Last week, on a humid Autumn day in London, I prepared for my group interview with Rita Ora about her Unstoppable collaboration with adidas Originals. I was flustered and jittery because I had arrived that morning after a 12 hour, red-eyed flight, and was unable to sleep once I checked in due to excitement. I burnt my new skirt with the iron right before stepping out of my room to head upstairs at our hotel where the interview would be taking place. After some quick, yet precise, burn-disguising safety-pinning, I made my way upstairs to join about five bloggers at what was called our “Round Table with Rita”.
I sat right in front of where she would be seated, with perfect posture, crossing my legs in a way where she would see I was wearing the sneakers from her Unstoppable Black Pack (so casual). My exhausted body felt like jelly and I wondered if she would be a diva. She entered the room, donning in a pink track top and shorts from the Pastel Pack, and made herself comfortable on the single seater opposite us, slouching slightly, and promptly propping her pink sneaker-clad feet up on the coffee table.
She beamed at us all, completely relaxed, and her contagious, warm aura shifted through everyone in the room as we felt our “formal interview with a star” turn into more of a casual conversation between individuals who understood and appreciated the creative process of this collaboration.
As I would discover over the two days, attending the four events, Rita is holds a sustained patience, calmness and presence. Her well-paced, husky voice broke the ice with a few jokes as we began talking.
The collection is super sporty, but when you’re on the red carpet you’re always more sexy. How do you mix these two styles, and how would you use that to style the collection?
Well, my favourite piece is this [black bomber jacket from the Black Pack]. It’s the most expensive [one] and it’s still really cool. You know everything just makes sense to me. I’m really happy that I got to design something that I love. [The collection] is sporty because [adidas Originals] is a sporty brand, and also I think I like being sporty. It’s fun, and it’s comfortable. You can wear [the collection] with anything really. I think the way [Aqeelah] is wearing the trainers with the dress looks gorgeous, that’s exactly how I would wear it.
You have a very unique, distinct sense of style compared to any other celebrity. How would you describe your personal relationship with fashion, and how did you translate that into the range?
Well, for me it first comes from my love of being a tomboy, I was always the girl on the football team. And then I became obsessed with glamour. I love being glamorous and I love the mixture of being a tomboy and being glamorous at the same time. So that’s why I wear the lipstick and the make-up and all that. But you know for me it’s about feeling sexy, and it comes from my obsession with designers growing up. I wanted to know how designers created these clothes, and musicians for me were just as important. Musicians like Freddy Mercury, and I was a big drag queen supporter, I went to drag queen competitions when I was younger. I would see all these amazing drag queens and these amazing females who were just FABULOUS with their wigs. Those are moments, impressions, that leave you inspired. That’s what I love.
So this [collection] is a massive, big deal, which is scary and exciting. When you found out, did you react nervously because everyone would be looking? Or did you think, “YES, I’m going to show them”?
Yeah I was definitely nervous AND wanted to show them! Because you know every time I wore something, I owned it, you know? Every time I would dress up, yeah people might hate it, but I always chose what I wanted to wear. That’s the difference. And designing for me was a wake up call. Because I always wondered what it was like, and then I got into it. So I thought okay, I’ve got a moodboard, and now how do I turn this into a reality? You know I learned about fabrics and detail, and I went to Germany and saw the house of adidas, looked at all the past history and all the new models. I wanted to know, I was so willing to learn. I was ready, and it was okay if this was not what people expected because I knew that I would evolve into it. This was done about a year ago, so I’ve already evolved since this collection.
How are you finding it to be a female in the streetwear industry? It’s a unisex approach on fashion but it’s always been dominated by men.
