Rizik’s has three styles from your fall collection— two cocktail dresses and a full-length gown. The way you use the characteristics of the fabrics—the luscious drape of 4-ply silk and the substantial weight of jacquard—in conjunction with the cuts of the dresses and the relationship of fabric to skin—with necklines, sleeve lengths and hemlines adjusting to each other—is fascinating. Is there an ideal proportion between clothing and the body that governs your designs?
Absolutely there is. You mentioned the drape of the 4-ply silk and there is a specific reason we invest in such a costly fabric to begin with—besides the beauty of this textile, we find it to have an amazing ability to fall on the body in a way that naturally enhances a woman’s figure. We also want our dresses to have structured, architectural designs. I always loved tailoring – fine seams, piping—and I believe that when you craft a designer dress in such a tailored way, it flatters any body size or shape. Most outsiders believe fashion is for a size 2 or 4 but I believe the exact opposite. Why can’t women of all sizes enjoy extraordinary fashion? My biggest selling sizes are 8 and 10. We also cut up to 16/18 should the stores put in a request. As for proportion, our general rule is if there is a lot “going on” on the bodice, we try to keep the skirt of the dress as simple as possible. We also like longer sleeves with shorter hemlines. We don’t want the garments to overwhelm the woman, just make them feel well dressed and confidant.
You have said that Gianni Versace inspired you to become a designer and it is, therefore, particularly exciting that Rizik’s carries both Bradley Scott and Versace Collection! Yet, Versace’s boldly sensual aesthetic, with references to classical antiquity, initially appears quite different from yours. How did his designs move you? And do you translate this into your own silhouettes?
What I loved about Versace was his idea of a woman. He looked at them as bold creatures of God who exuded power and confidence. He was ultra-daring because he knew his women were the same way. He wanted to shock the world by dressing women in what would be considered explicit and electrifying. The women knew they had nothing in their closet like his clothes. I wanted to offer the more mainstream customer the ability to wear something that got them noticed, for them to have something unique, perhaps not in the exotic way, but in the real world way. We both understand our women want to look different, and we do it in our own way. I also feel that Versace had a genuine love of textile creation which I feel completely akin to. My collections BEGIN with fabric selection. Before I design a single sketch on paper, I have the fabrics on my desk. I design around the fabric, and so did Versace.
Raised amongst leaders in diverse fields—your great-grandfather had a tailor shop, your mother chaired a neurosurgery department and your father runs an accounting firm—what traits do you think transcend the fashion world and are essential for all entrepreneurs?
That’s a great question. Naturally it’s really cool that my great-grandfather and I share a craft. I think what I took from everyone being in their own field was an understanding of the common denominator—be true to yourself and be truthful to your clientele. If you can’t accomplish something, be up front and admit it. I’ve learned that communicating with customers well in advance is the only way to maintain a level of integrity and respect from them. We are all human, and sometimes things come up.
Before starting your own label, you worked at the Carlisle Collection, which markets their designer sportswear collections primarily through direct fashion sales, wherein a sales associate brings a trunk show to the customer’s home. Did this practice influence your own customer-centric ethos?
Carlisle taught me almost everything I know and I am forever grateful for the experience to work with them, first as an intern, then a design assistant and finally a merchandiser. It gave me insight about the timeline of fashion, how to bring a concept to first sample and onwards to production. It taught me about the problems that can arise, and to preempt issues before they happen. They also knew their customers very well and kept records of what each woman purchased the prior season so that they could offer her something totally different and not repeat a style. As far as distribution, I like the idea of in-house trunk shows, but think that going to a brick and mortar store has a special feeling. It’s an elegant process, especially at high-end boutiques. It’s an occasion, a cherished experience.