Suzanne Clements and Inacio Ribeiro
It was a chance meeting with Inacio Ribeiro recently, where Georgia discovered his wife and Co-Founder Suzanne Clements was already a fan of Marfa Stance and owned her own Signature Quilt. A long-time admirer of their iconic brand Clements Ribeiro and signature use of colour, we are delighted to spotlight the duo and discover Suzanne’s career pivot into the art world.
After a 7 year hiatus, Clements Ribeiro is back with the launch of a capsule cashmere collection, now designed soley by Inacio Ribeiro. The label known for its unflinching way with colour and a modern maximalism was a key player on London’s fashion scene during the late Nineties and Noughties.
For Marfa Stance, Suzanne Clements discusses a new chapter as an artist and Inacio reflects on an industry post Covid: his new found freedom and why being on the margins of the system is proving a more attractive place to be.
You closed the business in 2014, what did you both go off and explore after that?
Inacio: Suzanne wanted to move away from fashion. I played with art but the pull of fashion was too much and I still felt I had so much more to give, so I was a design consultant and worked with many global fashion brands and knitwear.
Suzanne: It was a shame having built it all to then dump it all so one thing we did was a range of wallpapers from our print archive with Schmacher in the US. It was a way to keep some continuity. I’d never contemplated being an artist but through our daughter Violet who is good at art, I started to paint and take art classes and was immediately hooked and then enrolled on a masters. Our lawyer had long ago suggested that we just do cashmere, that we would have an easier life.
Inacio: Once we’d done the catwalk and got it all out of our system, it felt like the cashmere was the part we could bite off and keep. We also have a nice relationship with Barrie which is a big part of this. It’s proper craft and there’s something wholesome about doing cashmere.
Does it feel odd not being part of this new chapter of Clements Ribeiro?
Suzanne: What Inacio is doing I have lived and breathed: the colour tabs, it’s something I know really well, I feel part of it. But there isn’t room in this collection for two of us, and in many ways, things are more coherent by having only one of us doing it.
Tell me about the cashmere collection, there is so much colour and vim
Inacio: I have honed my skills about the idea of colour, not only because I felt the market needed colour urgently because of the times we are living in, but it is also one of my strengths. I start the collection with a colour palette of 150 colours and I’m not intimidated by that. I’m happy to flaunt it and play it up. I can combine colours almost in a musical way, making compositions and harmonies and textures and creating a vibrant, energetic colour palette.
I work with the team at Barrie to make this innovative but very concise collection and I feel I can make very considered decisions where I really study the colour harmonies and how the pieces speak to each other and create a flow. This makes me really happy and it’s a simple operation unlike before.
How much do you think the fashion industry has changed post -pandemic?
Inacio: An enormous amount, accelerated of course, by the pandemic. There’s a huge freedom in how to do things, the gate keepers, if you like, have gone and you have a lot more control over your own journey and story-telling.
The whole creative process has been demystified, largely thanks to social media. You don’t, for example, need the approval of Vogue, you don’t have to follow a rigid system, even the fashion weeks are splintering. You can have your fashion show whenever you want. Or not as the case might be. You can approach anyone directly and in a much more personal way too.
Suzanne: Everything is more immediate now: before you would show your dress and 6 months later, it’s on Vogue. It’s so democratic and free.
Inacio: The key thing is your ability now to relate to people and in a personal and honest way which becomes fundamental because there’s less of a dance of manners.
Also, where I would have once travelled to Scotland to develop the collection, these meetings are now immensely simplified. I’ve done two collections already without having to go there in person.
Marfa Stance is a great example of how things can be done differently in fashion. Georgia is very focussed on one product, it’s a very tight concept that she explores magnificently. She has not only zoomed in on the product but on the customer and has a very sharp understanding of what Marfa Stance should be and who the customer is to the point that she has organically grown a cult following.
How has it changed for you Suzanne?
Suzanne: Throughout lockdown, there was so much improvising and making things up as we go along. Now we Zoom which would have felt unacceptable not to meet in person before. It’s become really normal for artists to sell their work on Instagram. Before you had to have a gallery but it’s less formulaic now, anything goes.
I’m going on a residency to New Foundland for a month, so will be working on cliff edge looking at icebergs and whales and I will paint there really intensely for a month and then I graduate in September (from Kennington’s City and Guild, school of Art.)
Inacio: One of the reasons why Suzanne got really disillusioned with fashion is because we both grew up in the Eighties and saw fashion as an important part of the cultural conversation.
Suzanne: I felt fashion was an art form, we went to college and fashion for me was… you know I’d studied the Japanese designers like Yohji and Comme and then it turned into this really trashy …like a big branding and marketing exercise. I think the rise of the celebrity killed it.
I had got into fashion because it used to be properly cool people. It used to be about music and fashion , it wasn’t mainstream, it was niche. I loved it when it was niche. It’s almost cooler now to not be wearing it.
Inacio: Clements Riberio is a super important expression of myself, it’s not just merch…
In a way to be on the margins of the system is a better place to be, if you are at the centre of it then all of a sudden you have to do a handbag, dress a celebrity….
Photograph by Alex Cameron
Interview by Carolyn Asome