Charming Céline Rita

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nestled away just off a busy street in Auckland's Newton is the workroom and boutique of Céline Chapman, the lovely and talented young designer of local label Céline Rita. Willowy, blonde and girlishly pretty with the same sweetness and charm that is evident in her collections, Céline welcomes me into her space for a chat about fashion, France and first ladies on an overcast Friday afternoon. The dull greyness outside starkly contrasts to the light white interior, which makes a perfectly subtle backdrop for her beautifully bright summer collection hanging from the racking. Céline's adorable nearly two year old puppy, Flo, is also there to greet me and is Céline's daily companion in the open-plan space from which her one woman operation is based.

Since I last interviewed Céline 18 months ago, she’s done her first solo show at New Zealand Fashion Week, for which her nineties supermodel inspired winter collection was rapturously received and delivered a gorgeous Jacqueline Kennedy inspired, sixties themed summer collection which has been her most successful to date.  Not to mention having her linen Cassini jumpsuit from the summer collection grace the cover of the country’s fashion bible, Fashion Quarterly, last spring.  I should also add that Nicole Warne, the effortlessly chic blogger from Gary Pepper Vintage,is also a fan of the label.  The sweet pear shorts she blogged about quickly became a sell-out piece for Céline, after being seen by Nicole’s legions of followers.

Getting more press has definitely played a part in Céline’s success and it’s thrilling to watch a young designer enjoy her strongest selling season so far.  “I've felt good about it because I had time to do it, I didn't rush myself this time,” adds Céline.  “I had a bit more confidence with the summer collection.  Each season I feel like I'm getting to know my customer better and getting to know styles and fits better so that definitely helps.” Being on hand when customers try garments on and finding out what they're looking for and what works is all invaluable information to a young designer like Céline when creating her new ranges.

Céline's beautiful 'Jacqueline' Summer 2013 collection

Observing Céline’s sophisticated summer collection it’s evident she has a clear vision of her customer; the feminine silhouettes, nipped in waists and clever tailoring make for a range that’s elegant and smart, but her colourful use of fabric adds a playful and slightly quirky feel. As it’s inspired by America’s chic former first lady, I’m sure Jackie would love the sweet little shorts and skirts, not to mention the beautiful pear-print prom dress, which was also a strong seller from the collection.

Whilst a lot of labels are well into introducing their winter ranges to customers at this time of year, Céline prefers to do her own thing, taking into consideration the current needs of her customers. "I'm a little bit later than everyone else, I try to stick more to the actual season,” says Céline. “Because so many of my customers are buying now for weddings and the races, I can kind of hold off because I'm small enough to, it’s good for me to be able to cater for those needs and my customers appreciate it."

Being a young label running on a tight budget means Céline is a sole operator and has to keep every aspect of the business running herself. It’s a big job which involves all the day to day tasks including social media, production management and running her shop as well as designing and creating each collection. “To do lists are a daily essential for me,”adds Céline. “It’s all about prioritising, if I know that the machinists are busy I'll get on to doing some cutting myself. I'm looking into getting an in-house sample machinist, a couple of days a week, just have to work out if I can afford it. So hopefully in the next year that will be possible.”

Céline's lovely Newton shop, Céline herself and the adorable Flo

Keeping her production local is important to Céline, which is getting more rare now, with many local labels preferring to manufacture off-shore for cost reasons. However Céline’s current size means she’s able to use local cutters and keep her production entirely in New Zealand which is difficult to do for her price point. The support of the local manufacturers makes the decision easier though, as Céline finds they're really helpful as they want to keep people manufacturing here. Her fabrics are also all sourced from local wholesalers, with Céline being careful to get print exclusivity where possible. “I check if anyone else local has the same print so that I can have that indivuality," says Céline.  "If anyone else has it I don't let myself fall in love with it, as in the past I've had a couple that other labels have used as well. But I was young enough and new enough that no-one really noticed as much and it didn't matter.  Now it's much more important to give my brand it's unique look.”

So what has Céline got in store for winter this year? “Winter is inspired by me imagining I'm living in Paris,” enthuses Céline. “When I went there over Christmas last year it was so magical. Everyone else talked it down to me beforehand saying it was dirty and I wouldn’t like it, but I got there and I just fell in love with it. Europe just blew my mind, the buildings are amazing. I want to do more travel, it's so inspirational.”

With her seasons carrying on from each other her winter range includes lots of chiffons, silks and knits, which translates to more shirts, the ruffled blouses that sold well for summer and dresses. “To me it's quite French but not cheesy, it's what I'd imagine I'd wear if I was living there,” adds Céline. “Feminine but sophisticated with tailored blazers, skinny pants and beautiful bright lace dresses lined in contrasting colours. It’s also the first time I've done coats so it will be interesting to see how they go. I’m excited to be able to try new things each season.”

Céline’s dedication and enthusiasm for her gorgeous young label is infectious and having had a quick peek at her winter fabrics, I’m excited to see the full range which will be available soon. Something tells me this bright young designer is going to go a very long way.

Check out more from Céline here.
Sneak peek from Céline's Winter lookbook shoot (tail of Flo)
Images from: Céline Rita and my own. 

Just So Pretty x


  1. Aww - Flo is sooo cute! How great that she can use Flo as a little character in her looks. I absolutely love her Lemon print - the first dress is like a work of art! It's also great that Celine can keep her production local - that is sure to become a selling point as her label grows, setting her apart from other Kiwi designers who take production off shore. Thanks for sharing Evelyn I will be sure to check Celine's store out as soon as I'm back in Aotearoa!

    ♥ Paula Shoe Fiend.

    1. Thanks Paula, agreed, Flo is so adorable! And yes, that prom dress is unbelievably gorgeous. Definitely check out Celine's collections when you get a chance to, she's so lovely and such a talented young designer.


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