Local Designer Raqschala Weston Debuts Belladonna at Ritual
One of the many bummers about working in corporate fashion is the constant sneaking suspicion that you or someone you know could create more interesting original designs than what gets attention at H&M, Zara, Target, etc. - if only they had unlimited time, money, and space. Here in the PNW all three of those resources remain in short supply, but sometimes very determined independent artists are able to make magic happen. Raqschala Weston is one of those determined people, and Ritual will be proudly debuting four pieces of her inaugural athliesure collection, Belladonna, just in time for autumn to come knocking on Seattle's door.
Featuring luxury weight fleece, avant garde silhouettes, and inclusive size options for nearly any human who wears clothing, Belladonna is basically dreamy, urbane loungewear that becomes couture with the addition of accessories and some easy styling. Each piece was handmade in black exclusively for Ritual, lending a shadowy, gothic, witch-of-the-woods vibe to what are, at their core, very practical and wearable garments like hoodies and tunic tops.
Ritual spoke with Weston about her inspiration and process to satisfy our genuine curiosity about how these pieces came about, and how she was able to craft them so skillfully without a giant factory or corporation supporting her. The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
How did you get into designing apparel? How young did you start?
I got into design when I was in elementary school. In class, during craft time I would always draw clothes on my pictures. My mom also used to buy me Barbies that I wasn't really fond of, but they were great models. So I would cut up old clothes and sew "garments" onto them. They were mostly tubes but It was a start.
This collection is insanely comfortable, but also architectural and edgy. How focused are you on the functionality of garments vs. the style and aesthetic?
This collection actually started out as me making work clothes for myself. I was working a stock position that started at 6 AM during covid. I felt so unattractive because I was getting up too early to care about how I looked and then going home to get up and do it again the next day. So I decided to make my take on athleisure. Clothes that were comfortable enough roll out of bed and throw on but stylish enough to wear out on the town if necessary. Style and aesthetics are important but functionality is what matters most.
We talked a bit about a Star Wars influence with these pieces, particularly in the oversized hoodies. What are some other things that influence you when you're designing?
My influences come from all over the place honestly. I have three collections in various stages of development with completely different inspirations: Ice Cream, Caribbean Voodoo, and the Aurora Borealis. None of these things are related but all have inspired me. I think that says a lot about me as a person as well as a designer. All over the place but can streamline it all to one vision.
Are there any designers working today who influence you artistically? Anyone whose career arc you admire?
The work coming out of the black community is spectacular right now, be it Africa, UK, US. Adebayo Oke-Lawal, Brandon Blackwood, Jedidiah Duyile at LoudBrand Studios, and Edvin Thompson at Theophilio. I'm watching all of them right now. But I mostly stick to the classics when it comes to fashion heroes. My top three are Gianni Versace, Coco Chanel, and Cristobal Balenciaga. my design aesthetic is heavily inspired by them, from Versace's sexy showmanship, Chanel's subtle luxury, and Balenciaga's expert craftsmanship.
What do you think about the state of fashion and style in our part of the world, here in the PNW?
I feel like designers and consumers as a whole have gotten lazy in some aspects. Craftmanship and tailoring are making a comeback [because of fast fashion] but for a long time, everything looked the same. Here in the PNW people lack flash. Everything is so subtle and laid back that not too many people try to stand out. For instance, a couple of years back I went to a concert and wore a golden yellow pleated dress with high wedge sandals. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy but I thought they were all crazy to wear sweats out to an event.
Producing apparel locally is not easy, I've found, given space/time/money challenges. And you made this collection all by hand! What did that process look like? I imagine you in your house just buried in fabric...
Exactly that! Me in my sewing room buried in fabric and paper. The longest and most tedious part of the process is pattern drafting. I have to take a small knit block and turn it into every size that is available, then cut it out and make all the markings, etc etc. But I worked with what I had and managed to create something I'm proud of.
The fabric of this collection feels amazing, it's a lovely weighted, super soft fleece, which is just what we need right now, IMO. What other textiles do you love or plan to work with in the future?
I'm big on natural fibers like silk, wool, bamboo, and cotton. My next project is a trench coat with a pleated skirt that I will make out of black wool gabardine.
What is your ideal future for the look of Belladonna? You worked in black for Ritual (obviously) but you've done these pieces in vibrant colors as well. What color palettes do you see being big for the next year or so?
As far as color palettes go I think jewel tones are going to be big next year. My dream for Belladonna is urban luxury... taking the style and bravado from the rappers and singers I grew up worshipping, adding the craftsmanship of high-end designers, and blending all of that with my personal vision.
Belladonna will be available in sizes S thru 3XL in-store and online at Ritual, at 1pm PDT this Friday, September 3rd, until it is sold out.