Caravan Designer Highlight: Alice Ritter

With an economics background and a conventional French family that believed in growing up to become a doctor or lawyer, Alice’s career as a fashion designer was not always an obvious profession. She began her foray into the industry by working PR for a music company in Paris after college. In Paris, once installed into a profession, you just don’t switch teams and decide to do something completely different-“you are practically sentenced to that field for life!” When she realized PR wasn’t her calling, Alice began thinking that she would like a change: to work in fashion. Making that change is très difficile when skeptical friends do not support the idea! The spirit of France is much less entrepreneurial, and that applies to fashion as well. The big, heavy names like Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, etc. completely overpower the young designers trying to make it on their own!  She notes that it is inspiring, in a way, but it’s also tough to break out of that mold!

Long story short, Alice moved to New York in 1998 with her American boyfriend (now husband), an extremely talented and creative artist who gave her the motivation she needed. Seeing him doing what he really loves truly sparked something within Alice, and inspired her to break out of her shell! ‘In France we ask questions first, theorize first, and then we do. The American mentality is “Look, stop whining. If you want to do something creative, just do it! If you want to be a photographer, take pictures! If you want to be a designer, design!” Adopting this outlook was very liberating for me.’ She began experimenting in fashion by ripping apart vintage pieces and flattening them out to see how they were done. She would wear her creations and see the reactions she would get. During this period of experimentation she would actually paint on her fabrics! In 2001 they moved to Williamsburg, where she currently resides. She loved the free spirit, do-it-yourself air around Brooklyn, and it was at this point where she began a small line of one of a kind pieces under the name Nun. The pieces sold out in a week! The line evolved, picked up press, and became part of a “Fresh Faces in Fashion” fashion show during NY fashion week in September 2005. It was at this point that she began a ready to wear line in order to actually be able to produce!

Alice Ritter FW11

Alice Ritter FW11

Alice Ritter FW11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The business really took off in 2006-2007, with great interest from stores like Barneys, Karna Zabete and Collette, but the recession hit hard in 2008 and it took a toll on business. “Being an entrepreneur is about grabbing opportunity and sort of going with the flow, not being too attached to a certain way of doing things. You have to be flexible. You have to adapt. For me, the adaptation was having a second line at a lower, recession friendly prices.” The inception of her new line, “Piplette,” came about she was approached by Urban Outfitters to design for their customer. Everything Alice creates has a french flair, and Urban Outfitters was looking for a line embodying just that. “Piplette” is an endearing french term for a young talkative girl. The name is very close to the designer, as she herself is a piplette! The line is Alice’s main focus now as it is expanding.

When we visited the Alice Ritter showroom, she took us through her methods of inspiration. We saw swatches covering the walls, racks of clothing, and a vast collection of fashion glossies that would make any style-savvy girl swoon! She took us through special pieces that she is working on currently, and described the prints, colors, and silhouettes that are coming up next! She is going for a lot of color for SS13, with really graphic squares and vertical stripes coupled with floral prints. As for silhouettes, she is a designer who loves crisp, classic, and somewhat masculine shapes that pop because of the print or color. She loves a good shirt dress! For next summer, however, there will be a little less structure.

Alice’s unique story of being French and living in New York is such an inspirational one. This French expat has a vision that truly merges the two cultures together. Something Alice loves about this country is the “we can do it” spirit it seems to breed in its citizens. As an immigrant, she got the feeling that if you really put the hours in you can achieve anything. At the same time, she will always have a subconscious French perspective on fashion. She appreciates the “subtle sexiness” about the way the French dress. I will leave you with a quote from Alice on why she loves fashion so much:

“I love my job. I love fashion for many reasons! It’s all that I’m interested in in the world, like music and paintings and arts in general, and movies! You can incorporate everything into fashion. Even as a stylist it synthesizes a lot of my interests and you an really put that to work through fashion. And I love the fact that it is an industry that feeds hundreds of millions of people-it truly is an economy. ”

Alice showing one of the dresses from Piplette

Check out the “Piplette” movie by following this link: http://vimeo.com/41172309

And find out more about Alice by visiting her website at: http://aliceritter.com/index.html