Claire Chan is the founder of RucheSet, a fashion consulting and crowdfunding platform that offers a path for emerging design talent to test ideas and enter the market. The name RucheSet is inspired by the Ruche of a garment when the fabric is gathered together for a beautiful effect. Claire believes that it’s the fashion industry that should drive the innovation of new textiles, more efficient production methods and circular design principles to widen the focus beyond the product and include material flows, production processes, conditions and options for use and reuse.
Claire is a fashion veteran, working under Angela Ahrendts at Burberry in London and then later in New York as part of the legendary design team behind the LVMH backed re-brand of DKNY. Now based in Sydney, Claire joins us today to discuss her career, favourite brands and the future of fashion.
What are you reading at the moment? The Responsible Company by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley. A great reference for any company or individual on building checks and balances – and doing what is relevant for you to be responsible.
What are you listening to? Lizzo in the mornings, Chet Baker in the evenings.
What is a quote you live by? “Leap, and the net will appear” – John Burroughs.
Who is the most remarkable woman you’ve ever met? Angela Ahrendts from my Burberry days, a transformational leader responsible for epic business growth and building a culture unlike any other I’ve experienced. Also I have to mention my Mamma of course, who taught me to be kind and showed me the world.
Why did you join Future Women? The design and content drew me in. There is such a need for a place for women to share their experiences and feel supported.
What are some of your favourite brands and why? Patagonia for integrity and longevity, Gabriela Hearst for luxury, Jacquemus for relevancy and Peter Do for emerging design.
What inspired you to take the plunge and start your own business? I wanted to have more freedom to choose and set priorities, to travel and work on multiple projects. I wanted my contribution to be more meaningful to me.
Tell us more about RucheSet’s crowdfunding platform. Why did you decide to offer this service as part of your business? Still in a start-up phase, the platform functionality built offers a pre-order or trunk show for fashion brands with responsible values. There is a massive amount of capital required to operate a fashion business and cash flow management is key, so in theory the reward-based crowdfunding model helps to prove market viability of a product that is then made-to-order – reducing overproduction. I use the platform to introduce myself to brands, either emerging or established, to offer strategic advice and consulting based on what their goals are.
Fast fashion is a growing environmental problem. How do you approach your consultancy and advisory for brands with this issue in mind? Efficiency is key. It’s a financial imperative to conserve resources, so it’s important to quantify this for brands through business analysis and merchandising. Key shifts need to include managing the entire life cycle of the product by introducing circular design principles and implementing more efficient production methods. Fast fashion conglomerates know better than anyone how crucial it is to manage to the .000 cent so it’s crucial they improve efficiency of supply chains and prioritise investment in sourcing and developing alternative materials. The biggest environmental impact is at the raw material stage, so the best thing to do is to source lower impact materials and craft a plan to ensure whatever is produced has a long life either through multiple ownership or textile recycling.
What questions should Future Women members ask brands to ensure their clothing is ethically made? There are accreditations for Australian brands through Ethical Clothing Australia and there are apps like good on you. However, there is not a lot of transparency with supply chains so it’s best to choose brands you trust who are open to dialogue about their manufacturing process and commitments, who prioritise using textiles that are recycled, recyclable or biodegradable. Some brands are not able to do this 100% yet or are in the process of transitioning so it’s important to bear with the industry as it moves forward and new innovations are scaled.
“I wanted to have more freedom to choose and set priorities, to travel and work on multiple projects. I wanted my contribution to be more meaningful to me.”
Your role requires you to be creative and collaborative. How do you nurture your creativity so you can continually deliver the innovative solutions your clients need? It’s important to seek out energy and go beyond my comfort zone. I’ll do this by calling up a friend or travelling.
What is the biggest learning curve you’ve experienced since founding RucheSet? Don’t spend too much time alone. Community = longevity.
What changes would you like to see in the fashion and textile industry? Funding and R&D for Innovation in materials and circular systems and technology.
What advice do you have for other women who are contemplating starting their own business? Just do it. Do it anyway, any way. The only person controlling your thoughts is you, so plant seeds of positivity, strength, curiosity and tend to them. Remove fear and second-guessing. Start with small steps like a side project and getting feedback from friends.
If you weren’t the founder of RucheSet, what would you be doing? Working on a label or a textile maybe or starting a seaweed farm!
The future for women is… Made in the present.
We can lift each other up… With inclusivity, opportunity and trust.
I’m most fulfilled when… I’m engaged in work with inspiring people.