Dreamland Clothing: Nostalgic prints and vintage fashion

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Starting this month, to showcase creative businesses across Dundee during the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, Creative Dundee will be featuring monthly interviews. Our first is Dreamland Clothing, a quirky fashion design label from Ruby Coyne, influenced by the 1980s, Saved by the Bell and the Rugrats.

Can you describe a typical working day in the life of Ruby Coyne?

I like to get up early, come into the studio and set up everything before checking my emails. At the end of each day I clean the studio and create lists for what I need to do the next day which means I know exactly what I’m working on when I come in. Everyday is different, one day I might be working on digital prints and making sure I’m happy with them but sometimes I find it’s good to take a few days to focus on something else so I can come back with fresh eyes and think “is this exactly how I want the layout or colour balance to be?”

I also have days where I work on the vintage label – majority of the time it’s mainline which is the loud and exciting collection but the vintage label is the bread and butter of Dreamland. Since winning the ASOS fashion graduate competition, we are shooting once a month with up to 200 pieces per shoot for the vintage collection, which also sells on our ASOS marketplace, so that can take a lot of time to make sure that there’s a good story to each vintage piece.

There’s a lot of mixing up the design, social media, planning, and correspondence. Most days are jam packed in here! Everyday I have the dogs with me and we take a nice walk at lunchtime so it’s the best set-up for myself.

Tell us about your journey to founding Dreamland  – what inspired you?

Dreamland started when I left college after my textile degree. I needed something to express my vision but I didn’t want to be ‘Ruby Coyne the print or fashion designer’. I wanted to take inspiration from 1980s fashion but I needed some more time to grow and find me feet. I decided to set up a vintage clothing label called ‘Ruby and the Dream of Horses Vintage Clothing’ as a way of generating income whilst studying, keeping at the back of my mind that this would help build the base of what I want to do.
In my 4th year, I realised that I wanted to keep the vintage label but also create my own label so I thought about how I can make this hand-in-hand connection and it was simple – I came up with the concept of Dreamland and split this into mainline and vintage collections which is how it still stands today.
The vintage label has had a huge impact on my main label as I spark ideas from vintage prints and silhouettes. The mainline label is still at the start of it’s journey, having only just launched the first collection last May at the DCA and ASOS have showed huge support in the Dreamland label.

Dreamland Vintage label

Dreamland Vintage label

What has been your highlight of working in fashion design?

The main highlight for me is realising that I have created something. I always say that. Who knows how big it will get or how long it will last – I’m doing something I love instead of just daydreaming. It’s such a daunting thing to do but when I and look at the collection, which used to be a flat drawing on Illustrator and is now hanging on a rail, I can’t help but think “this is kind of awesome!”

Collaboration is also great, I work with a lot of art school student across the world and when someone takes interest in what you’re doing and wants to work with you or take it off in a different direction, that’s a great boost of confidence.

How has being based in Dundee impacted on your business?

Dundee is fantastic – I love being based here and wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else but it’s tough. Although there is a great support network who have included me and invited me to other events, if you want something to happen in this city and pull it off, you need to put the work in. You must also know your audience – it can be difficult to find them anywhere let alone a small city like Dundee but I do have a really good feeling about what’s happening here and my future path. We just need to make sure we support the growing creative network here.

I feel hugely confident in the studio here in Dundee, the label is growing everyday and it’s growing at a pace I’m happy with.

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Dreamland Clothing studio – full of inspiration

What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far?

There’s 2. The first challenge was deciding whether to make my own label or work in London at a design job. That was a big challenge for me, I had to determine whether I wanted to stay here and make something happen or go where something is already happening and try to be a part of that. I decided to stay here and create my own label which I think was the right thing to do. Not to say that things in the future might change but for the time being, I feel confident in my decision.

The second challenge for me was deciding whether or not to make every single garment in the studio or to use a supplier. Ideally, I would love to make everything in studio but being realistic, I couldn’t do this unless I was retailing at a very high price point. I design all my own digital prints and then get them printed from a supplier. This allows me to focus on the growth of the business and plan for greater goals such as building relationships with stockists who are interested in young, urban designers like myself.

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Dreamland Clothing

How did you work with potential customers in the early stages to make sure you were making something they would buy?

Honestly, I didn’t. I made my collection and hoped people would like it. I did test the market with my samples using friends because they are the people who would wear Dreamland clothing. I’m not the type of designer who composes looks to suit something someone wants. Obviously you must keep your target audience in mind but in terms of the prints, they’re so loud and Saved by The Bell/Rugrats inspired that I’d never be able to tame that – it is what it is. Luckily, people like it!  I would say that you do need to think about your client base and target audience when setting up your own business.

What advice would you give to start-up creative businesses in Dundee?

Be confident and be tough. Really go out there and if you want to do something in a specific way, you need to research the method and process you want to go through until the cows come home. You need to know your practice and think about the most plausible method of operating as a business. It’s very difficult to get the balance right between designing and running a business – you have to make decisions which might not be the way you want to do things in order to run a sustainable business. The key points are to know your area of design, aesthetic, what you want to put out online and on social media and when you’re at events how can you incorporate your branding. You also have to think about what is the most effective way to create your design business.

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Dreamland Clothing Illustration by Tidlin

Finally, can you tease us with any future plans for Dreamland? 

Yes I can. I’m really happy to say we had the best 2015 in the print label after debuting with a 7 piece collection funded by myself however this year, we’re going to be stripping a lot of things back in order to be able to create more.
This is an exclusive but we’ll be launching a summer collection in the print label which is a bit more tame in terms of colour – we have a lot of black and white bases. We’ll also be launching a new range in September which is for our customers who might not wear the loud prints but who love the label. This will have a lot of nice luxury sweatshirts and backpacks. We’re also looking at customisation for the new collections which will allow pieces to be more personal for customers. The next vintage line launching soon is called Sunshine and it’s a real American 80s teen vibe – lots of print and denim! We make sure it’s all fresh and has a nice aesthetic feel to it but it will also complement the mainline as they’re both a 1980s style. I’m looking forward to what 2016 will bring!

To view the Dreamland collection, check out their ASOS Marketplace or head to their two day pop-up at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design on 11th & 12th February. You can find out more details on their Facebook Event.

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