From Beans On Toast To Fashion’s Most Popular Dresses – How Did Rixo Become A UK Megabrand?

Henrietta Rix & Orlagh McCloskey started selling dresses from their student house. Now, they’re in charge of one of fashion’s favourite brands. Hannah Banks-Walker found out just how they did it.

Rixo

by Hannah Banks-Walker |
Updated on

It’s fair to say that Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey were not typical students. Their living room wasn’t populated with the expected debris from a rowdy night out, instead it was littered with fabric, sketches and the first pieces of a puzzle that would eventually fit together to become Rixo. “We lived together at uni and then we set up Rixo from our uni house,” says Rix. “And we hadn’t got a clue where to start or what to do. But we knew we needed a business plan. We were Googling ‘how to start a fashion brand’. So we got our name, and then registered at Companies House and then from that we then thought right, okay, we’ve actually done it now, we’ve quit our jobs, we need to set up and get going.”

The pair met at university in London, where they became fast friends, business partners and surrogate sisters to one another. Both worked for a year at ASOS, where a lack of passion for the work they were doing there galvanised them into action – they left, with not much of a plan, but an idea of what they wanted to do. “We realised very quickly that there is a way more sustainable way of working,” says McCloskey. “We also saw the value in cutting out all the middle men so you could offer an amazing price to your customer.”

Indeed, Rixo has tapped into the mid-market sweet spot that was neglected for so long. In the last few years, we’ve seen a hoard of new brands emerge, offering beautiful, stylish clothes for a competitive price. And Rixo is one of the leading lights, worn by countless influencers on Instagram, as well as celebrities from Holly Willoughby to Sandra Bullock – such is the broad appeal of Rixo’s distinctive designs. “I think Sandra Bullock was a really cool moment,” says Rix. “I was like, oh my god, we actually painted that print in our kitchen and she’s now wearing it.”

Sandra Bullock Mandy Moore Rixo
©Getty Images

Such overwhelming success is not without a price, however. “We have literally put everything else in our lives on hold,” says Rix. “We don’t have boyfriends, we don’t have social lives really. Everyone’s like, ‘oh there’s so many parties’, we get invited to those but we just don’t go because we’re genuinely working. But I think we’re building something up that is so solid for the future and we don’t want investors, we don’t want to take people’s money just because we want to be in control of everything we do. We have the final say, and we just go with our gut, like what we think is truly right.”

In the beginning, Rix and McCloskey were living off beans on toast, spending every single minute of their free time working on Rixo, shuttling back and forth from the Post Office just so that they could fulfill orders. “Orla and I were just meeting as many people as possible,” says Rix. “Even when a new restaurant opened in London, we’d take a rail and stand there all day and just meet customers. Just get talking to people, or if there were any summer street fairs, we’d go there. We even went to lawyers’ offices and stood there all day – we’d have a little pop up and we just started to spread the word organically. That’s kind of how we built it up.” Retailers soon came knocking, keen to get their hands on Rixo’s inventive prints, now seen on everything from midi dresses to swimwear.

Net-a-Porter, Saks and boutiques across the world now stock Rixo, which is only getting bigger. But as there are no outside investors, Rix and McCloskey control every aspect of the business, including the Instagram account. “While we’ve grown the brand via wholesale marketing, Instagram’s allowed us to have a complete direct connection with our consumer,” says Rix. “ I read every single Instagram post, get back to every single DM – it’s all me and it’s something that I just naturally do 24/7 on my phone. In the inbox, we could have a message from an influencer or it could be a customer that doesn’t know what bra size to wear under a dress. It could be like a husband that wants to buy something for his wife but doesn’t know what to get… it’s the kind of customer who is talking to us inside out, and our community on Instagram is so strong because of that.”

Alongside the launch of bags and swimwear, the brand have seen great success with two collaborations too – one with Laura Jackson and one with Parisian cool girl Sabina Socol. Everything is still designed by Rix and McCloskey and made in a family-run factory in China that the pair has been working with since the beginning. But, like most brands today, sustainability is a major focus for Rixo. “The consumer that’s coming up now, they just expect brands to be conscious,” says Rix. “With us, we cut out all the middle men and we don’t ship things all over the world, we do it all in one place. We also don’t follow trends at all. Some of my favorite pieces from Rixo are literally from our first ever collection and it still looks as good as new now. And we want Rixo to be future vintage. We want people to wear our clothes over and over again.”

Rix says she and McCloskey have a plan to launch Rixo Vintage, which will allow customers to trade their old Rixo pieces for something new, or a discount in-store. “We need to get all the logistics right,” says Rix. “But we see it as the future, and it’s a way more sustainable way of working.” On the Kings Road in London, there’s been a Rixo pop-up shop, which Rix says was a surreal experience. “It sounds cringey but every time I go in, I feel like I need to pinch myself. It’s just so nice to see it busy – there’s loads of different customers of different ages, all helping each other and chatting about the clothes. It’s lovely.”

With a growing fan base and big plans for the future, it doesn’t look like Rix and McCloskey will be able to slow down any time soon – not that they want to. But it’s worth it, Rix says, for the kick they both get out of seeing people in their designs. “It’s incredible to see people that have actually parted with their own hard-earned cash to buy something from us, and then they’re just wearing it in their normal, day-to-day life. That really is the biggest kick Orla and I get, out of everything. It is obviously amazing to see celebrities wear it. But it means just as much to us to see when its someone that you don’t expect or someone you randomly bump into. Old school friends have started to send me messages saying they’ve just seen Rixo on their train – even guys have started to recognise it! It’s completely mad.

SHOP: The Best Pieces To Buy From Rixo

Gallery

The Best Pieces To Buy From Rixo

Emma pleated floral-print modal midi dress £2651 of 10

Emma pleated floral-print modal midi dress £265

Jill draped paisley-print silk camisole £1102 of 10

Jill draped paisley-print silk camisole £110

Misty printed metallic fil coupu00e9 chiffon wrap dress £2953 of 10

Misty printed metallic fil coupé chiffon wrap dress £295

Kendal geometric-trim cotton-crochet top £2454 of 10

Kendal geometric-trim cotton-crochet top £245

Kelly ombru00e9 silk midi skirt £2055 of 10

Kelly ombré silk midi skirt £205

Lori floral-print woven maxi dress £3356 of 10

Lori floral-print woven maxi dress £335

SHEA - GOLD PLATED AND MULTI Swirl Earrings £1107 of 10

SHEA - GOLD PLATED AND MULTI Swirl Earrings £110

DORA - LEOPARD Mini Trapeze Tote £2058 of 10

DORA - LEOPARD Mini Trapeze Tote £205

JASPER - RETRO GARDEN Scrunchie £209 of 10

JASPER - RETRO GARDEN Scrunchie £20

PRIMA - BLACK Swirl Detail Swimsuit £14010 of 10

PRIMA - BLACK Swirl Detail Swimsuit £140

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