Launching a brand once is brave. Reviving it and going again is fearless. Two years after Ralph & Russo went into administration, Tamara Ralph is back with an eponymous company and an even stronger will to succeed as well as a following of devoted clients.
In a discussion with Emirates Woman, Tamara talks about being ready to take on a challenge and having the fearlessness to build again.
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What do the first 30 mins of your day look like, your morning routine?
My partner and I normally bring our two-and-a-half-yearold daughter, Haliya, into our bed for morning cuddles before we get out of bed. We then get up and, as I normally fast in the morning, I start my day with sea minerals and green tea before doing Pilates and fitting in some meditation before I go about getting ready for the day.
You’ve launched a brand once. What gave you the fearlessness to start again and this time what knowledge are you starting out with that you didn’t have first time around?
I would say that my being fearless in starting anew stemmed from a combination of things. Firstly, designing and creating is really in my blood, and I think that – deep down – I knew I would start again, but this time on my own terms. It is truly my passion and my purpose, and I can never imagine doing anything different. My incredible clients are very loyal, and I have stayed close with them over the years, and they were constantly asking me when I would launch again, and if I could still design pieces for them. This definitely made me feel supported and also empowered as I worked towards launching my own namesake brand. Finally, but most importantly, having my daughter, Haliya, gave me a renewed sense of purpose and absolutely gave me the courage to move on. I gave birth to her during the hardest period of my life, which really led to me finding an inner strength that I did not know I had. She has been instrumental in me launching again, and I ultimately want to set the example for her that you can pick yourself back up, learn from challenging times, and move on with grace, confidence and unwavering strength. In terms of what knowledge, I have now, that perhaps I did not before? Going through such a difficult time certainly shaped the way I think and how I approach my own business now. I have matured as an individual, a designer, a creator and an entrepreneur, and know now how crucial it is to have your own vision and be uncompromising in ensuring that this is protected and that you stay true to yourself, and also being purposeful and intentional in surrounding yourself with the right team who believe in you and share in this vision. As well, I feel it is so important to spend the time laying the foundation for the brand.
Can you define the DNA of this brand?
The DNA of the brand is two-fold. The ethos is very much centred around the notion of bold, and modern, femininity and strength. The brand is infused with a sense of fearless
creativity that pushes the boundaries of couture, with each piece designed to be a piece of art that is cohesive in relation to the wider collection, but that also stands alone and tells an individual story. The brand also harnesses the power of craftsmanship and savoirfaire, that are the main pillars of haute couture, brought to life through designs that have been intentionally created to stand the test of time.
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Why did you decide to show at Paris Couture for the debut of your new collection?
Paris has forever been enormously important to me, and it was always going to be where I debuted my new brand and first collection. Paris is in many ways where it all began, so I suppose – in a sense – my journey has come full circle. When I was with Ralph & Russo, we launched the brand with couture, and it was the soul of the company. We were only a few years in when I became the first Creative Director from the UK in nearly a century deemed eligible by The Chambre Syndicale De La Haute Couture to show during Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week. As such, it has a very special place in my heart, and I find the magic of the city incredibly inspiring. I think Paris is also synonymous with haute couture.
Have you found your client base has been supportive?
I am so fortunate to have an incredible base of clients on a global scale that have been beyond supportive, both in my previous venture and over the past few years that have led up to this moment. As I said before, they never stopped asking me to design pieces, and have done nothing but encourage me to begin again. Their support has really helped to fuel my creativity and has played a huge role in getting me to where I am now. I will always be grateful for that.
When else have you had to be fearless in life and how did this materialise?
I think that picking up and moving from my native Australia to London all those years ago was fearless. I left behind family, friends and a comfortable home to live in a foreign city and country in which I had no established network. It was starting from square one in every sense of the word, but my dreams and my passion ultimately fuelled me in having the strength and confidence to do so.
What is your biggest strength?
I very much abide by the mantra that ‘the only limits you have in life are those you place on yourself’. I have had to start again more than once in my life, and as such feel my biggest strength is my ability to move forward with relentless positivity and the right energy, always thinking ahead to the future and where I ultimately want to see myself years from now. My biggest strength is also my daughter, Haliya. She has given me so much, and in turn I feel motivated and empowered to be a role model for her; my strength will shape her.
How do you approach scaling without compromising on quality?
I think it is so important – especially when starting a new brand – to focus on laying the foundation properly first and foremost, whilst also staying true to the ethos of one’s brand. I have some exciting partnerships to be announced in the not-too-distant future that really lay the foundation for the wider vision of the future of the brand, they have been considered carefully, thoughtfully and strategically to ensure that they are right opportunities for the brand that certainly afford me the opportunity to scale but without straying from who I am at my core as a designer.
What has been the biggest challenge to date and how did you overcome it?
Without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest challenge to date has been getting through the past few years and the many challenges and obstacles I have faced as a result, giving birth to my wonderful daughter during this very difficult time, and coming out on the other side to start my own brand. So much happened all at the same time – some terrible, some wonderful – but ultimately, I overcame it with the support of my loved ones, the strength I gained from having my daughter, and from believing in myself and my own inner courage.
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Have you had any mentors in life and if so, what knowledge did they impart?
My grandmother and my mother. I was born into four generations of fashion, design and haute couture within my family, and so I discovered my passion for couture — and fashion generally – at a very young age. As a child, I was quite taken by my mother’s fashion sketches and the library of patterns and fabrics that she had in the house; I would often sit in the room and create pieces myself, and I even started sketching from a very young age. My grandmother noticed my love of fashion and gave me my first mannequin to drape styles on and taught me all the haute couture techniques from her career as a couturier. From there, my passion only continued to grow, and I never really considered doing anything else. I was very fortunate to be under the expert guidance of my grandmother, who ensured every last detail was created to perfection. She was known to unpick every stitch I had made, encouragingme to start over and learn from my mistakes; I carry this with me to this day, and am forever grateful for her encouragement and the discipline she instilled in me. All the techniques she taught me, I instilled in my atelier team – who are all still with me to this day. My mother has always supported my vision and encouraged me in my career and attends every show of mine, she is my rock. I have also been very fortunate to have incredible leaders in the luxury industry as business mentors, who have played a big role in shaping my new business.
What is a kindness you’ve received or a lesson you’ve learned that you’d like to pay forward?
Having the support of my business mentors in my new venture has been so touching for me. They have helped shape the new business, and it is ultimately something I’d like to extend to new entrepreneurs and women in business to empower them in their own careers.
This is The Fearlessness Issue – what does being fearlessmean to you?
Being fearless, to me, means knowing and staying true to yourself and your purpose, and being bold and unapologetic whilst also having the confidence to live life on your own terms, both personally and professionally.
October – The Fearlessness Issue with Chaumet – Download Now
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