Artist of the Week: Rasha Swais

Posted on

Specialising in 1960s and '70s inspired bespoke clothing, Rasha Swais makes every piece of her self titled clothing brand right from the comfort of her cosy Tottenham home. A skinhead girl at heart, she loves the mod clothing of the period and incorporates everything from dagger collars and tonic fabric into her designs. We caught up with her to chat ska, vintage and what it means to be Made in England.

For those who don't know, tell us a bit about who you are and the work you produce.

My name is Rasha Swais, I own and run "Rasha Swais". The label is inspired by 1960s and '70s youth cultures. The two cultures I take most of the inspiration from are Skinheads and Mods. The collections are modern with a twist on the past, all pieces are Handmade in England and I ship all around the world.

We read somewhere that you once said 'Become friends with old ladies with good taste.' What do you love so much about vintage style and why do you think people are returning to it?

I think fashion as a whole always references the past. I personally collect vintage pieces because they are basically one off pieces. With vintage garments the fabrics, style and the make are always top notch quality, and its hard to find affordable quality pieces on the high street anymore. That's one of many reasons why I started my brand. All the pieces are limited and are hand made by me! So you're basically guaranteed if you walk in to a party or bar no one will be wearing the same.

Have you always been interested in 1960s/'70s style and design?

I was bought up with the '50s-70s music, so my love for the design of those decades sprung from the music. I've always wanted to go back in time to the '60s everything seemed so exciting and bright!

How did you end up setting up your company?

After I graduated from University I started selling Men's Button down shirts to a few shops in Camden. After finding it difficult to find vintage 60s skinhead mod dresses I started making myself pieces to wear out. Ladies asked me to make them dresses and so it began 3 years ago and still going strong!

Do you remember the feeling of making, packaging and sending out your first ever Rasha Swais order?

I feel it every new season when I send off the first orders! It's sort of a nervous excited feeling wondering If I will get a photo of the client in their hand made piece.

Do you use original vintage patterns or do you design all your pieces from scratch?

I am a pattern cutter so start from scratch. After years of cutting the different dresses and shirts, it comes quite naturally now.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

I love books, and researching! My favourite type is old photos of friends from the 1960s and 70s. One day I would love to publish a Picture book.

Mod or skinhead?

Both! I love the new generation of Mods, skinheads and suedeheads. I use them in my photoshoots.

When it comes to the music I am more of a Reggae and Ska person.

What I love about the Mod/Skinhead scene is that you can be at a Scooter rally in the middle of a field for 3 days with no shower and everyone will turn up to the evening do immaculately turned out in original '60s dresses and tonic suits. What do you think it is about the clothes and attitude of these subcultures that inspires pride?

I think it's a traditional way of thinking and dressing. In the week you work so sometimes don't get the chance to dress up, but at the weekends, if you're going to a gig or a rally you dress to impress. I think on the 60s scene the men are worse than the women in regards to wearing originals. They love peacocking!

Original skinhead's matching in Rasha Swais

What is your favourite item in your wardrobe? Rasha Swais or original vintage?

Owh God that's hard! At the moment I am very excited about wearing my lime green sequin mini dress I bought a few months ago from America. Its vintage 1960s and so Lush!

How important is it for your own collections and other businesses that stuff is 'Made in England'?

For me and my products it is very important. I try and source everything from buttons to fabrics that are all made in England. Its very important to support small businesses especially when most of the Fashion industry outsources mostly everything. It's so sad when I hear another company I work with has to close down, especially fabric mills that are mostly up north.

What would your ultimate lazy Sunday consist of?

Duvet, Sofa, my other half and whatever series we are watching at the time. And maybe some poptarts!

Fellow vintage lover and jewellery dsigner Pip Jolley wearing an original Rasha Swais

Visit Rasha's Website or follow her on Instagram. Interview by Danielle Morgan.