There is an undeniable pressure on emerging fashion students to launch a brand straight out of college, even before a single instalment of their student loan has been paid off. But what does that look in reality? All those (inevitable) mistakes will be only yours to make, with no one else there to tell you otherwise. When Celine Kreis and Suman Gurung graduated from London College of Fashion four and a half years ago, they did exactly that – with a passionate idea and lots of youthful vigour, they birthed Rue-L. It was a brand merging traditional sportswear codes with a feminine approach to forms and silhouettes. What they did felt new and unique, yet totally in-tune with the casual revolution that was afoot. “We had very little experience and if I could go back, I would probably work for someone else first,” admits Celine. 

While their visual output was fresh and forward-thinking, it was the retail approach that ended up being the obstacle as they started selling wholesale and targeting retailers which felt in-tune with the brand. “We got into some really great stores, but it was hard to keep going as they were ordering limited units from us as an emerging brand. And then we had to create this production line which was next to impossible due to making most of the pieces ourselves as well as in local London factories. It meant the product ended up being really expensive.” This wasn’t really where the duo wanted to sit in the market – instead of a high-end, luxury side of the spectrum, they saw themselves as a contemporary brand accessible to a wider audience. So they did what all of us should do when facing a situation that isn’t ideal: they put things on pause. “We took some time to develop a new approach which meant that we’re selling direct-to-consumer, as well as releasing products instead of collections,” says Celine. And we all know what ensued next – *say it with me everyone* – a global pandemic.

So after mulling on their ideas for an extra year and a soft launch this past September, Rue-L is officially returning to the scene – steaming hot and worthy of your attention and your hard-earned cash. Introducing – the new vision of Rue-L

Rue-L Fall 21; Photographs by Rory Griffs

In one of the biggest shifts in their approach, as debuted with the currently shoppable Fall 2021 collection, Rue-L is making fewer styles in bigger quantities. This not only allowed them to make the price of the product approachable, but also to present a directional map of what their brand is all about. The key to this approach is working with jersey and embracing the textile’s flexibility and versatility. “I love how casual it can be and how easy it is to care for. Sizing is flexible as they aren’t rigid pieces – and that’s what we’re after,” notes Celine. As part of their communication strategy, Rue-L like to work with diverse digital creators on showcasing the potential of their garments which allows them to constantly introduce the brand to new audiences. In turn, this gives them an opportunity to run on their own time, instead of trying to keep the fast, seasonal pace set by the major houses. “It’s that old school idea that if you miss a season, you’re not a brand anymore – instead, we’re doing it our own way,” the designer says. 

'I Spy' video campaign, directed by Sammy King

Building the nostalgic-yet-modern aesthetic of Rue-L has very much been a joint effort of the two founders, each bringing their own skills and references to the mix. “We’re both good at completely different things. He’s incredible at pattern-making, while I don’t really have the patience for it. Suman’s focus… I’ve never seen anything like it,” admits Celine, explaining how she brings in the bigger picture of the 1990s inspirations behind the looks. Incidentally, their design process uniquely starts by developing the signature details before incorporating them into bodycon silhouettes. As evident in the latest collection and the overlapping cut-out detail that runs throughout, this approach results in work that is clear-cut and recognisable, yet doesn’t feel like it hits you over the head with the message. “We want you to be able to wear the pieces over and over again. When something is too much of a statement, people think ‘oh, that dress again.’ And while we are moving towards using more recycled fabrics, our ideas around sustainability are part of the design having longevity.’”

Referencing the imagery of femme fatales from the last century, anime superheroes and the absolute icon that is Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, the duo explores femininity in all different shapes and forms – quite literally, too. “We work with models with different body types in order to show the audience everyone can wear it. They might think ‘Oh, I’m a 14, that won’t look good on me.’ But if they see someone wearing it, then they feel like it’s for them. One thing is just talking about inclusivity, but being able to see a crease, a hump or bump is what actually makes the change.” Expanding on this mission, Rue-L are offering 1:1 virtual fittings as part of which they encourage direct communication with the consumer on finding their right size and understanding the fit.

For their first campaign film, officially released this December, Rue-L wanted to create a window into the attitude and atmosphere their clothes create. The final outcome is a three-minute spy flick that borrows references of intrigue and drama from films like Kill Bill or any of the 1990s editions of James Bond. With nods to the complexities of wearing bodycon garments in a voyeuristic world, it captures a cast of “bad bitches passing around a secret envelope” while confidently stomping around West London’s high streets. “Sammy King created the story and directed the film, but we really collaborated on this whole project. Everyone on the team was so up for it and put 150% into the story,” Celine says, admitting it felt important to trust the process and the director, allowing creativity to run wild and free. 

When asked about the near future of Rue-L, she tells there’s plenty to be excited about with the next collection planned for summertime and a particular focus on prints. But how does Celine see the brand’s long-term trajectory? “I would love to create an online-led business with a wide range of products, while also having a physical presence through pop-up spaces where Suman and I would be part of the story in assisting our customers to find their product and size. That’s really the goal.”

Follow Rue-L at @rue__l and rue-l.com.

Film drected by Sammy King
Brand: Rue-L by Celine Kreis & Suman Gurung 
DOP: Matthew Emvin Taylor 
Casting: Found Casting
Makeup: Eliza Clarke 
Hair: Norimitsu Goto
Models: Amber Hatchman, Justina Law, Momina & Veronica Raya
BTS photographs: Tarang Bharti