Here's a peek into my creative process and background! It's been a true honor to see how my brand and clothing line have evolved over the years; I've loved (almost!) every minute of this incredible adventure and I can't wait to see what's next...
My journey to owning my own company started in 2010 with Pink Peonies (originally Rach + Drew), an online journal I made to document everything I loved: newlywed life with my husband, my family life, weekend adventures, shopping, beauty, and self-care.
I became my own investor when I launched my very first clothing collection back in 2016 from my kitchen table. I used my own money to make a create a small clothing capsule and promote the items, and the whole thing sold out in just two hours. Investing, selling, and re-investing profits soon became my regular cadence: I would use the profits from one launch to snowball into the next, then the next, and the next, slowly revising and expanding as I went.
^^This is one of my very first RP samples! Amy hated it so much and said everyone would return it because of the fit. I seriously almost scrapped the whole thing... I had to go through several revisions before we were satisfied with the final product:
^^SO much better, right?
^^Here are some more shots from those early days when I ran everything out of my house (with a little help from Drew and my family, of course)...
^^And here's Tan France! He helped me get everything off the ground.
It was so much fun working with him as you can see...
As I grew my collections, I eventually had the incredible opportunity to collaborate with Nordstrom—a huge step in expanding my customer base and refining my collections. I've been so lucky to have worked with the Nordstrom team every season, creating exclusive styles for wardrobe, home, and holidays. My aim has been to create beautiful, timeless pieces that "elevate everyday moments" year-round.
This time around, my upcoming spring collection is extra special because I'm selling direct-to-consumer! While you can still shop RP at Nordstrom, you will soon be able to place any order directly at RachelParcell.com. I'm once again acting as my own investor—an incredible honor as I've worked like a madwoman to make RP into the unique and romantic brand it is today.
To celebrate my spring collection launch and all the fabulous things to come, here's a peak into my design and inspiration process for RP. Whether you're a new or longtime part of the RP family, I'm so honored you've joined me along the way!
First, I Gather My Inspiration
About a year in advance of a collection launch, I start to curate ideas and inspiration. This is my favorite part of the process because I’m really not bound by anything (other than the production timeline, of course). I can dream, curate, pin, and mishmash whatever I feel like, eventually distilling my favorite aesthetics, concepts, trends, and styles down to a preliminary mood + inspo board.
Once I've gathered my own ideas, my team uses trend forecasting tools and market insights to communicate with manufacturers and discuss the parameters of each collection. Eventually all the variables are finalized to create an initial concept and direction.
This season, I was particularly inspired by the soft elegance of an English garden. I love the combination of classic and romantic design aesthetics in each of my new pieces for spring.
Next, I Create My Color and Print Palettes
RP palettes are custom-made! I typically favor shades of blush, black, beige, blue, gold, and white—with lots of flirty prints and unique embellishment to elevate each collection. I favor rich and luxurious jewel tones for winter capsules, of course, and spring is always full of blooming motifs and feminine embroidery.
I love when I get to choose my palette and print direction using my giant Pantone Color Guide. It feels like I’m diving into a prism of dreamy color possibilities.
I Review My Fabrics to Align with Styles…
I then use my inspiration theme to source fabrics and create a sample reference library. I touch and feel each sample; line them up with my projected assortments; and pin fabrics to sketches to ensure I’m choosing the right texture, structure, and color for each item of clothing.
Next, I Review Sketches and Make Final Edits
Reviewing initial sketches involves finalizing fabric swatches and printing our strike-offs, also known as “paper dolls.” This is a crucial step in the design process—the last chance we have to conceptualize before anything physical is made. At this stage, I try to be as clear and detailed as possible about how I want a sample garment to fit and feel as part of a cohesive collection.
I Receive and Inspect First Samples
Once sketches are approved, my team waits for first samples to be produced and delivered to our headquarters. Ideally, these samples match exactly what I have envisioned and approved during the sketch process, but often times they need revision. During this stage, I change colors, silhouettes, and embellishments—refining all the details until an item feels distinctive, harmonious, and complete.
Finally, I Approve for Production…
After I’ve revised and approved first samples, we have the green light to start large-scale production in time for our collection launch date! This is such an active and exciting stage: I get to run photoshoots, tease upcoming items, and come up with unique promotional ideas to share my latest creations with my RP family. My favorite perk is that I get to decide where I'm going to wear a sample out for a trip or event. (For example, I recently went to Hawaii and wore one of the new RP fit-and-flares to dinner!)
That’s the RP creative and production process in a super small snapshot! The whole process takes over a year and each stage has tons of details and moving parts. You can always know that when you put on an RP design, there's a whole team's worth of talent and passion behind it. It's a labor of love from start to finish!
This sign-up will also give you early access to new arrivals and sneak peeks for future collections, including all things clothing, lifestyle, home, holiday, and sale. The best RP is yet to come, and I’m so excited you’ve joined us along the way!
FAQs About the Rachel Parcell Design Process
How long does an item take to get from concept to final delivery?
About a year! At any given moment I am looking at a year out, a couple of upcoming collections, and the current cycle. It's a bit of a juggling act.
Do you create your own designs or just approve them?
It's a mixture of developing original ideas, integrating them into forecast trends, sourcing materials, culling samples, and working with partners (e.g. Nordstrom) and manufacturers. It's sort of like conducting a design symphony.
Where are your designs manufactured? Do you have any ethics or environmental standards?
RP is produced overseas. Until now, Nordstrom has supervised most of that process under their super strict regulation. This season, we're sourcing our own factories, only working with organizations that meet our stringent list of work and ethical standards. Moving forward, we're also sourcing fabric mills that offer more sustainable fabric options. Plus, we're investing in new biodegradable packaging in the months ahead!
How big is your team and when are you moving to the new office?
I have a growing sales, marketing, and production team of twelve. The business is in a big transition moment as we're moving to manufacture on our own. There's lots of growth and expansion as we become more of a traditional brand.
The new office is coming along beautifully and we plan to move in this spring! There will be a showroom where our local customers can come shop and see the collections; an in-house photo studio for all our project imagery; a design center where we can work with our NY team; and a space for my sales and marketing team to work on brand partnerships and creative content.
What's it like working with your husband on new construction and projects?
I love it but Drew probably hates it. I can talk all the time about our goals and ideas, and then Drew makes it happen. (He's an incredible handyman and I completely trust him.) We've done enough construction together that we work well together. (I'm super specific about stuff and then he brings it to life), but he probably gets so tired of my constant questions and check-ins!
What was the hardest part of starting your own brand, especially something that you didn't foresee?
When you try something new and ambitious, a lot of people say trust your gut. I learned the hard way that I should have listened to that advice sooner. In the early stages of blogging and business, I would make decisions based on what other people would tell me even if I didn't believe or agree with them... only to realize my first instinct was right all along. Now, after running my blog for ten years and clothing line for five, I've learned to trust my instincts and not second-guess my intuition or experience.
What advice do you have for women looking to start a clothing brand or their own business?
I once had a mentor tell me I shouldn't start a clothing line because of how complicated and stressful it could be. I looked up to that person a lot, so I'm actually shocked that I didn't listen to them. I guess that's a piece of advice in itself: don't always listen to good advice!
You can dream, but you also have to do. If you want to start a clothing line, you need to do the actual material work, like staying up late, researching the industry, and chipping away at all the crazy and boring tasks. When I was starting RP, I would stay up all night Googling all these tiny weird details, searching on LinkedIn, and asking people questions. I didn't know everything, so I would have to learn it along the way. The most important thing is that I DID the tasks instead of just thinking about them!