There's a sense of honesty that permeates all Rachel Rutt puts her creative mind to. Her woven artworks, her music as one half of Heart People. And most recently, her new knitwear brand, RUTT Australia. Her woollen pieces carry a warmth that can't simply be put down to textiles. It also owes to the fact they are handmade to order, thoughtfully, and straight from the heart. In a fashion realm where the meaning of 'sustainability' ranges from the purest intentions to marketing term, Rutt calls her approach 'gentle'. "I say gentle because all production, no matter how thoughtfully created, has an impact on the climate and environment."
It's a philosophy that prompts more careful consideration on the part of the consumer. A personal connection with the product, and with the artisan who made it. And as we awaken to how we might improve our world, it feels as if that could be part of the solution.
"At the heart of our current revolution of core values is the decision to choose empathy as our guiding force," says Rutt. "For me, slow fashion is an extension of this. It is part of the move towards deeper connectivity, responsibility, and support, a realisation that we must act for our community and common interest, and not solely for our individual gain."
Not only because of all this, Rutt creates clothes we really want to wear. Whether it's the loungewear-to-disco Bell Pant, or the best beanie alternative - the Charlotte Hat. Below, Rutt sheds light on the ways social change has sparked her creativity, and how isolation helped RUTT Australia come to be.
You've mentioned that for you, knitting is the thing that 'just keeps sticking' ... Please tell us about that …
Knitting has been an enduring form of creative expression for me. The pieces I make often follow an initial process more similar to sculpture than pattern making, and I think it’s this point of difference that allows me to feel constantly excited and challenged by it.
How did RUTT Australia come about? Was there a moment of inception?
On one hand, this project really feels as though it has been in the making my whole life. On the other, the Covid-19 crisis has played a real hand in allowing me the free time to get this going. Many of my ideas for it have long been incubating. Some of the core pieces have grown from work I have made in music. The unisex, streetwear staples, for example, while the colourful knitwear definitely arose from my earlier work in custom wearables and textile art.
The brand is made to order, tell us about that …
The need to create a gentle product has played a huge part in my consideration for starting a brand. I say gentle because all production, no matter how thoughtfully created, has an impact on the climate and environment. It was essential for me to create a minimum waste product, and so the knitted pieces are made to order. I think it speaks to the ideal aspects of handmade and bespoke, too. Choosing to invest in an artisanal product immediately contributes to a circular economy. It provides a direct relationship between the creator and consumer, encouraging individuality and careful consideration of the purchase, allowing for the time and skill of the artist or maker to be appreciated and valued.
What were your non-negotiables when you were creating RUTT Australia?
I’m largely choosing to work with materials that are local and /or organic, and creating only small quantities of items with materials that have greater impact, such as nylon. If we consider that our skin is our largest organ, what we expose it to has a definite effect on our well being, similar to eating organic produce or removing harmful detergents from our households. It is important for me to only add to our community and environment work that can uphold this level of care. I think rooting the brand in this perspective will create greater opportunities for innovation.
For some of the pieces, I have lived with and worn for one or two years prior to producing them for others, to ensure that they would actually deliver the desired standards of comfort, quality, and design that I intended. Friends who have supported the inception of the brand have been able to provide valuable feedback and this has been a wonderful way to work.
You've launched the brand at a time when many people are considering how they will spend their lives from hereon in. Is that a coincidence or otherwise?
A bit of both, really. I’m discovering that due to the massive social change afoot, I’m meeting many more likeminded individuals, spending much less time explaining my values, and more time being able to execute them, which is perhaps an explanation for this magical intersection.
What has this time been like for you?
We are facing a lot of tough personal reflection, challenging our deepest roots of identity: as nations, as families, as persons. We are asking questions! Everyone is back to basics. I have felt very positively about this as it seems we are also enjoying life’s pleasures on a very core level. Our time with each other has become much more precious, and so each moment is filled with much more hope and love, deeper sensitivity to and observation of our conditioning.
Tell me about the collection's core pieces. How did they come to be?
Friends have played a big part in the conception of ideas. Sometimes it comes from sharing their desire for a certain item that they just can’t find anywhere. That’s how the Charlotte Hat came to be, when my friend Charlotte Agnew said she was looking for headwear that bridged the gap between a hat and a beanie. The hat has since been a wonderful success. Apparently she wasn’t the only one looking for something like it.
For years I have sought out the perfect lounge pant. Something you could relax in at home, or choose to go out in, and still look good. The Bell Pant is one such hero. It comes in two lengths, regular and long, for whatever your body type, and has an elasticated waist for ultimate comfort. It’s made entirely in New South Wales, which I think is really cool. From growing the wool, processing it and dying it, right down to the knitting. It’s a dream item for me in terms of production.
The other core item is the Philosophy Tee, which is a unisex piece made of organic cotton and featuring a logo stripe down the arms which reads ‘Grace ∞ Power'. Through making music with my band Heart People we developed this concept as a philosophy for action, hence the name.
Who inspires you?
My friends, my partner, and my family. They ground me in the present and challenge me to keep it real.
What is the future of RUTT Australia?
A platform for me to share my work, and embody my values. Ultimately its luxury streetwear that combines unisex sensibility with organic material and raw industrial toughness. Items that connect people and share stories, driven by the experiences of individuality, inspiring wholeness through nourishment and restoration.