With a mind and design aesthetic well beyond her years, we sat down with Antoinette Wedia Raphael, the mastermind behind the bold and edgy clothing label, RAW WAR.
What is your earliest memory with fashion?
My earliest memory of fashion was at the age of two or three, being dressed by my mother. I remember briefly through memory, but very clearly through family photos, how impeccable my mother used to dress myself and my older sister Tabitha [two years older than me]. Most people, even Tabitha and I, believed we were twins because of how identical our outfits were.
From the hair clips to the white frilled socks, I was always styled in quirky, cute, and original outfits every single day of my childhood. It brought pure joy to my mother to dress us this way, and we felt the joy, too.
My mother’s continuous styling really emphasised the importance of being presentable, in addition to passing on her love and passion for fashion. Ever since this experience in my childhood, I naturally present myself in the best way possible that reflects my identity. I then grew a strong passion in the styling and dressing component, which grew into a love for creating the pieces later on in my teen life.
How did RAW WAR come about?
RAW WAR came about near the halfway point of my Bachelor of Arts Degree at Curtin University.
The first half of my degree consisted in experimenting and exploring different fashion genres and construction skills. Near the end of my first year, I did a fashion illustration unit that confirmed the style I always loved and subconsciously designed under. This style was High-End Streetwear.
In my second year at University, I attended a “Fashion Merchandising” unit where I properly created a branding suite for the style I was designing under. There was always a floating brand name I would naturally scribble on top of my designs as physical typography, and this was “RAW WAR.” I then used this name for the branding suite assignment and for the rest of my creative career ever since.
How did you get the name RAW WAR?
RAW WAR comes from my full name initials – Antoinette Wedia Raphael [AWR]. I remember the exact moment I got the name for the brand. I was scribbling my initials on the window screen of my shower when I was stunned by how my initials created actual words. I was shocked how these words had such character and relevance with the style I enjoyed wearing and designing. I knew it was the brand name for me, and I have used it ever since.
What do you feel has been your biggest achievement so far?
I feel as though my biggest achievement so far would have to be showcasing in London Fashion Week, only two weeks after graduating from University. The show alone is definitely my biggest achievement personally, but it felt even more special as I officially completed my degree and attended the formal ceremony exactly two Saturdays prior to the showcase. I was always going to feel special at my graduation but it felt even more special because it showed that all these years of hard work had already placed me in the industry, and in just two weeks’ time I was proving this statement.
Who is the ‘RAW WAR customer’?
RAW WAR is for the confident, open minded, expressive and bold individual.
The RAW WAR customer is someone who values representing their true identity through the way they dress just like, the designer, me.
It is someone who is confident in their own skin and will comfortably express themselves through clothing.
It is someone who values fashion products, the industry itself and its importance in our society and economy.
It is someone who isn’t constricted by clothing being labelled for genders – they find interest in unique pieces that only the minority would value.
RAW WAR is an androgynous brand and allows for the customer to wear either womenswear or menswear, or both at once.
The RAW WAR customers age is expansive, ranging from young teenagers to older generations (50 years old plus). I would suggest that even through further development, the brand might expand to babies, toddlers and the elderly.
Where do you get most of your inspiration from?
The majority of my inspiration comes from shapes.
I commonly get fixated on the perimeter and composition of objects, whether 2-D or 3-D, and immediately think about how I can transform these shapes into clothing pieces for the body
A crucial inspiration of mine is cars. Whether it be the geometric, harsh, triangular lines of a Lamborghini; the organic nature of the rear lights of a Ferrari; or the 2-D diamond shapes of quilting that adorn the seats of either vehicles, all these shapes inspire me heavily.
How would you describe the Australian streetwear industry?
The Australian streetwear industry is quite strong but still very young. It has definitely come such a long way and is at a stronger point than previous times.
I think Australia is perceived as a country that will supply the worldwide Streetwear industry with game-changers, and a country with many new designers with a point of difference.
But there is also another side of Australian streetwear that is repetitive and doesn’t have a point of difference.
Right now, there are too many “logos on t-shirts” and it’s getting very repetitive. The repetition of these types of brands has falsely defined Streetwear to uninformed people of the public. Streetwear has more potential than “logos on t-shirts”, which Australia is beginning to realise, and will continue to realise in the years to come.
When it comes to the retail side of the Australian Streetwear industry, I feel retailers are more concerned with how famous a brand is amongst worldwide celebrities than the brand’s physical product. With time and experience, this concept and perspective will begin to change.
What’s your biggest future dream for the brand?
My biggest future dream for the brand is to have a flagship store in London, United Kingdom.
What’s been your biggest hurdle building RAW WAR?
The biggest hurdle in becoming a fashion designer and building RAW WAR was finding who my customer is. I have begun to figure out who the RAW WAR customer is, however I am still discovering and researching about this theory.
I remember being so stumped about having my clothing being accepted in the retail industry of Perth that it nearly made me give up. This made me face the fact that I had to explore and delve into different locations and cultures to find the customer for my brand.
I decided I wouldn’t change the aesthetic or direction of my brand in order to suit the city I live in; instead I will go out and find who will enjoy my unique and unapologetic brand.
How pivotal has Instagram and social media been in building your fashion brand?
My profile is a visual CV where I can display all my work and have the opportunity to begin to be relevant in the industry.
The circulation of posts and content through Instagram has landed me some of the most amazing experiences. Such as being featured in British Vogue and presenting at London Fashion Week.
Both experiences came about because my posted content was recommended to crucial people in the international industry who enjoyed my work and had opportunities ready for me.
I would not be where I am today with the brand if it wasn’t for Instagram and social media.
What was the London Fashion Week experience like?
London Fashion Week 2018 was absolutely incredible and something I will never, ever forget.
One of the best parts of the experience was getting to travel back to London. I first travelled there back in 2013 and immediately fell in love with the city. I knew I was going to be back for a particular purpose, and I was proud to be back for that exact reason.
I had just less than four months to get myself ready for one of the largest projects I had ever worked on, to date. I took the risk and it was the best decision I made.
The design and creation experience was very similar to what I am used to, however I placed a lot more pressure on myself to deliver excellence.
I spent the next three to four months brainstorming, designing, sampling, creating and editing a collection that was ‘perfect’ in my eyes. I had to not only think about the aesthetics, but also how I wanted to be perceived to the city of London and the worldwide fashion industry.
The show was an absolute success and I couldn’t have pictured a better response. I was overwhelmed by how many people I met and talked to after the show. It has made a great impact on my career and will continue to do so in the years to come.
Any surprises on the way?
There are many surprises and exciting things happening in the next couple of months for RAW WAR!
I’m not sure how much I can expose, however a hint surprise is that our pieces will be seen nationally in two exciting platforms, one not yet explored by the brand and another already explored.
All I can say is that it is going to be dope, so be ready!
What’s your biggest piece of advice for aspiring fashion designers?
Always stay true to yourself, no matter what.
Go get yourself educated and jump onto RAW WAR here.