Florals for Spring
The Ruff Tung name might not immediately ring a bell, but if it does, it would mean that you’re a woman in the fashion know. Not just because the brand has been around for 20odd years, but because you would know just how amazing its clothes are: bold, bright, and, most importantly, feminine and free.
The Ruff Tung label was founded in 1999 by Jean-paul Botha, who started by designing edgy garments that would best be described as “club wear”. The garments were a hit, and Botha soon built up a loyal brand following. With time, as his audience matured, so did Botha’s designs – although those in the know continued to order the funkier club wear directly from him. From all accounts, the designer was a passionate, influential man that touched the life of everyone he came into contact with, which is why his passing in November 2013 came as a great loss.
But true vision never dies, and it wasn’t long before Bridget Pickering and Ludwig Bausch stepped in, sharing the same passion that Botha had, to keep the Ruff Tung flame burning bright. Bausch had worked with Botha for seven years, while Pickering was not only a good friend, but also one of Botha’s mentees almost 20 years ago.
When Botha passed away, he had just finished his Durban Fashion Fair collection. “We were all there to see it. It was huge and it was his most retail-ready collection,” Pickering says. “When he passed away shortly after, we decided to carry on the brand. I don’t think we really thought about it too much – we loved Jean-paul and we were passionate about him. We consider ourselves a tribute brand to Jean-paul’s creative vision, and it’s thanks to him that Ludwig and I have had this amazing opportunity to work together and take an established brand to the next level.”
However, it’s not just been a case of business as usual. “Our biggest challenge was transitioning a business from Durban to Cape Town, and sourcing all elements from production to set up,” Pickering explains. “Taking a niche occasion-wear brand and evolving it into a commercial, mainstream brand is no mean feat, and the daily production and retail grind means you have to have a thick skin. There is always an element of the ‘wow factor’ when you tell people what you do, but the reality of growing a brand is as far from glamorous as you can get.
“On the flipside,” she adds, “we believe that it takes a team to build a brand, and at our core beats a collaborative heart. Jeanpaul opened so many fashion doors, and we have connected with a wide range of incredible people who have given us nothing but opportunities, encouragement, and direction, which is a true testament to Jeanpaul’s legacy.”
While both Pickering and Bausch have a well-developed sense of style and design, the Ruff Tung aesthetic retains some of Botha’s touch in its garments, often making use of bold prints and colour blocking. For the remainder of the designs, it fuses a joyful playfulness and bold femininity into flowing silhouettes, while keeping commercial considerations and trends in mind.
“Casual sophistication is always the focus of our designs, as we draw inspiration and energy from the women we dress,” explains Bausch. “Our design ethos is to celebrate and reflect authentic women and, because of this, Ruff Tung has naturally evolved to be more size-inclusive. Our collections are designed to flatter curves and to find the right balance between comfort and style, while remaining true to our brand heritage through the celebration of bold statement colours and prints.”
Pickering adds, “So often we hear women saying that they are working towards their ‘ultimate goal weight’, but our brand mantra has always been: ‘Live your best life now.’ A positive self-image is all about confidence, and we’ve come to understand how to create pieces that really work for women with curves. Our aim is for all women to experience fashion in the same way, without compromising on the ultimate stylish look. As designers, we’re inspired by these confident, contemporary women who live full and complex lives. Our size-inclusive collection aims to empower them to do just that.”
Ruff Tung launched its Spring/summer 2017 inclusive collection at Fashion Week earlier this year, jokingly referencing Miranda Priestley (The Devil Wears Prada): “Florals? For spring? Ground-breaking.” Yet this collection is exactly that, as Bausch explains: “Our aim is to energise your new season’s fashion fix with bold blooms and eye-popping bouquets of iconic statement prints, mixed up with our signature silhouettes – all things kimono, twist detailing, and tulip shapes. Embrace the joy and romance of the season.”
For more information, follow Ruff Tung on Facebook.