Fashion designer and photographer Fefe Browne bases her upcycled denim brand on attention to detail and endless possibilities.
Fefe Browne is the founder and owner of RATE Rough Around The Edges. You could say that this Los Angeles, CA designer and photographer has been blessed with a gift, simply by looking at her designs. As a fashion designer, she has the freedom to create items she feels aren’t commonly seen in stores. She can bring to life sketches of designs, that there might be an increase in demand for. She is able to style herself in the most authentic way possible – standing out from the crowd. Through, ingenuity, creative ambition and a love of the craft she is taking control of her career and putting power into her own hands.
It’s easy to discard your old clothes, thinking that they are no longer useful, out of shape or style. Fefe is on a mission to remind us to see the hidden beauty in our old garments and rework them into new outfits for the new year. Economical and cost-effective fashion. What more could you want?
“RATE is inspired directly by a certain genre of artists and spirit of the time of the 90s and early 2000s.”
Her reconstructed vintage denim label, birthed out of a deep admiration for the 90s and early 2000s period.
Yet, she still manages to incorporate 21st century fashion trends that appeal to young consumers today. The first time I saw Fefe’s designs was back in August 2018, when Grammy-nominated duo Chloe x Halle shared a post wearing her Fax Wrap Tops.
From noticing Fefe’s designs, to constantly being inspired by her growth on Instagram this was a conversation waiting to happen.
I remember logging onto Instagram last year and seeing a post of Chloe x Halle in this denim ensemble. Can you describe how that collaboration came about and how you felt seeing them in your designs?
One of the stylists for the OTR 2 Tour, had reached out to me about the looks she wanted to create for Chloe and Halle. I sent her a few pieces to choose from for the tour and they went with the Fax Wrap Top. It was dope seeing them perform in it. They killed that look!
That’s awesome, being recognised and having your talents seen by a wide audience. So, let’s go back to the beginning. Where are you from and how did your journey into the fashion industry begin?
I am from Los Angeles, CA.
After graduating from Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM), I started out being a window designer for retailers. I also interned with designers I admired. Then, I started RATE Rough Around The Edges by vivid memories of my childhood, artists and music that influenced my style.
Is it important for you to be the face of your brand or are you someone who finds comfort in working behind the scenes?
I’ve found comfort in being behind the scenes. I am challenging myself to be more vocal. If you have a cool perspective, you should be comfortable with sharing it.
I admire how you’ve taken what connected with you of the fashion in the 90s and early 2000s era. While, creating a brand that is uniquely your own and features styles that fit with today’s fashion trends. How important is it that young fashion designers today, know and understand who the most prominent designers and fashion icons of that era were?
I think it’s good to become positively obsessed in your purpose. I’m constantly learning and pulling inspiration from all eras. It’s important to know Charles Frederick Worth and his impact on Haute couture, for us to even have experienced a McQueen, or Galliano. Knowing these impacts are important for developing your own lane.
Some people say double denim doesn’t work and refer to the Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears’ red carpet look from the 2001 American Music Awards in doing so. What would you say were some of the do’s and don’t of fashion the 90s and early 200s era?
I enjoy all of it..from the JNCO parachute jeans, to the popcorn shirts. How things are styled can bring new life to old items. I like a lot of random things that people wouldn’t dare wear.
Your brand proves that there are no restrictions to how denim can be used in fashion. Do you believe that there shouldn’t be any limitations on street style?
Which brands or public figures would you most like to collaborate with in the future?
I would love to collaborate with Levis, Von Dutch, and Juicy Couture. I feel connected to all three lol (part of my closet at some point).
The late Christian Audigier, a French-born fashion marketer was known for getting celebrities like Madonna, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey to help endorse brands like Ed Hardy and Von Dutch. He once said in a 2007 Times interview “I believe celebrities are the best driver for trends”. Do you agree with this, do you think that celebrity culture can be a good source of publicity for rising fashion brands like RATE Rough Around The Edges?
If you are consistent, and your work is good, people find you. Today we are a lot more accessible. “Celebrity” was the state of the culture in the 90s/early 2000s. With the power of social media, you don’t have to rely on celebrities to gain exposure or drive trends. You as the the designer can deliver the content to your consumers directly.
What do you think are some of the differences in the ways fashion designers can generate publicity around their brand now compared with the 90s and early 2000s era?
Networking on social media with other creatives rather photographers, stylists, collaborating with other designers, make up artists and models.
If you could describe your brand in three words what would they be?
I really like that you’ve used the word “upcycled”. For those who don’t know the term is also known as creative reuse. By dictionary definition upcycled means, “the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality and environmental value”. Would you say that being a designer, means that you have a unique ability to see beauty in objects or materials that the average person wouldn’t and how these materials can be then be transformed into a fashion statement?
I would say being a designer relies on instinct. We all see the same thing, but feel completely different. The gut feeling can provoke the statement you want to say or feel.
What gave you the idea to experiment with denim the way you do?
While I was developing RATE Rough Around The Edges a few years ago, I was using fabric and constructing my ideas the normal way. One night I ran out of fabric and I had my favorite pair of jeans that I could not fit anymore on my desk. So, I reconstructed the jeans and turned them into what I call the Fax Wrap Top.
Wow. I think that’s really awesome. Your story is a first-hand account of the power and independence you have as a fashion designer. Is there a process to how you make your designs now and how long does it take?
When I start, I usually don’t have an idea present. I just start chopping away and go with what inspires me in the moment. So, every item is probably different in time and construction.
What you have managed to bring to reality, simply by letting your creativity run wild and trusting your instincts is inspiring. You should be proud of what you have accomplished so far. Where did your confidence come from – the confidence that has allowed you to bring this vision to life? What advice would you give to other young fashion designers?
Believe in yourself
Stick to the script
Have no fear
Develop a daily schedule for yourself and be consistent
On another note, what tips do you have in terms of cutting costs and saving money, while maintaining a fashion brand?
Invest in yourself. I was able to cut costs by being the photographer and having that one-on-one experience with the garment and the model. This has been another passion of mine. Networking with stylists and other designers, has been also a big help.
Have you encountered any obstacles or failures along your journey?
No failures, just adjustments. I am a designer, sales person and photographer…etc. I don’t complain about my passion, I just adjust where need be in any obstacle I face.
If you had to sum up the life lessons your experience as a fashion designer and brand owner has taught you so far, what would they be?
Stay focused and zone in on your craft. “Time” is your experience. Don’t let outside energy rush you.
That’s so important. Thank you for sharing that with me and the people reading this interview right now. As we come towards the end of the year, what’s next on the agenda for you?
I plan on doing some new nostalgic denim pieces for SS20, which speak to my personal style. I also would like to expand the brand, do basics and novelty collections in the future.
KEEP UP WITH FEFE BROWNE