The Rise of the Rachel Riley Brand

Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8th March, Rachel shares how she built her business from the ground up and what advice she would give to aspiring women in business.

From creating small pieces for friends and family to an award-winning, internationally-renowned brand, Rachel Riley proves that with determination, consistency and a true passion for what you do, anything is possible.
Rachel's children with family friends
Rachel's children along with some family friends in 1994 when she started her business

What was the hardest part about starting your brand?


It was easy to start, as I just started it very simply!  We have of course encountered issues along the way, but I have just put one foot in front of the other and tackled whatever came along, calmly and with determination.

I advise anyone who is thinking about starting a new project to start small, as once you start you will soon see what needs to be addressed. I am also a great believer of ‘I will cross that bridge when I come to it!’ Then I don’t need to worry about some eventuality that might not ever happen.

Rachel Riley studying a book

A photoshoot for one of our first mail-order catalogues, 1995

Why is feminism important to you?

I was brought up in the sixties, and feminism was a hot topic at that time as I remember my Mum talking about it with her friends. Personally, I have never felt sexual discrimination in my field. I feel strong and capable and determined, so am able to assert my own voice, and I encourage all children to know how to do that too.

Of course I see all around me instances of where there is inequality, but I have chosen to pursue my own path, making my own opportunities and I want to help others to do the same. Wherever inequality abounds that just makes me want to fight harder!

Rachel Riley archive image posing with a car

A fun lifestyle photoshoot, mid-nineties when Rachel launched her brand

Did you have any doubts along your journey? If so, how did you overcome them?

I have always had doubts and still do! I am quite persistent and determined though, and these are positive qualities when it comes to running your own business.

Recent world events have thrown up so much change, but I try to find the exhilaration and challenge in making positive changes to my business. One of these is pivoting to be an online business, that works well for childrenswear (busy parents would much rather have their orders delivered) so it seems to be working well, especially as we are able to showcase our fantastic photography and videos!

Rachel sewingRachel hand-smocking a sample from the 1st collection

What would you say is the key to success?

Success in not a destination, it is the journey and I feel incredibly lucky that I am able to do something I love every day. I enjoy the challenges of running a small business and being a team leader! I also find immense satisfaction in creating so that is what success means to me.

I love choosing fabric and trims and creating cute and comfortable clothing collections so that babies and children will enjoy wearing our clothes. I also enjoy creating images in the studio with my husband (the world-renowned photographer Daniel Jouanneau) and the care and attention that that requires. Success for me lies in doing what makes me feel good and being appreciated by our loyal and new customers.

Rachel Riley writing at a desk
Rachel is already well accustomed to remote working!

What has been your proudest moment since starting your business?

I suppose it has to be the day that I decided that I was going to take the plunge and start this business! I had 3 small children under the age of 5 but was undaunted in my determination to do what I wanted to and the vision I had for my business remains undimmed.

Of course, winning awards is always fun! It is also exciting to see the children of celebrity customers or royal customers wearing our clothes, but I design collections with all children in mind, whether or not that item is seen on the cover of a magazine or not! It makes me proud to know that parents appreciate the clothes that we make, and that is enough for me to want to make more!

Rachel Riley and her three children fishing
Rachel & her children enjoying family life & modelling one of our 1st collections

What advice would you give to aspiring female business owners?

Not to let anyone stand in your way. Do your own thing. Do it with authority. Feel the strength of your own convictions. Be autonomous. Don’t follow the crowd. Be courageous and stick your head above the parapet. Be your own woman. Be true to yourself.

Wherever you go, go with all your heart (this last one is my screensaver – it is by Confucius!)

Rachel with some young models

Rachel and our young models showcasing our Summer Collection  (photographed in 2018)