Rag & Bone’s Marcus Wainwright on Creating a Wardrobe for a Modern Jedi

The fashion label's chief executive discusses a new line of Star Wars styles.

Military motifs, a keen attention to detail, and a dedicated fan following are all synonymous with the fashion label rag & bone and the Star Wars universe. Now the two have combined forces to rule the galaxy, or rather, release a line of contemporary apparel with subtle hints to the space saga.

Launching in waves beginning December 1 at rag & bone stores (with select pieces available at ShopDisney.com), the limited edition capsule collection will offer a selection of the fashion label’s timeless styles remixed with classic Star Wars elements. rag & bone has also teamed up with Lucasfilm and Disney for the Ultimate Galactic Experience Sweepstakes, ending November 26, in which fans have the chance to win a tour of Lucasfilm in San Francisco and much more.

StarWars.com recently sat down with rag & bone’s chief executive Marcus Wainwright (en route to the office after an important diplomatic mission at a parent-teacher conference) to give us his insights on the line’s conception, and talk about his love of stormtroopers, meeting Mark Hamill, and fusing his passions for a collaboration that is, to quote his favorite T-shirt in the line, “More powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Three casual designer t-shirts from Marcus Wainwright's Star Wars-themed Rag & Bone collection.

StarWars.com: There’s a timelessness to the classic rag & bone aesthetic, pieces that are tailored and really functional with an edge, a lot of quilting and military details, which we also see in the Star Wars universe. So when you’re aiming to integrate this sort of modern Jedi concept into the line, what’s the process you’re going through?

Marcus Wainwright: Yeah, I mean it’s fairly similar to the way we do everything, to be honest. We obviously had to take some references from Star Wars, but we were very conscious not to make it look like costumey. It needed to look like something that one of our customers would actually want to wear and see as a rag & bone piece. At the same time, we wanted it to be something that a pure Star Wars fan who maybe didn’t know anything about rag & bone would also see as a Star Wars piece and something that they could genuinely wear in their day-to-day life. It’s pretty difficult in some ways to restrain yourself from going too much into the Star Wars thing, but so many of the Star Wars pieces have literally evolved by subtly referencing vintage military stuff. And it’s a huge base of what rag & bone does, we have a huge vintage archive. I actually went to Pinewood (Studios) a few years ago and met the costume designers from Rogue One, and we were referencing the same pieces as they were for that film in our daily exploration of vintage military stuff. So it was pretty straightforward. We wanted something clean and timeless so we didn’t want to overwork it with too much Star Wars paraphernalia.

A model poses wearing a black sweater and black pants from Marcus Wainwright's Star Wars-themed Rag & Bone collection.

StarWars.com: How do you define where the line is between something wearable and something that belongs in wardrobe on a film set?

Marcus Wainwright: It’s a sort of gut check of “Would the girls in the office or the guys in the office wear the product?” And that’s the gut check for a lot of what we do anyway and “Would you wear this in your day-to-day life?” I mean, obviously, we had to push it more in a Star Wars direction than the normal rag & bone stuff. That’s the acid test. “Would you wear this and does it fit with the language of rag & bone?” And luckily we’ve referenced that stuff so many times and we’ve actually referenced Star Wars multiple times as inspiration for the clothes. It was quite easy, that part. Just take sort of iconic rag & bone references and sort of twist them into this project.

StarWars.com: Some of the pieces give a nod to the inspiration in the name, like the Echo Jacket in Hoth, which looks like it could be pulled from The Empire Strikes Back, but also something you could wear in real life. When you were mining the saga for inspiration were you trying to honor specific characters and favorite places or were you more trying to capture the feeling of watching Star Wars?

Marcus Wainwright: I think all of the above, really. We didn’t necessarily want it to be like this obviously referenced from Hoth. I mean, we didn’t necessarily want it to feel like that. But all of those things we were trying to do. And it’s a fairly broad collection. There’s some very obvious things like the T-shirts where we just wanted it to be cool T-shirts that a Star Wars fan would love.

A model poses wearing an X-wing shirt from Marcus Wainwright's Rag & Bone collection.

