How does a new brand break into the industry and make a splash while balancing the ideals of sustainability? For young designers Catharine Dahm and Jacqueline Rabot, it means growing slow by developing made-to-order, smaller batch garments for their new contemporary brand, Rabôt. Pronounced “Rah-Beau,” the line aims to combat the industry’s issue of disposable fabrics and fast fashion through using solely deadstock fabrics.
“It’s such a wasteful industry, we just wanted to make some sort of impact on the environment and think the best avenue to do that is fashion,” Dahm explained during a preview of Rabôt’s first collection. “We’re starting small and putting in everything that we can. We’re funding everything ourselves, all of our savings go into it.”
The duo — who met at an orchestra concert a few years back in Philadelphia (coincidentally when they were both working at the Urban Outfitters Campus — Dahm a former interactive designer at Bhldn, Rabot a former associate designer at Free People) — currently balance developing their new line while working full-time jobs in Los Angeles. Dahm is a senior graphic designer at Buck Mason and Rabot is a designer at Current/Elliott; for Rabôt, they wear many more hats as cofounders.
Dahm and Rabot collaborate throughout the design process in concepting and inspiration, fabric sourcing at local vintage shops and determining silhouettes. Rabot works directly with the sewers and pattern makers in the Garment District to develop the collection while Dahm handles graphic and web design, as well as the photo shoots and editing. The collection from start to finish is produced locally in Los Angeles, often out of the girls’ East Los Angeles apartments. The designers are as vocal about the importance of sustainability both in person, and on their web site, having mentioned that not only was it important for them to solely use deadstock fabrics, but to also use recycled packaging and produce their line locally to benefit local workers and eliminate gases by transportation.
Rabôt’s first collection, which launched this summer, strikes a balance between easy, sweet femininity and modern go-to options. It maintains a vintage ethos within the contemporary market and is comprised of 12 made-to-order silhouettes currently available on their e-commerce site. With their made-to-order process taking around one to two weeks, tops, which make up for a majority of the lineup, range from $292 to $392; dresses range from $436 to $492; bottoms and skirts range from $352 to $452. Great ruffled mesh tops and polyester or silk slip dresses with fringed or ruffled hems come polka-dotted, zebra-striped or sheer in shades of burnt orange, deep sage, black and icy blue. While the first collection is comprised mostly of deadstock silks and mesh, the cofounders are aiming to expand to natural leathers made of fruit skin, as well as sustainable silks for their future collections.
The founders aim to scale slowly and design pieces that “last a lifetime using deadstock fabric that would otherwise end up in landfills.” Pieces feel one-of-a-kind due to the limited quantities the brand can offer per deadstock fabric due to yardage limitations, but it gives Rabot and Dahm the advantage to customize special colorways, patterns and so forth on their bodies with future retail partners.