How do you think about workwear when our work keeps changing? Not only has public-sector employment in the UK dropped by 15.5% since 2008, with tech fast replacing staff, but we’re increasingly ditching the nine-to-fivedesk job. A quarter of 18 to 34-year-olds are now working as ‘slashies’ with multiple jobs, or portfolio careers, according to a study by Barclaycard*.
We’re not dressing for one job, we’re dressing for a reported average of four, a fact the team behind Raey, the readyto-wear line launched by multibrand retailer Matches Fashion, is aware of. ‘It’s about practicality,’ insists Rachael Proud, the Topshop and Christopher Kane alum now overseeing design and buying for Matches’ in-house label. ‘When I’m designing, I’m thinking, “Would I be able to wear it? Would it fit on me as someone wearing multiple hats throughout the day, as I know a lot of women do now?”’ That’s one of Raey’s founding principles, creating luxury basics that fit seamlessly into the modern woman’s wardrobe. But what does ‘modern’ mean in the context of a working woman’s lifestyle?
‘Simple: can you run for the bus in it?’ says Rachael, quickfire and to-the-point. It’s obvious where the no-fuss sensibility at the base of Raey comes from (and worth noting that the line takes its name from its head designer). As for the notion that practicality and polish are mutually exclusive, she says ‘bin it’.
‘Raey is predominantly for women who work, but I want you to do whatever you like in it. Whether you’re going to work, to your friend’s house or to your gran’s. It’s designed for you to feel comfortable moving around in.’
And pockets are requisite: ‘Everything has to have pockets, to make each piece functional,’ she says. ‘We also think, “How does this piece move when you bend your knees? How does it move as you’re walking? Will this wear well? Is it easily washable? Is it long-lasting?”’
Rachael of all people would know. Her typical work day includes commuting through London at peak time from a morning gym class, overseeing the design and buying of Raey menswear and womenswear, responding to calls and emails, and dealing with strategy, as well as all the admin that comes with managing a large team. ‘I couldn’t do all that in what you might call “Apprentice dress”,’ she says referring to the fitted skirt suits and heels usually worn by contestants on the show.
Raey is all about nailing the building blocks of everyday dress, with jewel toned silk-satin slips and camisoles, fine-gauge cashmere in versatile colours, and a skirt length suited to all shapes and sizes (whether that be vertiginous, flat, curvy, or vertically challenged).
This is welcome news for young women in the early stages of their careers, as well as those on the upper rungs of the ladder, as Rachael’s attitude to inclusivity extends to price-point. ‘I think in all respects, practice ranks above preaching, so if we’re committed to giving women the choice of beautiful basics that can be dressed up and down, we want to give them the choice of buying those staples in multiple colourways with accessible prices.’ Pieces from the current collection range from £85 to £2,100, and include featherlight coats in a wool engineered by luxury clothiers in Japan, as well as fluid silks sourced from mills in Italy.
‘There’s a green coat from the September drop that I’m definitely eyeing,’ Rachael says before adding that ‘basic’ does not have to mean a palette of black, navy and grey. In fact that’s where Raey gets it right, navigating the fine line between fashion and style, slipping with ease from seasonless basics in core colours to bolder, trend-led looks.
So will we see Rachael legging it behind a bus in September’s puffacoats and side-split blouses? ‘You’d better believe that if it’s on the website, I can run in it – and let it be known, for the record, that I can run in heels,’ she says. ‘I just choose not to.’ That’s a sentiment worth drinking to — outside of office hours, obviously.
Grey wool blazer, £425, grey wool top, £195, and grey wool trousers, £350, all RAEY at MATCHES FASHION. White leather boots, £418, BY FAR. Sterling-silver earrings, £355,