Designer of WYMANN.
THE INSPIRATION TALK
HELLO BEAUTIFUL RAQUEL! TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT GROWING UP IN SWITZERLAND...WHAT WERE YOU LIKE WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG ?
Hello! I was born and raised in Switzerland to a Swiss mom and a Spanish father. Growing up in Switzerland was obviously very nice because you have a great outdoor life, and playing in the forest gives the kids a great sense of independence, the great education system… But having a Spanish father, I was always feeling a little bit foreigner already. My name is not a typical Swiss name, people even found it sometimes difficult to pronounce it. Let’s say that Switzerland is like a bubble, if your family isn’t the « standard » you can easily feel « different » and as my latin roots are very strong in the way I always talk a lot, the way I communicate with people in a very tactile way, I very often felt different, not totally Swiss and not totally Spanish… I am from the world ! Only when I got older did I understand it was actually pretty cool.
WHAT WERE YOU DREAMING OF DOING WHEN YOU GROW UP ?
I always wanted to be an astronaut. Because as I kid, I was thinking « imagine if you can see the earth from the moon », you know like a far-away place, I collected articles about it… I was fascinated. And then when I became a "girl-girl", I wanted to become a princess of course...
AND WHEN DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU WERE INTERESTED IN FASHION ?
Very late, but it seems that all my life I have been pushed towards that direction, only I wasn’t realizing it at the time. My aunt was a model, my cousin is a model, I participated in my first show when I was 5 years old and I remember that we could chose between being paid or keeping the clothes ; I always preferred the clothes!
Unfortunately in Switzerland it is generally not very encouraged to pursue creative careers. I never related to being a creative person. My sister was a very good painter, and so she became the creative person in the family. Plus she used to mock the way I was drawing.
But then in my teens I started modeling which was great as it allowed me to travel a lot, and to party a lot! I loved the parties (I was a bad model as I loved the parties too much)… So eventually my parents told me that I could continue to model on the side but that I had to study something “real”. There is a word in Swiss-German to describe it : “rächt” (literally “right”), which is also the word for “law”. So I thought : “what could be more “right”/ accurate than the law?”. That is how I chose to study law. Plus the law university was next to my house. And above all I could also envision a great career of diplomat, travelling around the world. Travel was always on my mind. Actually there is another word in Swiss-German that doesn’t exist in Portuguese, which is the opposite of “saudade” : “Sehnsucht”. It is a word meaning the longing of something and always kind of relates to a place. I always had that feeling inside of me.
Anyway so I did my bachelor’s degree in law, I was always a good student, so I kept going on because it was easy but it was never a true passion. But again, being creative was not an option, or at least I didn’t realize it was. None of my friends were creative, everyone was rather aiming to become a lawyer or a doctor… The creative world was not part of my life.
And then when I came on holidays to Brazil for the first time and met my Brazilian husband (editor's note: Filipe Raposo) who is a creative and being in contact with this world, I started to realize I had a good eye too and I shouldn’t look down on that part of me. I learned to look at it as something positive. And after a year of dating and going back and forth between Europe and Brazil, I had to decide where to live together, I actually wanted to go to Berlin and start studying Communication which was a step closer to embracing the more creative aspiring life I was attracted to, but afraid of assuming… And as I was having this conversation with Filipe, he suggested I should move to Rio. Even though by that time I had already succeeded in growing an amazing network of friends, I was not considering Brazil because I couldn’t practice the law…
But then Filipe, again, just boldly assumed that I was going to study fashion because I was already drawing all the time ; when we were at a café or at the beach, anywhere actually, I was inspired to draw without even noticing it… Obviously I denigrated my drawings but he then said : “Raquel, trust me, my work as a creative director is to see when people have talent”.
And that was it. I finally decided it was time to embrace my real passion and settle in Rio to pursue the creative side of me through fashion.
TELL US ABOUT THE VERY BEGINNING. HOW DID YOU START YOUR OWN BUSINESS AS A YOUNG PERSON?
There were two key moments.
I started to work in Fashion as an intern while I was still studying, and one month after I started, the junior designer fell sick so I was promoted to replace her, which happened really fast and came with a whole lot of responsibilities. I learned to be a designer, working. I didn’t really learn it theoretically, as the courses at university here were really basic. Especially coming from Switzerland and Law which was so intense, I didn’t feel fulfilled with the studies here. So this new position came out perfectly. During the day I was working and at night I took evening courses at university. So I worked in a Haute-Couture place which was great because I learned to understand how the construction of the clothes should be. And because of this knowledge I had learned, the very detailed oriented techniques, I was offered a job as a designer for fashion show pieces, which are not necessarily the items sold in stores but are essential to make the brand appealing to the journalists. We called it the “filet-mignon” of the collection because you could just do what was beautiful. After that, I was hired by another brand for the same position, only the people had a different approach of it and wanted me to create a ready-to-wear collection out of these runway items but I knew that the clientele of this brand was too different from the one attending the fashion shows, it would not work out. So I shared my thoughts with the boss of the brand who told me that if he needed me to pull out an “ugly” collection because it was what was selling, I would need to do it… That’s when I knew that I wouldn’t be happy working for someone else anymore and was the first key moment.
The second key moment was when I first arrived in Brazil, and I went to one of these spiritual houses. My Portuguese was very poor but I still went up to the spiritual guide, who took my hand and said “you work with your hands, right?”, as it was my first experience visiting that kind of place, I was very cynical and said “of course I do but who doesn’t?”, and she insisted “you work in a blue house, right?”, there I became a bit less cynical and said “yeah, maybe”, and there she said “your talent is to make women beautiful, you have to work with women. Have you ever thought about owning your own business?”. And even though my Swiss – very practical mind- took over, I always had the idea at the back of my head.
IT IS FUNNY HOW BOTH THESE EXPERIENCES (THE SPIRITUAL GUIDE AND YOUR HUSBAND ENCOURAGING YOU TO EMBRACE THAT CREATIVE SIDE) EMPOWERED YOU TO FINALLY LOOK AT IT POSITIVELY AND ACTUALLY INFLUENCED YOU TO TAKE THE STEP OF CREATING YOUR OWN BUSINESS MAYBE EARLIER THAN YOU WOULD HAVE WITHOUT THEIR ADVICES…
Yes. I actually believe that everything that happens to you is a result of your own wishes and sometimes we are too shy to trust our own guts.
WHAT KIND OF STORIES DO YOU WANT TO TELL THROUGH YOUR BRAND, WYMANN, NOW THAT YOU ARE YOUR OWN BOSS ?
I really want it to be an honest brand. If I do something I want to do it perfectly. From the beginning I wanted to focus on the social part of sustainability. In all those places I worked at, I met these seamstresses who were never thought of highly because here it is not a job you value, they are not proud to say they are seamstresses. Whereas I think it is such a beautiful Art : you take something flat and make a shape out of it.
IT'S FUNNY WHAT YOU SAY NOW OF THESE SEAMSTRESSES WHEN YOU WERE YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES BEFORE YOUR HUSBAND MADE YOU REALIZE YOUR CREATIVE SIDE SHOULD BE CELEBRATED.
(Laughs) Yeah exactly. And my team of seamstresses is the same since almost the beginning, especially my main seamstress who I met on my first job and with whom it was love at first sight and the other one who I encouraged to go studying so that she could become a pattern maker. This makes me really happy. I actually always try to explain to my team that I don’t care how they organize their day if at the end of it the work is done. It is important for me that they feel emancipated and happy. So these are the kind of stories I want to tell.
DO YOU FEEL YOU SOMETIMES (OR ALREADY) HAVE HAD TO SACRIFICE SOMETHING FOR YOUR CAREER ?
Yes and I realized very recently that I expected so much of myself that I sometimes could not be the friend or the wife I wanted to be. But the biggest sacrifice was with myself: I didn’t allow myself to have enough balance between my work life and my personal life. But of course when you are your own boss you feel obliged to sometimes sacrifice your personal life in favor of your work, because you have a responsibility towards your employees.
WHAT’S ONE THING THAT YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF?
I am a control freak but I came to understand that it is all about the energies ; if I’m happy everything goes with the flow very smoothly, if I’m not so happy something will be stuck. If I look back now, every time I went with my heart, willing to learn and listen, the things went just fine. That is also why I think WYMANN can be a co-creation brand with its clients as nowadays people want to connect, and I want to connect.
WHAT IS YOUR LAST SUCCESS AND WHAT IS YOUR NEXT SUCCESS GOAL ?
This very difficult… I struggle with my Swiss mentality, because nothing is never good enough. Like I am never entirely satisfied with my work, which is the proper of creative people : once they are fully satisfied they stop because nothing would out stand their last creation! So I have to loosen up a little bit to enjoy the “successes”. But I would say the fact that I created my business two years ago, that I sell in different countries, that I am able to have a team, and –it is really hard to say for me but- I tell myself that I was able to do a lot and that this is kind of what “success” looks like to me. And the next success is having my own space, the way I want it, allowing me to receive people, to let them into the universe of WYMANN.
WHAT IS THE FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB ?
The moment when suddenly the idea comes! I always say that inspiration is like a wild animal that attacks you from behind. It actually often comes when I’m really loosing up: a lot of my ideas came while I was dancing at night!
