Meet The Makers in Rhi Dancey’s New Studio

Welsh designer Rhi Dancey’s “sexy and sustainable sets” have catapulted her brand from a bedroom start-up to a sell-out with a cult following. For #10 The Family Issue, as the team prepares for their next pop-up event, we take a peek inside their new Stoke Newington studio.

This article originally appeared in BRICKS #10, The Family Issue, which you can buy from our online store here.

PHOTOGRAPHY Hidhir Badaruddin

When Rhi Dancey started making garments amid the first government-enforced lockdown, she had no notion of the success her brand would achieve. “It kind of started by accident,” the 27-year-old designer says humbly, admitting that if she’d have known the progression the brand was going to see, she might not have used her name. “To be fair though, I think Dancey, as a surname, does kind of capture the spirit of our designs,” she laughs. 

Before COVID-19 she worked as a stylist, but without shoots to attend, she began making one-off items and selling them to friends via her Instagram stories, before eventually graduating to a Depop store. She opened her first studio in August 2020, eventually admitting the workload had surpassed one person’s capabilities, and started working with her studio coordinator and old coursemate, Lucie Kusakova. “Being here from the start with Rhi, it’s amazing to have witnessed the growth in such a short period of time,” says Lucie.  

Rhi admits she’s still learning how to delegate and work amongst a team, which has now extended to create a close-knit collective of seamstresses. “They don’t teach you this at school!” she says, “And because the brand is my baby, it did take some time to separate myself from it a bit and learn to have a more unbiased and professional opinion. It’s all a process,” she explains. 

Being here from the start with Rhi, it’s amazing to have witnessed the growth in such a short period of time.

Lucie Kusakova, studio coordinator 

The designs, characterised by patterned patchwork, exposed seams and sexy styling, come in an array of flattering cuts for all body shapes, proving style comes in all sizes. This message is at the heart of the brand’s ethos, as is its sustainable practices. Often using deadstock and vintage fabrics, Rhi’s brand speaks to Gen-Z consumers’ growing concerns about the fashion industry’s devastating contributions to the climate crisis, providing an innovative antidote to fast-fashion without the sizing limitations often rife among second-hand restyles or ‘thrift flipping’. 

But it’s not just the brand’s output that is acting as an agent of change. With her years as an intern and assistant now behind her, Rhi uses her past experiences as a ‘what not to do’ in running her own business: “Especially in fashion, whenever I’ve worked for other people or assisted someone, it’s always been a top-down hierarchical system and I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t doing that. I wanted us to feel like a team, I didn’t want anyone to feel that they were at the bottom of the pack.”  

The fashion industry has long come under fire for its use of unpaid interns and exhaustive working hours and conditions for its most junior staff. Despite the frequent criticism, many students feel it is necessary to complete these placements in order to secure employment and so, despite some attempts at legislation, the practice remains common. “When people have been treated badly in the past, they then feel entitled to treat their interns badly as they feel they need to ‘pay their dues’ even though they hated it when they were in that position,” she says. “If you have a nice working environment where you feel appreciated and respected, inevitably you’re going to be more invested in that company and work harder because you want to be there and you’re passionate about the product and the brand.” 

I’m just so proud to be working with so many young, inspiring creatives who share our values.

Rhi Dancey, founder and designer
Daisy Forrester
Izzy Harrison & Lucie Kusakova
Ellen Clarke

When did you first meet Rhi and how did you get involved with the brand?  

Izzy Harrison, senior seamstress & social coordinator: I’ve been with Rhi for a year now. Myself, Lucie and Rhi studied together at Brighton University on the same course and I spent my placement term in Berlin which is where Rhi took me under her wing. We had a wild time together!  

Ellen Clarke, seamstress: I started in April this year. I graduated last July in the ‘COVID year’ and I was trying to find a job when Rhi offered me the role as a freelance seamstress. I came and visited the studio and saw it was all pink, and I knew it was the right place for me! 

How would you describe the energy working with the Rhi Dancey team?  

Daisy Forrester, seamstress: Inspiring and endlessly creative 

What’s your favourite part of a typical workday? 

Izzy: Because part of my role is managing the gifting, I just love seeing people in the items we’ve sent and seeing them love them! It’s so rewarding. 

Rhi is such a creative tour-de-force, she’s taught me so much about motivation, time management, and being confident with your ideas.

Izzy Harrison, senior seamstress and social coordinator 

What’s the best asset that you bring to the team? 

Lucie Kusakova, studio coordinator: Before joining Rhi Dancey, I had previous experience in-house with both luxury and high street retailers, and I think this variety in experience helps bring a different perspective to the team. 

What’s something you’ve learned about yourself through working in this team? 

Izzy: Rhi is such a creative tour-de-force, I’ve never seen anyone work so hard or so fast. She’s taught me so much about motivation and time management, and being confident with your ideas. 

Ellen: Body confidence for sure. The brand has an amazing ethos, and everyone is so confident when they’re wearing Rhi’s garments, it’s super inspiring. 

What’s been your proudest moment so far as a team? 

Rhi Dancey, founder and designer: It’s not been one exact moment, but seeing the trajectory of the last six months has been amazing. I’m just so proud to be working with so many young, inspiring creatives who share our values and to have this really safe environment to work and create together. 

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