Kaunas has been living in a full cultural rhythm since the beginning of the year, and on June 29, one can expect to reach the apogee of cultural experiences: the city will be covered by the Storm festival activities and the expression of various types of art – from quality music, contemporary art, dance to the presentation of design works. The latter, a design genre, will be presented by a young and highly talented British designer, Ruth Peterson. The clothes created by the artist are inseparable from music: the first clothing collection was immediately noticed by rap music performers, and because of that Ruth was called a rap fashion designer. The debut collection t has become a real springboard to success: rap artists such as SKEPTA are adorned with their clothes, and the first collection was presented at one of the biggest fashion events for young talent – The Graduate Fashion Week Gala.

Clothing designer Ruth Peterson will come to Kaunas and present her work in the framework of the Storm festival on July 1st in the fashion show “The Residence”: during the presentation, it will be possible to see the clothes of the debut collection and the new collection, which has never been seen before. We’re talking to Ruth Peterson herself about the path to the fashion world, the rap fashion these days, and what kind of message we’d like to convey to young creators.

Ruth, in a few days you’ll visit Lithuania for the first time. Do you know something about Lithuania, Kaunas? Some interesting facts or something like that?

I think my dad told me that in Kaunas lives a monster (Kaunas Beast – Editor’s note), obviously as my brand is horror-inspired, I was a bit excited about that. And I really like it!

Your first collection was inspired by the famous movie “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. It’s a horror movie. Why did you’ve chosen the horror genre?

I think with horror films, it’s like even if people don’t necessarily like them or they’re scared, there’s something that’s quite endearing or something that captures you. If a new horror film comes out in the cinema, then everyone goes to see it just because they want the thrill. I thought it was quite fun to kind of bring that into clothing just to keep people excited a bit.

And are you a lover of horror movies?

I actually scared very easily and I jump a lot (laugh)! But what I love about horror genre movies is there are always loads of hidden meanings. For example, if you watch it the second time, there are more

things that you find out. So I think I like the detective work behind it. I like layers and twists and things like that.

Ruth, please tell us about yourself. How did your career in the fashion industry has started and where are you now?

I started getting into fashion when I was in school. When I was a kid, I used to try and draw wedding dresses or whatever, and then as I got a little bit older, I asked my dad if I could spend my free periods in school with a tailor so that I could learn how to do things. I wanted to be a tailor but thought it may be too specialised at such a young age and decided to study fashion first. Now I combine my knowledge of the two.

Here, in Lithuania, you are presented as a rap fashion designer. Do you agree with this definition? Or maybe you would like to be just called a designer, without a narrow area.

To be honest, the way that I want to go with my brand is to collaborate with different artists to create iconic pieces that they can perform in. I guess there’s an element where rap artists were really interested in what I was doing. I think because it was different but without being like too over the top. It was quite subtle and people liked that. The thing with rap artists is that a lot of their music is inspired by a lot of external references – like movies, and poetry… They reference things and my clothing reference things, that’s why it kind of went hand in hand. But yes, there are definitely sides of the business where I want to appeal to working with celebrities and artists to do custom pieces and then obviously their followers are kind of the rest of my target market. I don’t want to be exclusive, I do aim to be inclusive. But I do also like to collaborate with kind of hip hop artists and rock artists because I listen to their work.

Could you describe how the trends of rap/hip-hop fashion changed from the – the ’90s when the rap culture was blooming and booming? What trends/brands define rap fashion nowadays?

I think men have become a lot more open to experimenting with different styles. With streetwear, there is a lot less of a divide between women and men. And I think men are being a lot more open to wearing more feminine things. Even when I started designing at University, I saw a lot bigger, baggier silhouettes – which I still love, but now, there’s been a lot more experimentation with silkier fabrics, prints or flared jeans. There’s a lot more than you can do now and I think it has changed a lot. It also depends on the artist themselves as part of the artists’ brand is their styling.

I’ve noticed that several times you have mentioned the importance of references. What kind of references we cand find in your clothing? What is inspiring you?

I think I use my clothing as a social commentary: I’ll see things that are going on in society at the minute and then juxtapose them with some horror films that I’ve been inspired by. In the past, I’ve had a lot of fun playing with the idea of consumerism – the irony being that fashion is a huge part of it.

Recently there’s been a big movement in positivity and mental health. So actually, some of the phrases that I’ve used in the collection that I’m going to show in Kaunas will link to that. Even though I’m inspired by horror films, quotes like – “I’m not scared!”, are more mean “I’m going to put myself out there”. I see it as a light-hearted spin phrase you might say when watching a horror movie but also with a powerful message behind it.

Let’s talk about Kaunas. You will present your works at the festival AUDRA/Storm in Kaunas at the end of June. What we can expect – if it will be your debut collection of design works or we can expect new ones? In what form we’ll see your clothes?

It will be a part of the fashion show so models will be wearing that. I’m still making some new pieces at the minute, that I’ll be showing at Kaunas and it will be the first time anyone has seen this work, so

it’s brand new. I’ve used some of the old prints and things that I’ve got but there are a lot of new things, therefore, I’m excited about it.

Where are you now – can we expect a new collection in a near future? Are you planning collaborations with brands and music artists?

I’ve got one collaboration coming up, I will not reveal it now because I would like to keep it exciting. I’m also bringing out a fun but educational video series called “Truth with Ruth” it’s for advice for designers or people who want to start brands on the hurdles that you might face with an expert’s view. It is a mini-series covering topics like how to find motivation, protecting your work (with a lawyer) and then about production and what it really costs and how much it goes into it. Just because I feel like there wasn’t a lot of help around that when I started and I think not as many people talk about it so that’s going to come out next month as well.

Thank you, Ruth. Looking forward to seeing you in Kaunas!

The programme of the Audra Contemporary City Festival is co-produced by the youth organisation “Kylantis Kaunas”, “Freimas” and the team of the nightclub “Lizdas”, together with Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022, Pažaislis Music Festival, Kaunas City Chamber Theatre, various partners from Japan, Greece, Serbia, France, Germany, Estonia, Finland and other European countries.

Interview author: Vaida Morkūnaitė