I stumbled on Ralph Pink Patterns a few years ago. Back then, the site offered a mix of corset and high fashion patterns, along with a few free blocks (which are still available under “Free Patterns” here). I was curious about the company and pinned a few things, but you know how it is. There are always a hundred projects on the go, and my “To Sew” board on Pinterest is getting so bloated I’m scared to even look at it anymore.
Then Kazz, Our Lady of Print and Graphic Madcap Magic, made a Ralph Pink jumpsuit. AND IT WAS GOOD. Very, very good. When I went and checked out Ralph’s offerings again, my brain exploded. The site was greatly expanded and is now chock full of beautiful, modern patterns. There are not very many indie companies focusing on trendy, edgy designs, but we can add another major contender to the list. Ralph does not f*ck around.
Up to this point I haven’t seen many Ralph Pink makes in the sewing blog world, despite the fact that the instructions are beautifully illustrated and seem to be well explained (you can preview the cutting layout and instructions for each pattern which is awesome). Curiosity got the better of me so I contacted him and asked if he would answer a few questions for all of us sewing nerds. He graciously accepted, and seems utterly lovely, I must say.
Can you tell us a little bit about your education and industry history? Do you still have a fashion line?
I started my “Fashion Career” when I was about 7 years old. I can remember sitting with my mum, cutting out patterns from Vogue on the floor of our living room in Scotland. There was a lot of distance between me and our neighbours, so on wet days there wasn’t much to do. Looking back I never would have guessed it would turn into my career choice.
After many years of side line projects and experimenting with construction I enrolled at Middlesex University and spent three years having free reign to experiment with my style and find myself as a designer. I love that university; they really looked after me and nurtured my creative energy. I was quite stubborn in my design and development so I got shouted at a lot too, which was exactly what I needed – London can be a huge distraction at that age! I was never really interested in commercial fashion – it was all about couture for me, so I finally knuckled down and created some really interesting pieces. I’m still not really sure how I managed to make some of those items!
After my showcase at Graduate fashion week I went to a few interviews with Alexander McQueen and Gucci, but decided to go where the money’s at, with commercial high street fashion. I worked for a supplier building fashion prints for various high street retailers for seven years. I learned pretty much all my Adobe skills in that time and thrived wonderfully. I still do freelance for them including other clients specializing in print design, illustration, graphic design, corset and web design. Everything I learned in those seven years was in my own time and using tutorials on the internet. It’s a very tough process but extremely rewarding. You can teach yourself anything as long as you’re patient and break it down into steps. Each question answered creates yet another unanswered question.
Once I had established what I wanted to achieve I left and started my own couture range for London Fashion Week.
What inspired you to start releasing patterns online?
I left my job in 2010 and started a couture collection of my own for London Fashion week. I started a video blog to document the process and got fantastic feedback due to all the free content on the website. The site still exists and has a huge following, it’s a bit messy and there’s so much content it would take me months to reorganize and clean it up, but it serves its purpose! I started making video tutorials focusing on corsetry construction, digital pattern cutting, print design and so much more! As I experimented and developed my skills at digital pattern cutting, I started to post free patterns to get yet more followers… It started to become very clear that people were really excited about the patterns and so my attention drifted from my collection and on to the website, which was a real shame… I set up the new site in July 2012 and we’ve been doing fantastically ever since! The company is growing every day and we’re starting to collect freelancers and interns!
I remember finding your site a few years ago, but since then you’ve greatly expanded your offerings. You have a new section that is much more edgy and trend conscious than many commercial patterns. Can you tell us more about this “Catwalk Trend” line?
Yes of course…The trend/catwalk collection was originally aimed to bulk out the site with easier patterns that were simple to grade, however it is turning into a sector that is really quite exciting. Every day we get requests for more exciting trend-led garments, so I believe this section will become our staple over the next few years. We plan to add a great deal more patterns, that not only test construction skills, but also appeal to the younger more trend-aware audience. I don’t believe there are many, if any, sites out there that cater to the more trendy side of fashion. We intend to get out and start photographing hipsters and trend setters on the street in London to create a larger collection of exciting and unusual patterns!
You also offer some beautiful couture patterns that offer an interesting challenge to the more experienced sewist. Can we expect more designs like this in the future?
