Meet the Maker: Rat des Champs
Alix Davidson’s clothing and jewelry line Rat des Champs is simply stunning. The construction is impeccable. The materials are luxurious. And each piece has an heirloom quality that’s rare in today’s fast fashion world.
We’re smitten with her stunning pieces and can’t wait for y’all to meet the Louisiana designer at her Flea Style debut this April!
How did you come up with your company name?!
The name is from a fable you’ve probably heard in some form or another. In English it’s The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse. I am referring to the French version le Rat des Ville et le Rat des Champs by La Fontaine. The lesson, or moral, of this one appeals to me because it’s about slowing down and appreciating what you have and being comfortable with it. It’s playful and meaningful at the same time and characterizes my personal philosophy pretty well. It’s a good conversation starter which is always welcome!
Tell us about your love for vintage clothing:
I watched masterpiece theater and Mystery on PBS like it was church… I would, like most kids, dig through my mom’s closet which was full of the best vintage 70s clothes and would be the envy of all my high school friends. In high school is really when I got into thrifting and vintage clothing. My friend Cherie and I would go to Goodwill and take our finds back to her house where we’d use her mom’s machine to alter them. Usually that meant making them as short and tight as we could get away with! That’s when I really became interested in sewing.
What fashion icons inspire you?
Yves Saint Laurent and Laura Ashley. I also have to mention two artists that influenced my love of sewing: Louise Bourgeois and Eva Hesse. They really kept my love of materials alive and sparked further interest in sewing, quilting and using fabric and natural elements in art. YSL is an icon who really needs no explanation, but his bohemian, tie-a-scarf-around-it, goddess, 70s greatness was hands down the best thing to happen in fashion in my lifetime. Laura Ashley’s love of vintage is what made her a household name in the 80s and I find her story so inspirational. I also grew up with her clothing and home decor because my mom was a big fan.
Is there a certain era of vintage that you love the most?
I gravitate to the 70s because that’s what I found in my mom’s closet as a kid. I’m also drawn to the Edwardian era at the turn of the 20th century and fashion from the late 1700’s to early 1800’s. I think the changes that occurred in fashion during all of those periods were for greater comfort and industry… Women were expressing themselves. I’m not a historian but it’s all very interesting to me!
What does your collection include?
I make everything from dresses to pajamas. I have probably made more dresses than anything, but I’ve made pants, skirts, blouses, you name it! I try to coordinate everything so they look good layered together or on their own.
Your accessories game is gorg. What can our Dallas spring show shoppers expect?!
For Flea Style I’m making some scarf type hats that are really fun. I’m excited about them! I haven’t made them before so I’m looking forward to the feedback. I like to make tea towels and other home goods so I’ll probably have a few of those available, too. That’s the Laura Ashley in me! I also collect vintage brooches and other jewelry so I have fun playing around with styling the clothes. I’ll bring some of those with me too.
How long does a garment take you to make on average?
The average dress takes about ten hours start to finish, but it varies piece by piece. I work at home so distractions are many! My goal is to streamline the process so I can get more done in the time I have and have a few extra hands on deck, too.
Walk us through your design process:
I dig through my vintage pattern collection and pick out a range of styles that feel right. Then I go through my fabric stash in kind of the same way. I lay everything out and match things up the way I want them and pick items I want to go together for a complete wardrobe. It’s really creative and fun. After that it’s all about process: ironing, measuring, cutting, marking and sewing. When I’m doing custom garments, I do fittings which includes measuring, altering the pattern or having the customer send measurements to me. I’m really learning new things everyday with this business. It is a slow process, but I think it is worth it to have well made and fitted clothes.
Tell us more about the custom part of our business. That’s kind of a lost art today!
When I receive a custom order I start by doing a consultation. I get to know the customer and their interests and they get to know me (they’re usually interested in vintage fashion and sewing so we have a lot in common). Then I help them pick fabrics by asking questions and collecting ideas and images. Sometimes I have what they want and sometimes I have to hunt it down. Some customers even send me fabric. There’s really no one way; each person is different. I will make a sample garment for fittings sometimes if it’s necessary. But since I have a lot of loose easy to wear styles, usually a few measurements do the trick.
In three words, how would you describe your company?
Playful. Comfortable. Imaginative. Playful because everything comes back to dress up; that’s where my love of fashion began. Comfortable because I can’t stand not to be! Imaginative because that’s what I am when I look at an old pattern. I imagine myself in a different place and time and it inspires me to create.
We know ethical business standards are super important to you. Fill us in on why:
I choose natural fibers because they’re biodegradable and release less harmful toxins into the environment. Not all are created sustainably so I am careful where I source what I buy. There are innovative options out there for synthetic fibers, but since I make vintage style clothing I like traditional fabric like cotton and linen. I’m also getting involved in workers’ rights because there is so much abuse happening in the labor sector it really can’t be ignored, especially if you are making your business about fashion. I’m currently doing a fundraiser for Labour Behind The Label which is based in the UK and provides legal support and other services for workers being exploited all over the world.
If you could go back in time and dress one movie star, who would it be?
Where do you see your company in five years?
Hopefully somewhere with a window I can decorate and where passers by can pop in to chat. I have always wanted a little shop.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
I’d love to work with a costume designer on a Wes Anderson film!
Favorite fabric to work with?
Right now rustic linen, but cotton poplin has held that spot before. So has cotton flannel — so I guess it changes with the weather.
Favorite old movie?
Doctor Zhivago was my first favorite, but I love French films too. I also like pseudo horror films like Nosferatu the Vampyre and Rosemary’s Baby.
Meet Alix at our Dallas spring show April 6th and 7th! Tickets ($5-$40; parking free) are now on sale at shopfleastyle.com. VIP tickets include a free cocktail, Sprinkles cupcake, tote bag, Marrakesh by Design coffee table book, henna tattoo and more!