Eloise Rapp is a multidisciplinary designer currently working in textile and surface design, illustration and product development.Small Talk & Co. is delighted to bring you Eloise’s interview, as the decided Japanophile opens up about patience, knowing when to let go, and the transitory career patterns of the mammalia class. Any designer who can confidently describe themselves with direct reference to the Pantone colour pallet has my immediate attention (its 16-1359 TCX by the way). Eloise balances two businesses (!), the self-named Rapp, alongside new venture Three Lives, whilst also working part time part-time as a creative coordinator and designer for Australian art legend Ken Done. Rapp’s stunning silk scarves are designed by Eloise and printed on 100% silk Crepe de Chine, each a mini artwork in itself. Eloise has very kindly shared with Small Talk the difficulties in creating art on such small canvases, with the Rapp brand currently in transition from designer/retailer to a more broadly capable creative studio. In the meantime, Eloise’s travels have inspired the launch of another creative enterprise, Three Lives, proving that creative lightning can indeed strike twice! Three Lives is a curated collection of artisanal bathing goods, bringing the beauty and intimacy of handmade back into the bathroom.
Owner: Eloise Rapp
Location: Sydney, Australia, and online
Who are you and what do you do?
Whilst I now consider myself a true multi-disciplinary designer, my background is in fashion and textiles. I studied fashion at UTS, and after graduating I worked at a few Sydney fashion studios as a textile print designer until I reached a senior level. I got itchy feet in 2010 and moved to a city that would inevitably become my second home, Tokyo. It was here that I pushed my other passions into working reality, doing more styling, writing and trend forecasting for organisations such as WGSN. My stint abroad was a creative catalyst, and after returning to Sydney from Japan in 2011, I decided to start my own label, spurred on by the years of design and production experience behind me.
RAPP is about to have its 2nd birthday, and a lot has changed during that time. I lived in Melbourne for a while to try a different work and play scene, and what I actually discovered through this period of movement is that my passion was shifting away from fashion and edging closer to the creative arts, architecture and interior design.
I don’t think it’s uncommon for creative workers to spend a significant chunk of their 20s moving from city to city, country to country in an attempt to identify their true aspirations. Making lots of new industry connections and concurrently haemorrhaging your savings is all part of the process. The result of this is more shrewd financial management and great people skills, which I believe are essential to operating your own business.
I moved away from commercial fashion and now work part-time as a creative coordinator and designer for Ken Done, which I adore. This has also given me the scope to analyse my true business desires and diversify away from a lone product.
You’ve been quite busy lately, transitioning RAPP from an accessories label to a creative studio, and launching a new venture Three Lives:-
What challenges did you face with Rapp that lead to the change of focus?
RAPP as an accessory label had some key issues for me that I really only considered about a year into the process. Scarves, whilst being a wonderful medium to showcase my illustrations, are too limiting for me as a style (it’s a square, after all). Digital printing is heinously expensive and is a textile process you’re somewhat removed from as a designer, so recently I’ve found myself longing to go back to more tactile methods like screen printing and dyeing, which I am trained in, and which I can therefore produce 100% locally – possibly in my own backyard. I made an informed business decision for the current spring/summer scarf collection to be my last, and that RAPP can stick around as a creative studio and for one-off products. Now I have that extra time, I can push the go button on Three Lives.
What is Three Lives?
Three Lives will be an online store serving up bespoke bathing goods. It’s the perfect combination of my love of textiles and raw materials, homewares, apothecary and good, solid relaxation. The focus is on small-scale, artisanal goods made both locally and sourced from the bathing capitals of the world (Turkey, Morocco, Japan etc). Think hand dyed silk and linen bathrobes, fine quality towels, hand-crafted apothecary, woven baskets, ceramics, timber goods and so on. It will all be very elemental, very tactile and sing of the handmade process.
How long has Three Lives been in development?
I have been obsessed with bathing culture since my first trip to Japan and introduction to Onsen over a decade ago! Since then I’ve been lucky enough to experience bathing culture in Turkey, Morocco and Hungary (I’m yet to visit Russia, Korea or Scandinavia – the other bathing capitals of the world). I became fascinated with the different traditions that accompany bathing in all these countries, from how you enter the bath, what towels and washing implements you use, what you put on your skin, what effects different types of water have etc. Needless to say, I have a few embarrassing stories to back up my curiosity.
This interest gathered steam (punny, I know) in the last year, as I became more and more overworked and was often retreating to the bath with a box of Epsom salts to relax. A few months ago a toyed with the idea of creating a business solely devoted to the beauty and comfort of bathing, and that’s when I began my research and designing. In the last couple of months the sampling and experimentation processes have begun and there’s no looking back now! I can’t wait to bring it all to life.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
That not everything has to happen straight away. When I was working full time, which was the case up until only a year ago, I panicked that my business wasn’t moving and growing at a fast enough pace. I was being a petulant child, wanting everything to happen right NOW. I didn’t realise that I was being very unrealistic and therefore placing these really unachievable and impractical deadlines on myself. An expert in the field gave me that advice quite matter-of-factly, and it really changed my perspective.
What tools or practices do you use to help you make difficult business decisions?
Ask an expert – seriously! Ask a business coach or a therapist or someone who has made all the mistakes and come out strong. Don’t be afraid to let go of a dog idea, and be open to constructive criticism. I’m not precious with difficult business decisions; if it’s not viable, it’s not an option, and if it’s a pipe dream, leave it as a pipe dream and focus on the smaller goals that will get you there.
Tea or coffee? Coffee!
Savvy, Sass or Study? I have to say all three. You need to study so you know your craft and don’t freak out when things go awry. If you’re truly savvy, you’ll eventually become an expert, which I think should be every small business owner’s goal. Sass is important because you’ve got to believe in what you do and market yourself.
Want – learning or opportunity?; I’d say opportunity. I couldn’t tell you what that opportunity is yet, but if it comes along I’ll take it.
Need – apprentice or expert?: Oh god, an apprentice would be amazing! Check back in six months and I might be hiring!
Superpower: The idea of superpowers freak me out. Humans have enough power already.
Favourite place in the world: Inside the Hagia Sophia, Istanbul.
Favourite way to unwind: In a bath, naturally.
Listening to: Nigeria 70 · The Definitive Story of 1970’s Funky Lagos
Guilty pleasure: Crepes.
Favourite escape: Tokyo.
Business icon: Dennis Paphitis, founder of Aesop.
Friends of Three Lives
How can I contact you?
Tweet me @rrrap
Visit Rapp here http://www.rrrapp.com/
Three Lives inspiration board on Tumblr
or visit Three Lives here (launching soon) http://www.threelives.net