REIN London presentation for LDC at London Fashion Week.

​It’s February which means heart shaped chocolate, black history, flipped pancakes and of course -Fashion Month. The bi-annual spectacle has descended upon us once again and this week, fashion’s boldest and brightest travelled 3,459 miles from the big apple to see what London has to offer. With the likes of big name labels such as Burberry and Peter Pilotto showcasing some of their best work to date, it’s easy to forget that this month is also dedicated to emerging talent. Last Saturday, at The London Designers Collective event I had the pleasure of being introduced to just a few of London’s bright-eyed designers and they certainly did not disappoint.

The London Designers Collective is “A select combination of pioneering, contemporary fashion lifestyle brands” focusing on bringing experience and commerce together. My first LDC experience came in the form of a presentation by womenswear brand REIN London whose owners Rebecca Morter and Gemma Vanson founded LDC just last year. For their latest collection, REIN London – who boasts the likes of Lady Gaga and Jessie J as clients, presented an offering of gritty yet functional designs. I could see myself in every outfit and when speaking to co-founder Gemma Vanson it was clear that functional designs coupled with an ethos to help women feel “comfortable in their own skin” was the formula behind the brand’s universal appeal. ​
Gemma Vanson: I’m Gemma and I’m one half of REIN London and I started the brand with my business partner Rebecca. We met at university and we had similar views on feminism so we started the brand together based on that.

Our first collection was called ‘My Body is a Cage’ and it was all about women’s relationships with their bodies and that’s really been the crux of the brand from the very beginning – how women are perceived and how we perceive our own bodies.

So, we’ve done a sort of combination from some of our old collections and added some new bits into it for this season. Everything is about ‘The Woman’, it’s about her, it’s about she, it’s about seeing her coming and taking up space – being seen and being heard as a woman. Also on top of that, it’s about making sure women are comfortable wearing our clothes so you look great and you feel great as well.

POF: In the current political climate, we’ve seen many women begin to mobilize. As you know, they’re trying to get themselves seen and heard in a more liberated light. How do you think you’re showcasing that through your designs?

GV: It’s really about being comfortable in your own skin and being able to exude confidence because if you don’t feel confident in yourself then no one else is going to have confidence in you. Clothing plays a huge part in that, in the way that we feel about ourselves and the way we’re presenting ourselves to other people. It’s about making you ‘look good’ but more importantly feelgood. ​

REIN London co-fonder Gemma Vanson with Psychology of Fashion founder Shakaila Forbes-Bell

After the presentation, I headed down to the pop up shop where I met Leona -founder of Pack Lite. Pack Lite is an organic cotton bag line inspired by the image of a lone traveller. The simplicity of this visual is clearly reflected in Leona’s aesthetic as each bag is the epitome of minimalism.

Leona: I make bags that are interchangeable and reversible and I use organic cotton to produce them. I try and stayaway from fast fashion so I release one collection per year. This is my first collection, my first season. I started the line in September of last year. This is also my first pop up shop, I’m enjoying it here and I’m grateful to LDC for bringing me on board. ​

 Psychology of Fashion founder Shakaila Forbes-Bell wearing the Pack Lite mini grey backpack, one of  Leona’s (Pack Lite owner) favourite pieces. Photo taken by Psychology of Fashion

POF: As a designer hailing from an ethnic minority background, have you faced any challenges within your career or do you think there’s a lot of progression being made within the fashion industry?

Leona: As a minority designer I haven’t faced any challenges within my career at all actually. I feel like I’ve been very welcomed into the design community. I feel like there may be more opportunities as an ethnic designer to reach and to really communicate how fashion affects the world on a global scale and to connect with industries in Africa to develop more ethical and sustainable businesses.

POF: Why is sustainability so important to you personally in your design process?

Leona: It’s important for me because I feel we need to preserve the environment which we live in, we need to preserve the world! We really need to look at how we’re using resources and how we’re depleting what’s available to us. So, we have to look at more innovative ways of producing products. We have to really go back to the basics and start afresh. That’s what I try to do with the brand in using organic cotton, leaving the cotton as it is which seems a bit like we’re going backwards to go forwards really because that’s how nature created it.

POF: What a valid point! As a new designer what advice would you give someone trying to join the industry?

Leona: I would say go for it! It’s challenging when you’re starting a business, you have to wear many hats and do many jobs, as a creative you don’t really realise how many jobs you have to take on especially business-wise. I would say seek help from your friends, your family, other people in the industry even people within other industries who may have contacts. Just reach out to everyone in your circle and push forward and just do it!

When I asked Leona about the meaning behind the Pack Lite brand name she discussed a lot of people’s desires to travel light in a psychological sense i.e. ridding one’s self of emotional baggage – a message which truly resonated with us here at The Psychology of Fashion blog. 

To find out more about feminist force that is REIN London check out their website here.

To find your next sustainable bag crush visit Pack Lite’s website here.


Shakaila Forbes-Bell is a Fashion Psychologist and writer who has been featured in Marie Claire UK, i-D, Who What Wear, All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, Fashion Bomb Daily, The Voice Newspaper, Gal-Dem, Black Matters US and more.

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