Style File: Céline Chapman from Céline Rita

Photos from the Socialites photo-shoot at their offices in Auckland

Designer Céline Chapman from Céline Rita. Image supplied.

Céline Chapman is the talented designer behind winsome womenswear brand Céline Rita which she launched in 2009 having not long graduated from AUT’s fashion school. She has grown a loyal following for her beautiful designs which have an elegant but relaxed feel and are popular with women of many ages.

We caught up with Céline to find out more about her latest collection. What inspires her and what you would never catch her wearing!

Tell us about your latest collection?
Our Summer 16/17 range is titled ‘Voyage de noces’ this translates to ‘honeymoon’ in French. In short, it’s inspired by a summer of love in the French Riviera.

Inspired by my own research into planning our dream honeymoon, this range is all about being in love in the South of France. I’ve never actually been, so it’s a vision I have in my head – zooming around on a Vespa, visiting French wineries, eating amazing food and taking in all the beautiful buildings (I will tell you later if reality meets or exceeds expectations!)

The range is split into two personalities, a timeless Grace Kelly and a sexier Brigitte Bardot. There is a subtle hint of 60s from their classic movies, like Voulez-vous danser avec moi (Come dance with me), To Catch a Thief and And God Created Woman. They really portray the timeless glamour of the French Riviera with amazing post-war footage, before this area became a huge tourist destination.

The range itself is for the quintessential CR gal, embodying relaxed elegance, with use of beautiful fabrics and an effortless silhouette. We have used lots of natural fabrics, with silks, cottons and linens and our girls will be happy to see our usual beautiful laces, as well as a structured stripe, a fresh gingham and some fun, bright prints for summer. We have brought back some classic Céline Rita styles that our customers love season after season. As usual, our summer focus is for all the events the summer season brings.

What made you become a designer?
For as long as I can remember I have always loved fabric, fashion and dressing up. I learnt to sew very young, and used to go to op-shops and alter garments for me to wear something different to my friends. The ‘Rita’ in Celine Rita is my middle name, but also the name of my grandmother who was a dressmaker. I never met her, but know I inherited more than just a middle name from her!

But to answer what made me become a designer, and how Céline Rita came about is an interesting wee story. I studied Fashion Design at the Auckland University of Technology. During university holidays I would make-to-order pretty summer dresses for friends. It was a way for me to practice my pattern making and sewing skills, learn invaluable knowledge about fit and to get some extra money for my summer holidays.

After graduating from AUT in 2008, this part time hobby took a more serious turn, after organising a photo shoot to show off the new range of dresses. I had a casual fashion show, with my friends modelling, and had family and friends come along, bringing whoever they wanted. I took orders and measurements on the night and thought that would be that. However, after posting the photo shoot up on my personal Facebook page, the response was overwhelming and I was inundated with orders. I got a machinist on board to help keep up with demand. Very quickly I developed a long list of regular clients, who started to ask if I was doing a Winter range. So in 2009 Céline Rita was officially launched. I always wanted to have my own fashion business eventually, it just happened sooner than I had anticipated, and I wouldn’t change a thing, I have learnt such an incredible amount since starting Céline Rita, and continue to learn something each week.

From day one I had an online store and business Facebook page. I knew early on how much of an influence social media was going to have on my business, as it was a way to talk directly to my customers. An online store was always a necessity for me, and I love to keep updated with all the technologies that keep us ahead of the game, in all aspects of the business. I feel like I have really found my feet as a designer, I know what our customer loves.


Looks from Céline Rita’s Voyage de noces collection.

What inspires you?
Life, history, cultures, strong women (currently and throughout history), art, architecture, ballet. I particularly love the French culture, there’s often an underlying French reference to our ranges.

Describe your personal style and how it influences your brand?
My personal style influences my brand hugely. I wouldn’t design or produce anything I wouldn’t wear myself. I test out new styles by wearing them in my everyday life, making sure they not only look good, but feel amazing, are practical and wash really well. I would describe my style as polished yet nonchalant, elegant yet relaxed.

What is your all-time favourite purchase?
A deep purple, felt hat I bought in Florence 5 years ago from a local market. The first time I travelled around Europe I didn’t have a lot of spending money and it was one of the only purchases I made!

I wear it all year around, and I know I will keep it for the rest of my life. It evokes emotion for me, like when you hear a song and are transported back to that time, every time I wear my hat I’m reminded of such incredible memories!

What wardrobe item should every woman invest in?
A dress they can throw on at any time that has this checklist – the perfect fit, you can dress it up or down, is unbelievably comfortable and of course, it looks amazing. This dress is the perfect pick-me-up when you’re feeling a bit ‘blah’ or when you’re running late and have no time think!

Do you have a style rule you always obey?
It’s not much a style rule, but I must be comfortable. You don’t want to even be thinking about what you are wearing, we’re all too busy enjoying life for that!


Looks from Céline Rita’s Voyage de noces collection.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Having our jumpsuit on the cover of Fashion Quarterly was definitely up there, but it would have to be the ever-growing list of our loyal clientele continually coming back to find their perfect CR piece for all the exciting events they have going on in their lives. I especially love working with brides and her maids. It’s such a happy and exciting time for everyone involved.

What can’t you live without?
Flo (my dog), my partner (if I say Flo, I must mention him right?), sparkling water, rosé, (balance!) and (I’ll admit it) the internet.

Finish this sentence – You would never catch me wearing…
Anything ‘Trump’ related.

Images supplied.

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