Currently working on her SS19 collection for her eponymous brand, Ruth Peterson, is a distinguished GFW and Kingston University alumni. From showcasing her graduate collection in Paris post-GFW and turning her horror obsession into a clothing brand, Ruth has been busy since graduation.
We caught up with the designer to hear more about her dissertation on George A Romero's use of fantasy to comment on society on his 1978 zombie film Dawn of the Dead, and how this concept of using fashion to comment on reality, has informed her focus on sportswear and it's affiliation to gang culture.
Ruth envisions a future for her brand including a concept store, collaborating with artists and increasing visibility for diversity - find out how she plans on going about this below.
Which university did you attend, and what is the most valuable thing that you learnt there?
I studied at Kingston University, London. Fashion is such a competitive course and you hear so many ‘Devil wears Prada’ stories that it can be daunting trying to stand out amongst so many creative and talented people. I think that the most valuable thing I learnt is not to put yourself down because you don’t have the best grades, if you play to your strengths you can still produce something that you’re proud of.
Graduate Fashion Week provides a platform for emerging fashion graduates to showcase their work regardless of the specific discipline. Which area of the industry have you chosen to pursue, and what informed this choice?
Before going to university I wanted to become a tailor. I did work experience for 4 years at a Tailors in Liverpool and loved it. In the end, because tailoring is so specialised, I decided that it was better to study Fashion so I had more options - I could go into fashion but still have the choice to go back to tailoring after I finished. I specialise in Menswear, I tried out Womenswear to begin with but it wasn’t for me so I chose what I enjoyed the most. Lads were also less experimental than they are now so I felt like there was kind of more to try.
Tell us a bit more about your career journey since showing at Graduate Fashion Week. How have you found life in the industry?
After Graduate Fashion Week, I was contacted by a PR/Sales Agent who help me a lot introducing me to valuable people and other creatives and was excited to create new collections. I tweaked my graduate collection to show in Paris the following year and then created a new collection for Summer. Then, I was making all of the samples myself. I don’t think anything can really prepare you for going into the industry on your own - no matter how many placements you’ve done or how well you did at university. You go from competing with the best students to competing with the best brands. It took a lot longer to go through my first run of production partly because I was mostly working full time whilst working on RUTH PETERSON but seeing people wearing my brand now is so amazing that it was worth the wait. I’m working on my SS19 collection now and couldn’t be more excited!
Do you explore any political, social or historical notions through your work? If so, what messages do you hope to convey?
My graduate collection looked a lot into social notions (even though my inspiration came from zombie films)! I actually wrote my dissertation about how George A Romero used zombies in his films as a reference to real life. His 1978 Dawn of the Dead was set in a shopping mall and he mocked the 1970s society saying that the zombies are all drawn back to the shopping mall because it was the most important thing in their lives. I then applied this idea to today’s society and how lads in gangs dress - they wear sportswear not because they are playing sport but because their mates all wear it and so brands like Nike become their gang uniform. When I was in school the worst thing you could do was to bring your lunch in an Asda or Tesco bag so I thought it would be funny to make Asda and Tesco wearable to those type of lads. I mostly look at classic sportswear pieces and reinvent them using horror inspired graphics and imagery.
Where are you hoping to be in five years time?
In five years time I hope to have a well established brand and online store, potentially opening my own concept store. I’d love to have a small team by then as well I’d make sure its the best place to work! I also have a few brands and artists in mind that I’d like to collaborate with! I’d also like to do well enough that I can create full runway collections (not just 5 looks)!
Many say that the industry is undergoing a huge change, with sustainability, diversity and responsibility becoming huge themes. Do you have any opinions on these movements?
Personally I think it’s about time there was a change in the industry, especially with diversity. It’s giving so many people more opportunities to do what they love without having to fit a specific criteria and so many of these people have important messages to get across and are helping people in the process. I feel like our generation pushes each other to success rather than it being competitive and I think we have to thank social media a lot for that.
Lastly, to any students that are reading this in admiration of your career-what advice would you give to the students hoping to showcase this year?
I used to struggle a lot with decision making (I still do) - I’m quite indecisive. I have a thought and worry until I get another opinion and a lot of the time I have to go for it and it’s fine. I would say have confidence in your ideas and your work, if you have a feeling you can pull it off, it’s more than likely you can. I’ve turned my horror obsession into a clothing brand so go for it. And good luck!
Interview & Words by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins