Randi Rahm Talks The Evolving Fashion Industry
1. Tell us a little bit about your position in the fashion industry. What is Randi Rahm’s journey?
RAHM: My own philosophy is that I do not consider myself part of the fashion industry. I am an artist who performs her work through fashion. I’m a classically trained conductor and concert pianist- I come to design through other creative outlets which have helped me innovate throughout my career. I actually started out and quilting for my newborn son. My friends began placing orders, and I moved into producing children’s dresses for a high-end New York boutique. My journey began there- and over 25 years later, I find myself one of the last remaining haute couture houses in the states.
2. What are the key elements to running a successful fashion brand nowadays?
RAHM: When you find out, let me know.
3. But you must know some secrets. Tell me a little about surviving as a female run, independent company for the past 25 years.
RAHM: I have seen the industry go through many cycles and evolutions, and I have myself evolved with it. I am happy to be working in a time period where the rest of the world is catching on to the importance of independent female run businesses, and inclusivity amongst consumers. This has been my professional platform since I began in the design world. We live in an age where inclusivity teeters on trend: for me, it has been the substance of my existence and should be the baseline from which we create and interact. The fashion industry is in such a state of rapid flux, I recognize how lucky I am to continue on where other stalwarts have had to sell or close. In my opinion, the industry is going back to the individual, to the artisans. Not because of the current trends, but because of the timelessness of fine art.
3. What is your perspective on the current state of the fashion industry, and how has it been changing over the years?
RAHM: The fashion industry, or the garment industry or garment center as we refer to it here in NYC, is changing quickly. This is largely because retail has changed so much. We’ve seen the closure of larger fashion houses and big retail chains. Fast fashion was it for a moment, but sustainability quickly came into question-both for manufacturers and consumers. The consumer has also changed, so you have to change and go with the times. People purchase clothes differently these days: renting, used clothes, up-cycled materials, are becoming more and more prevalent. Educated consumers do not solely purchase “to own”, a verb which has fallen out of vogue these days.
4. What stays the same?
RAHM: In my sector of the business, haute couture, people will always want the best of the best. The taste, touch, and smell of art-because the experience of the artistry behind it is important. Experiential consumers are taking over markets across artistic outlets. There is so much afoot in the world that it impacts everything: when our minds are on other challenges, art can seem somehow diminished in our cultural world view. But it is not. Fashion is important, because art is. They are not separate. Because timeless pieces can survive even the most trying times.
5. What is the biggest problem the industry is facing these days?
RAHM: I have been asking myself that for a while. Everyone in the industry is always talking about being "relevant! You have to be relevant!" This flimsy word: "relevant." It’s so momentary. It’s important to honor tradition in the industry and stay current, certainly. But whether we do it in the same trending formats is up for debate. Just look at the evolution of fashion weeks [in NYC] over the last few years: in a short time, it has evolved from Bryant Park, to Lincoln Center, to Spring Studios, to being dispersed across the city. That is why I refer to my work in “Evolutions,” not “Collections.” Fashion should evolve. It's alive. The industry has to be rethought.
5. What inspires you?
RAHM: It has never been about me, as a designer. It is about my clients and the real people who inspire my designs. It is the teeming variety of life here in NYC, and the individuals I have and continue to meet daily, who inspires me towards design.
7. What’s next for Randi Rahm?
RAHM: Even though I’m widely known for my bridal and evening haute couture,
I am particularly excited to take my couture menswear to the U.K this coming year. My work will be in the “Masculinities” exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (2021). I’m looking forward to being part of this retrospective. It is of huge interest of me to grow my collection, and an honor to be recognized for the variety of work that I do.
8. Any parting wisdom?
RAHM: Good fashion should be a reflection of yourself- man, woman, or any identity walking- it should be for yourself. Therefore, personal fashion never goes out of style. It is something that speaks to you as who you are, and makes you feel good. It is the experience of art through fashion that interests me. And no matter how much things change, or how quickly, there will always be those who seek these experiences. They will find the art.