Yes absolutely! This is something we are working on right at this very moment! I have just launched a competition for all our customers, to come up with a collection of inspiration or mood boards, that we will use as the starting point for our next couture collection – we aim to do this at least three times a year. We are hoping it will really excite people and get their creative juices flowing. It’s also exciting for us to see what people are inspired by, helping us to further cater to our customers. If you’d like to see more about our competition and how you can get involved please click here.
What inspires you? Do you have any designers or time periods that are particularly meaningful?
Hmm… I absolutely adore corsets, luxury garments and the female form! I love statuesque iconic women with a hint of the femme fatale – It’s what drives me – any excuse to make an outfit that emphasizes the female form!
My inspiration changes monthly depending on what I’m working on. But right now it’s all about Venice, masquerade, burlesque, Eyes Wide Shut, and excessive amounts of beading! I do have a real love of the 1940’s and 50’s genre. I adore women and simply want to emphasize their natural beauty… as cheesy as that sounds!
Right now I’m working on a complete burlesque costume with headdress, ostrich feather fan, bustles, corset and accessories for a close friend… it is Christmas after all!
Do you sew for yourself? Can we look forward to any Ralph Pink for men patterns?
Ha ha ha… unfortunately not! At this point in time I’m a complete mess, my clothes are so out of date and moth eaten… I just don’t have the time to buy new clothes let alone construct for myself. I would love to, but Menswear just doesn’t inspire me as much as women’s wear right now! I’ve always been a women’s wear designer.
We are looking into getting Menswear on the site in the future and would love to collaborate with an influential Menswear designer, but right now we have to focus our energy and solidify our product.
(ed. note: there are a few free men’s blocks available on Ralph’s old sit here).
What else can we look forward to from Ralph Pink Patterns in the future?
I’m glad you asked! It’s soon to be the start of a new year and I’m so excited about all the projects we have lined up! I am now outsourcing a great deal of the work, so I have time to develop the website blog and add new features.
VIDEO BLOG: When I finish this interview I’m off to start our video blog, which will detail everything that goes on behind the scenes! Meetings, expeditions, corset toiling, pattern cutting our range, high street finds and so much more. It gives the public a real insight into who we are, what we want to achieve, and where we’re going! Which I think is very important considering we are still quite new.
NEWSLETTER: We have finally created a newsletter, to keep all our fans up to date! We release it monthly and it details everything that has been happening over the past month all in one easy to read bite size page. You can view it and subscribe here.
PINTEREST: We have set up a Pinterest account, with a variety of boards where we collate all our inspiration for our future patterns. There’s inspiration for future corsets, couture and a new feature for trend. We invite everyone to get involved by tagging, posting and commenting on content. If you want a pattern let us know, we’ll put it forward for consideration!
FACEBOOK: We have had a Facebook page for some time now, but recently we have really stepped up the amount of content posted. So it’s a great way of stay updated on a daily basis.
PATTERNS: We will be adding to all of our product categories every three months, with various cool competitions and free goodies and will be blogging every step of the way.
6-8 couture patterns
3-4 trend led patterns
2-3 corset patterns
TUTORIALS: Our sister site ralphpink.com featured a large archive of tutorials and we aim to update this on our new site. We will be creating yet more and refining the old ones to bring you fantastic content you can all get stuck into. Tutorials such as: corsetry construction, fashion illustration, CAD drawing, print design, headdress construction and much more! We aim to dramatically increase our content over the next year and we simply can’t wait to get started!
WOW! Isn’t he awesome? I’m so inspired by his energy and output. The tutorial section above is pretty cool and I love all the free content. I’m super excited to see what he comes up with next. I’m hoping that as the company grows we will get to see sample garments along with the beautiful illustrations. It’s always nice to see physical samples on a real live human.
Now for the fun part! Ralph has generously offered 3 PDF patterns to 3 of you. If you would like a chance to win one, go check out the pattern offering here, like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and leave me a comment below (with a contact email) telling me what you would like to make. I will randomly choose 3 winners by December 5th, 2013.
Also, please let me know if you have made any Ralph Pinks! I’m dying to see some in the flesh!
** GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED **