I met Beth Richards about fifteen years ago while she was visiting Vancouver through a common friend of ours. There have been many changes in our lives through the years, but what hasn’t changed are Beth’s complexities, which when meshed together form a cohesive design ethos that is hers alone.
Her fascination with streetwear culture, unique fashion sense, outspokenness, hard work ethic and outmost perseverance to pursue passions contribute to her much deserved success.
She made a bold launch of her eponymous brand in 2012 by creating a conceptually minimal line of swimwear with a non- colour palette of black and white. This collection did not go unnoticed. Today her line of luxurious swimwear can be found not just on the beaches but also as ready to wear clothing pieces.
We chatted with Beth Richards leading up to the opening of her highly anticipated pop up store in New York City.
Where were you born?
Your were quite a cutie when you were a child, I remember your mom showing me a photo of you with rosy cheeks, wearing a strawberry print dress! Do you have any significant memories from that time period that you cherish?
Aww thanks. I do have great memories of a happy childhood, painting by an easel in my dad’s dress shirt in the back yard. I consider myself pretty lucky to have loving parents.
Curious to know What were you like as a teenager? What were you into?
I was really into grunge and music like most teens. I cried so much the day Kurt died! As I got older I got more into raving, especially jungle. Toronto had a booming scene…met some amazing people during that time. Basically the movie KIDS was my life in a nutshell. Skaters, raving, weed.
What kind of music resonated with you as a teen?
I listened to a wide range of genres, everything from the Smiths, to drum and bass. I loved rap of course, so I was in heaven as a kid in the 90’s. Mobb Deep the Infamous is still my fave rap album, but being in the east no one could deny Biggie and Wu-Tang. We were so lucky to have grown up in the golden era!
Did you go through a rebellious phase when you were younger?
I would say rebelliousness is something that lives within you forever. I was, and still am in my own way…my poor parents!
How did fashion find you?
I was accepted into a ballet school full time and decided I didn’t love it enough. I remember sitting down with my high school guidance counselor trying to pick elective classes, and grade 10 Clothing was in the book. I was hooked from the very first day… my teacher eventually watched me graduate from fashion school.
Too bad those types of classes aren’t encouraged anymore because it was a life changing moment for me.
Do you have a great fashion moment in your teens that you can think of? On that note, can you think of a fashion piece as a kid that you wish you still had now?
Ha! Well there are many. I started sewing in high school and made some pink terry cloth overalls with a matching mini backpack. I got into making baby backpacks from friends, then moved on to more complicated things.
I started experimenting with vintage, which reminds me of this awesome denim skirt I still wish I had. And yes! There were definitely some awkward fashion moments along the way.
You had a collection called Grandiose that you did with Brian Mendoza back in the day, I remember it sold in stores like Vice. Was that your first venture into design? How would you describe this collection?
We first started with Gorgeous Killer which was more street like graphic tees etc, then Grandiose was a men’s collection. We were both in the industry at the time, so it was a fun side project. We did knits and wovens, mostly elevated casual cut and sew. It was when Menswear was just about to have a moment, pre-hypebeast era.
The first time I met you was way before you decided to move here, probably 15 years ago. I remember you were so stoked on your new Nikes and you were really into streetwear. What do you think about streetwear culture now compared to back then?
Ha funny. I am a bit of a “head” at the end of the day, not going to lie. I feel it was a bit more pure back then, there’s a lot of really wacky stuff out now that kids eat up. Most herbs that buy Supreme actually have no idea what makes that brand special, no context for art or its history.
I really miss the idea of individuality and uniqueness in general. Kids all want to like and wear the same stuff. It’s the “like” generation, a lot of sameness that is widely accepted… in fashion and attitude.
How did you end up in Vancouver?
I got a job at Aritzia and moved out. I really did feel a gravitational pull to come out west, I just wasn’t sure why.
When did you first decide to start or think about making Beth Richards Swimwear? What made you decide to do swimwear versus another fashion line?
When I got here I had no idea there were beaches. I immediately started looking for options to wear and realized how under serviced swimwear sector was. It was at that moment I thought there was an opportunity for swimwear to feel special. I had no idea how it would change me and my clients. What I do is so much more than swimwear – it’s offering a woman to celebrate her body, to feel amazing and empowered in an otherwise youth dominated market.
I remember when you first decided to make your swimwear collection and thinking how ambitious it was. Did you ever envision Beth Richards Swimwear taking off like this?
I would be lying if I didn’t say YES. Having my name attached to something means a lot to me so failure wasn’t an option. Of course, failure is a part of growth and for the record I “fail” or face challenges everyday – it’s just how you manage those challenges that defines one’s success.
I tried to accomplish as I could in a day to feel comfortable with where I was at. I also worked really hard and had experience, so it was the perfect time to launch and I’m so happy I did.
Is there any work lesson that you could talk about that you use as a guiding map in your career?
I think trying to keep things in perspective is always key. There is always a solution to any problem, and dealing with challenges with a deep breath in between is a good thing. I let my intuition guide me and its helped me make good choices.
You have always had strong opinions about your views on the world of fashion, I always found it admirable and amusing. Is there anything in fashion now that bothers you?
Ha, yes! YEEZY. I’ll leave it there.
You are on the verge of opening a Pop Up store in New York this month, you must be so excited. Where is it located? And why did you choose New York to do your first store?
So stoked! It’s in the Lower East Side at 2 Rivington from June 15-July 10. Being from Toronto I still feel a real connection to an NYC type attitude and inspirations. Although I live in Vancouver it’s the city that has driven me to work hard and hustle. It felt like a natural place to showcase what I’m trying to bring to swim. Go big or go home I guess!
What can we expect from your new collection?
Next season is really exciting! A lot of neck details, a custom pink colour and playing with silhouettes are always present. I wish I could say more but don’t want to give too much away.
Do you any words of advice for anyone starting a collection?
Love what you do and believe in it! I think whatever it is anyone is doing, try to bring something different and special to the table.
(Last photo: Beth Richards as a child. Image courtesy of the designer)
Check out the SS16 collection here