SO THIS BRINGS US BACK TO WHEN YOU WERE A “BAD” MODEL PARTYING TOO MUCH! IT ACTUALLY FED YOUR INSPIRATION!
Yes, I think it is all about the moment when you are ready to welcome the inspiration. So this is like magic to me. And of course the moment when your design comes to life and you discover the sample for the first time. It’s like Christmas!
IN WHAT SENSE DOES RIO DE JANEIRO INFLUENCE YOUR WORK?
I think being European but living in Brazil, I opened myself to colors and also the way I adapt to the hot weather and show more skin here, so I guess I would say that I have a more sensual approach to clothes. And also the light is very inspiring.
DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE IN THREE WORDS.
I think its minimal-maximal! (laughs). I would actually really like to think of myself as a minimal person but I’m not. It’s two words sorry (laughs).
I SEE THE SWISS SIDE COMING BACK HERE! YOU MAKE BOLD STYLE CHOICES, LIKE WEARING A VERY SEXY SEE-THROUGH CROP TOP WITH LARGE « MOMMY » PANTS. DO YOU FEEL YOU OWN YOUR FEMININITY THROUGH THIS STYLE ?
Yes I think I’m still on my way to really own my femininity and having been working as a model since a very young age I never really knew what was the body I was happy with. I never liked being too sexy, like for example as I am very tall, I have a lot of legs. A lot, lot, lot! So if I wear something very short, people (and most importantly men) just stare at my legs and this is something that makes me very uncomfortable so I like to reveal but not too much. So I guess my style today helps me do that.
YOU LIVE IN RIO, BUT TRAVEL TO NEW YORK TO MEET YOUR HUSBAND WHO PARTLY LIVES THERE AND TO SPAIN WHERE YOUR PARENTS LIVE. HOW DOES YOUR LIFESTYLE INFLUENCE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE AND HOW HAS IT EVOLVED?
I think every place has its particular traditional clothing or trends… So of course things that I create unconsciously come from what I see in those places. For example I do a lot of pieces with fabrics to wrap around the body, like very playful… and when I was in Spain last time I saw my abuelita (grand-mother) wearing these Spanish working dresses which have this fabric she wraps around her and suddenly realized my inspiration came from that! So I guess every time I travel I see those inspiring things that eventually become references that I use in my work.
WHEN IT COMES TO STYLE, WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT: COMFORT, BEAUTY, ORIGINALITY OR INNOVATION?
I'm not the kind of designer who likes to re-invent. For me what is important is that a woman feels beautiful. And in Fashion there was always this belief that something comfortable couldn’t be sexy. And I’m completely against that. I think we live in a very fast world and we need clothes to adapt to that pace. For example my pieces are very adaptable to the different moments of your day: my playsuit can be worn as a swimming suit at the beach, but then also as a sexy bodysuit to go out at night. I am very practical. I hate thinking about the logistics. I want to feel comfortable wherever I go and also traveling so much I started hating making my suitcase and thinking about my outfits… I want it to be fast and efficient and these pieces help me not to worry about packing too many things but still have a lot of possibilities on how to wear them. I design what I need actually and I am happy that other people can relate to that.
ON YOUR INSTAGRAM, YOU CLAIM THAT THE FUTURE IS FEMALE, CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW YOU SEE IT ? AND HOW ARE YOU WILLING TO CONTRIBUTE PERSONALLY?
I think we grew up in a time where feminism was seen as something “bad”, meaning that feminists were perceived as anti-feminine actually and I think now our generation is proud to be feminine, we are proud to be women. I love being a woman. We now can say we are feminist and modern but also like doing our nails and wear pretty clothes… Just embracing the fact that we are feminine, female and different than men. It is great to know what you are, and I think, that, to me, is being feminist. On my instagram, I like to think I am talking to a friend. I try to always look at the positive side of things because I think that if you are happy then you feel more comfortable with yourself and in your position as a female and more generally I think it’s just more fun to live positively.
DO YOU THINK BEING A WOMAN IS A POWER ?
We’re still living in a context where people think women are the weaker sex or we are more likely to need help because we are weaker… And to be honest sometimes I use it like when I don’t want to carry my own luggage and it’s stupid but more seriously what better power is there than giving life?! Being a mother is the fountain of everything and having our “cycle” links us to what life is about : cycles! This gives me power because it helps me understand the rest of my surroundings: nature is a cycle, relationships are a cycle, everything is a cycle!
YOU LIVE IN BRAZIL, ONE OF THE MOST DIVERSE COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. WHY ISN’T THE FASHION INDUSTRY HERE MORE DIVERSE ?
