Childrenswear Designer Rachel Riley On Her Royal Connections


It’s nearly a decade since Rachel Riley’s international profile rocketed after Prince George was photographed wearing the label’s dungarees on the royal tour of New Zealand in 2014. Plenty has happened since then for the Bucks local

Were you a creative child?

I was a good child and liked to please. My sister was ‘artistic’ so I was labelled as ‘academic’. I was very good at making things and loved to learn needlework and dressmaking when I started secondary school aged 11. I would make clothes for my dolls, my baby sister, my mum’s friend who had a little girl, and as a teenager I made all my own clothes. By the time I started university I had a wardrobe of things I had made!


When did you start making your own clothes, and was there any inkling it would be a future business for you?

As a child I never thought of being a designer, but once I started modelling (in Paris for the summer between my first and second years studying Social Anthropology at Cambridge), I saw what it meant to run a ‘fashion house’ and met many designers that I was then interested to emulate. 

How do you look back on your time as a model?

I have great memories of this time. I funded myself through university working as a model and it was a great adventure too! It took me to lots of wonderful places and I met some fantastic people along the way. It was a very fun time to be a model in those days. I know how lucky I was to be in the right place at the right time.

Did that period of your life give you a real insight into the fashion industry?

Absolutely. I knew I always wanted to do something in fashion and working as a model I got to see first-hand how the design process works. I could experience the joy it brought, not only us as models wearing the collections, but also the people who ended up buying them. 

Gdr Pk D

As your family grew, were you making clothes in the background?

When my children were small, I used to always make their clothes for them. I love needlecraft and smocking as well as knitting, so I always found it enormously rewarding making their clothes for them.

How would you describe the Rachel Riley style?

Joyful, timeless, well-made, luxurious, innovative and beautiful comfort!

How important has your Royal connections been to your company?

It’s been wonderful to see the smallest members of the Royal family wear our designs on so many occasions and it’s certainly helped support the revival of traditional British childrenswear, something which has translated across the Atlantic in countries like the USA and Japan too.

What’s new from you this summer?

We enjoy partnering with like-minded businesses on exciting collaborations. Last year saw the launch of our partnership with Annabel Karmel and Smalls Merino and most recently we launched a range of paints with the children’s paint brand Little Knights. We also launched an exclusive ‘Princess Collection’ for the Four Seasons resort at Disney World Orlando.

Looking back to when you launched your company, what inspired you to make this step?

Friends started to ask me about my children’s clothes and where I bought them and it was really thanks to them that I took the plunge and created my own business as I had made them all myself. We started very simply, I cut patterns and made samples and started with one seamstress to make to order. I have always thought it best to make small steps as you go along than grand gestures!

Gss Na D

Was it difficult to get off the ground?

Of course! It’s always challenging starting your own business, but I started it in a very organic way, initially making designs for friends and family beyond expanding it into something bigger. I am a great believer in “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!”

What did you offer from day one?

The initial edit was quite small with a focus on baby pieces, smocking and knitwear and we sold the collection via mail order catalogues (this was before the days of the internet!). I have always loved print and textiles, so printed pieces were, and still are, a large part of what we offer.

When did you realise you were on to something with your business?

The first collection completely sold out within months of launching, which made me realise there was a gap in the market for this type of product. We were offering beautiful, well made, comfortable clothes for children at the right price, so quite quickly we saw their appeal.

Would you say you have evolved in the years since?

Absolutely, change is inevitable and we are always adapting and innovating! I’m not very good at sitting still and as a team we listen very carefully to our customers. We include footwear which is all made by hand by artisan shoe makers in the Loire in France and we have extended the collection to include more casual styles and also swimwear which is always very popular.

How does the business fit in with family life?

This is very much a family business. My husband Daniel is a professional photographer who has worked with some of the leading brands including Chanel and he takes all our pictures. My children have always been my muses and the collections have been designed around them. They were also our mini models when we started out! 

Rrgdr Na D

Whereabouts in Buckinghamshire do you live and what attracted you to living there?

I live in the Chiltern Hills and we first discovered it when we would come here to cycle. I used to live in London and was born there, but I prefer to be in the countryside surrounded by nature. I am lucky enough to have a garden, and grow my own vegetables, although my husband says I am more enthusiastic than talented. It’s always a work in progress!

Where are your favourite spots in the county – restaurant, landmark, outdoor space etc etc?

We go out for a walk every morning before breakfast – come rain or shine – and enjoy walking up to Whiteleaf Cross. Recently we enjoyed a wonderful meal with friends at Hartwell House, it was so special and the most extraordinary place. I often pop out to the local garden centres to get compost or plants!

Is there one place you go to get away from everything?

My garden is my sanctuary and where I spent most of my spare time. I find it inspiring, healing and invigorating to nurture and grow my beautiful plants and flowers. It really is my ‘happy place’. I now have a greenhouse and the tomato and cucumber plants are thriving!


Share this Article

Written by
Must Read

You May Also Like

Did you know you can now buy or subscribe to our printed issues?


Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to our monthly newsletter to find out what’s on your local area, exclusive competitions, the latest launches and much more!

Select the areas you want to hear about