Australia's fashion mavericks are known for pushing the envelope, and the design team behind Rittenhouse is happy to comply. Merging ethereal design with fine fabrics and slick graphics, Sally MacDonald and Micah Hamdorf manage to create everyday basics that are smartly tempered with skewed detailing.
The story goes back to 1997, when the two met through friends in Melbourne. MacDonald was sharing a warehouse in Melbourne's Chinatown with a friend of Hamdorf's, and eventually, they ended up working at the same company. "We fell in love, then left the country separately to go to New York and London," says MacDonald. "Eventually we ended up back together in Philadelphia, pregnant, and eating cheese steaks!" It was in Philly's Rittenhouse Square that their label was born.
After returning home to Sydney, the couple settled into a "ghetto style basement/loading dock" that was the former home to Paramount Studios. Here, amid a rotating soundtrack of reggae, the two design classic collections for both men and women that are tinged with street-smart flourishes. "We've always enjoyed playing with traditional realizations of things like sweatshirts or T-shirts. And the playing could be as simple as exaggerating a twisted seam," says Sally.
Textiles and prints are another area where the duo shines. From sweaters lined in zigzags to light skirts peppered with exaggerated blotches, Rittenhouse's more classic pieces have elements that transform the basic into the unusual. "We love reinterpreting your average polka dot or gingham with a completely oblique print technique," Hamdorf says. For their autumn/winter 2007 collection, Rittenhouse has collaborated with Mackintosh of Scotland to create men's and women's jackets celebrating both companies' signatures. Available in navy and fawn, Mackintosh provides the traditional, rubberized cotton trench-coat style while Rittenhouse adds their hand-printed, exclusive "checkers" design to the detachable, wool flannel liner. "We only wanted to accentuate the strengths of the two brands and marry them without interfering with any of the characteristics of each," the pair says.
Already working on a new, top-secret 2008 collaboration with an undisclosed brand, Rittenhouse has their sights set on jumping continents again. "Someday, we'll have a store in New York, Paris, and Sydney," Sally enthuses. For now, though, fans can get their Rittenhouse fix from their online store—set to launch this September.
Rittenhouse is available in New York at In God We Trust, 135 Wythe Street, Brooklyn, 718-388-2012, and TG170, 170 Ludlow Street, 212-995-8660. For more information, go to www.rittenhouse.com.au.
Australia's Rittenhouse spins a new story for the classics.