First of all I believe in niches. The country is very big here and there is space for every kind of ideas. There are a lot of new designers who have really interesting work but in Brazil we are still struggling with its past of being colonized. So until today, everything coming from abroad is considered better. This obviously affects the self-confidence of Brazilians in their creativity and aesthetics. But it is something that I feel is slowly changing. For example in fashion there are so many cool brands which don’t have the money to invest in tools to spread their word, and the powerful medias like Vogue or other fashion magazines won’t talk about them if they don’t buy advertising pages. It is crazy because when you open a Brazilian magazine you only see editorials with Gucci, Chanel, Prada and all these international brands which cost a fortune to purchase here and will never appeal to “normal” people here as they cannot afford those brands, and never show what Brazilian creativity has to offer. And this is a shame because they have so many great references which people from abroad would like to know about. Even the bloggers, they are not encouraging the young Brazilian designers, they prefer to show the international well-known brands and play it safe.
EVEN IF THE MEDIAS CONVEY THE SAME IMAGES, DO YOU THINK YOU CAN OPENLY CELEBRATE YOUR INDIVIDUALITY HERE IN BRAZIL?
Brazil is such a huge country that it is difficult to talk for everyone. I think there are a lot of people trying to show their own style, but at the same time they are also holding on a lot. For example when I sometimes dress up, my friends compliment me but then say that they could never do it… So I ask them: "why not?". They always come up with excuses such as “I work downtown” or “I don’t work in fashion”… They somehow don’t want the attention they think will draw from wearing those items. I want to wear high heals sometimes, I want to wear lipstick, I think it is something beautiful and it is not about wanting to show around nor attract attention.
WHICH WOMEN DO YOU ADMIRE AND WHY ? DO YOU HAVE A MUSE, STYLE OR LIFESTYLE WISE?
I love Yoko Ono. Because I think as a woman she suffered so much from false pre-conceived opinion about her. First of all, before being the wife of a Beatle, she is an incredible artist, really. Whenever I see her work, it touches me, it makes me think, that’s what art is about. Second of all, she is not famous for being beautiful, actually people even call her a witch because she’s just a woman who doesn’t care about it so much and even like that she was married to one of the greatest person ever. She just cares about being herself, doing her thing and not caring about what others think. And again her artwork is amazing.
Style wise, it changes all the time… But I think what stays consistent is my taste for grannies! I like the very eccentric ones, you know, with the clothes and the big bracelets… I like chic, old women. I love them!
WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW ?
I just got Yoko Ono’s (yes again her!) book titled “grapefruit” where she wrote recipes of art works, so before I go to sleep I read one and then think about it. And then I also read a lot about tarot because I am learning how to play tarot cards.
WHAT MAKES YOU NOSTALGIC ?
When I see my friends on Instagram enjoying the European summer, aka the real summer! After all these years I still think that summer is July/August and not January/February as it is in Latin America. Oh and friends of course. And parents (laughs).
WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX WHEN YOU'RE NOT WORKING?
Not making plans! Just waking up, making breakfast – I love making breakfast!
OH TELL US ABOUT YOUR BREAKFAST ROUTINE !
These days I do the “lemon therapy”: the 1st day you take one lemon in a glass of water before eating anything else, the 2nd day you take two lemons in a glass of water… until the 10th day where you squeeze 10 lemons in a glass of water and then on the 11th day you reduce to 9 lemons and gradually go down to 1 lemon… I do that two to four times a year because it cleanses you! Whenever I am not doing the big therapy, I just drink one lemon juice and I try not to drink too much coffee and rather replace it with tea, and I eat tapioca, everyday! When I'm on a vegan trip I eat it with hummus or avocado and tomatoes.
WHAT’S THE COOLEST THING YOU’VE LEARNED IN THE LAST WEEK AND YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE WITH OTHER WOMEN?
It was today actually! I took a lesson of Afrovibe with a friend of mine who created it and is a very inspiring woman. The first time she told me about it two years ago, I said “sure I’ll come” and never went until today! I never thought it would be so hard! Super cardio work out and believe me I hate sports, it is actually really fun! You have the music with Rihanna, you are shaking it. Even if you try it just once, it is really fun! I was very proud of myself.
YEAH AND RIO IS KNOWN FOR ITS SPORTS CULTURE…
Exactly, everyone works out, if you don’t you feel guilty! Plus with the beach all year around, you are exposed, so it is not a surprise that this is such a big part of the culture here.
WHAT SONG WILL ALWAYS MAKE YOU WANT TO DANCE?
Heart of Glass from Blondie! And of course Beyoncé’s crazy in love, I have to confess!
THANK YOU RAQUEL!