Well, I think that streetwear has never been stronger and more powerful than it is today, in the fashion world anywhere. I mean, you look in Vogue, and you see a hoodie with a pair of heels. And I mean you can see, that’s a streetwear thing. I think that right now [as women] we have a lot of power in the streetwear community, because hood mentality can’t be bought, you see what I’m saying? So you already are winning if you have that street mentality. Because wearing it is different to knowing about it. And it’s okay if you weren’t raised in the hectic ghetto, or the hood, or whatever. You can get it through clothes but it’s all about the understanding of streetwear. You know I grew up in [a place] where I couldn’t afford these amazing designers I wear today. So for me I always have a loyalty to streetwear, that’s where this [collection] also came from.
But I see designers now, high-end designers trying to do streetwear, and I’m like yeah, well you know you can just go down to the hood and buy the same thing for $20! I see Marc Jacobs and how he’s put in the details. And Jeremy Scott too. There’s a lot of it, and it’s great.
How closely did you work with the design team to create this collection?
I would love to say I did it all myself! But you know adidas are such a historical brand, that you have to trust them at some point. They’ve been around for a long time. So Josephine Aeberg is the designer that helped me with this collection, she has been the designer for adidas Originals for women for a while. So she was very aware with adidas what worked and what was available for our budget. And I didn’t! I said I need fur, I need this, I need that. And this is what I mean, I’ve never done this before and so I learnt a lot! And so you have to sit back sometimes and trust them. They won’t lose your vision, they’ll just make it fit into the budget, which is what she helped me do, helped me pick the fabrics and the linings, and where the seams should go. The adidas team are amazing, and they let you do your own thing.
Your second album is on its way, and the first single is already huge. What can we expect from the new album, and how has it changed from your first album?
I’m recording my second album now, and you know I recorded my first album when I was 17, and I released it when I was 20. So for me it was already kind of old. So now I’m releasing my album at the age I actually am [when I recorded it]. I’m really excited because I had a lot of control over it. You know I’m 23 now, so I think it’s the most honest I’ve ever been, and it’s filled with my love for hip hop and soul, and it’s live instruments mixed with beats. So it’s a musical blend of what I loved growing up.
You recently collaborated with your fellow adidas Originals brand ambassador, Iggy Azalea. What was your favourite part about working with her on Black Widow?
She’s a good friend of mine and I’ve known her for a few years. Black Widow was the perfect song for us to collaborate on because we wanted to really stick together and be powerful and independent, and show females that there are women in the industry that support each other. And we kind of wanted to be two hot blondes who were beating up dudes and that’s exactly what it was. The catsuits were inspired by Kill Bill, and Iggy is really involved in her videos, and she’s very cool with that and involved in her narratives, and I really liked that about working with her. I was happy we found a song that fit.
Going back to the design process. I got very excited when I heard you say everything about wanting to incorporate fur etc. What were some of your extreme ideas and how did you manage to translate it into what’s in the customer’s budget?
I wanted the collection to be pieces the customers could personalise. When I was younger I would head down to Portobello Road and buy a t-shirt for like, 3 pounds, and rip the collar off. And I wanted to keep that in mind. I wanted real leather. I wanted more badges. I wanted silk. And don’t get me wrong, I could do that, I can go there. But I know my fans. They’re all teenagers and they’re like my age, 23. 23 year olds are in uni and I’m not gonna pretend, I know the truth, and if I was 23 and [it was expensive] I wouldn’t buy it either. I wanted to make a version of that that was more approachable, because that’s what I would have wanted. But what I’ve learnt is that there are ways of working around things without spending millions. I only did things that I knew my fans would love. I would want the same thing.
How did you find the creative process of doing fashion to be in comparison with the creative process of creating music?
What I loved about it was, that like an album you sit and you work and work and you come up with something that you like. It was very similar to working on an album. I think it’s a beautiful thing, the creative process. You really never know what’s gonna come out. And I like that about creating. You know, anybody can do it. Anyone can create a moodboard. It’s a beautiful way of therapy and expressing yourself.
Who’s your favourite fashion designer?
Jeremy Scott, Jean Paul Gaultier, if I call them out the others will get angry!