StarWars.com: I think the X-wing T-shirt seems to be the most overt reference in the whole collection other than maybe the piece with the quote, “More powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Marcus Wainwright: I mean, who doesn’t want an X-wing on a T-shirt? There was no point in being that subtle about that one. Or the quote, which is one of my favorite quotes. There were a few that were on the table. I would have loved to have done more, to be honest with you, of the quotes.

StarWars.com: While we’re talking about the T-shirts: the T-shirt that says rag & bone translated in Aurebesh.

Marcus Wainwright: It was fun! Graphic T-shirts in fashion, it’s always been a big thing but it’s very popular at the moment. It just felt like a very timely and relevant way to do a T-shirt that a lot of people would understand and they’d be happy to wear.

StarWars.com: There are some really amazing but subtle nods to the films woven into the capsule collection. The Ellis Force Boots are just gorgeous on their own, but they also have the symbol for the Alliance or the Empire tucked away on the inside of the strap. The Yavin 4 jacket with the lining with the jump to lightspeed motif. I love them all! What made you decide to hint at some of those more overt elements or use them for interior pieces?

Marcus Wainwright: We wanted most of it to be very subtle on the outside where there are little Aurebesh velcro labels and  patches. That’s something we did generally in the collection, which feels vaguely military. We wanted everything to be subtle apart from the lining. “Let’s do the jump to lightspeed. No one’s going to know from the outside.” But you as the wearer, that is for the Star Wars geek. For me. Everything else was pretty subtle. We wanted it to be wearable and putting the jump to lightspeed [on the outside] would have also been wearable, but for less people and wouldn’t have fit in quite so well with the rest of our line. We wanted this stuff to sit on the same racks as the rest of our clothes so, yeah, subtle nods or unsubtle nods on the inside. It’s a free-for-all. We can do whatever we wanted there.

StarWars.com: Since this is StarWars.com, let’s talk about your personal experience with Star Wars. Do you remember how and when you first got introduced to the films?

Marcus Wainwright: It’s difficult to remember. My first memory of Star Wars, which may or may not be my actual first memory at the age of 42 looking back to 1980 or whenever it was, I think was my mum taking me to see Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back back-to-back as a matinee. But it might well have been The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi because I’m not sure my mum would have taken me at age 5 to that. I don’t know if she can remember, but I was very young — five, six, seven — and going to cinema in those days, obviously there’s no Netflix, nothing, no DVDs, the movies weren’t out on tape. So, yeah, it was a big moment to go up to London and go to the cinema and see the movies. And I don’t know if I was already collecting the figures, but I started collecting the Star Wars figures, Star Wars stuff after that. Yeah, I definitely remember Christmas getting speeder bikes and saving my pocket money for Star Wars figures when I was six or seven years old.

A model poses while wearing a hoodie from Marcus Wainwright's Rag & Bone collection for a modern Jedi.

StarWars.com: I think the toy lines were really a gateway for a lot of people. It was just such an extension of everything that was on the screen.

Marcus Wainwright: Yeah, I mean you didn’t get to see the films that often because, you know, you got to the cinema and sometimes they were on at Christmas, but that was it. You couldn’t binge watch Star Wars the way you can now. So the only access to that sort of dream was the figures and going to Hamleys, which was this big toy shop in London. It was something that was always very exciting to spend my Christmas or birthday money on, on a figure, and I still have them.

StarWars.com: Are they all out of the package?

Marcus Wainwright: Oh yeah. I find that…no I’m not going to say that on StarWars.com. But I think having a toy that you don’t open is a little redundant. I don’t get it. Had I kept them in the package they would be worth a lot more money now, but that’s not what it’s all about.

StarWars.com: And it doesn’t sound like you’re considering parting with them either.

Marcus Wainwright: No. Definitely not.

Clothing designer Marcus Wainwright smiles while posing with Mark Hamill.

StarWars.com: There’s a photo of you as an adult meeting Mark Hamill and you look positively elated. I’m told Luke Skywalker is your all-time favorite Star Wars character. What is it about Luke or his journey that speaks to you so much?

Marcus Wainwright: I mean it’s every boy’s sort of fantasy, isn’t it? Not the farm boy fighting evil necessarily, but having the Force was pretty much every kid’s dream in those days. I mean, I’m sure every girl that was into it wanted to be Princess Leia, but for me the straight-up Han Solo character with the gun was super cool, but there’s something about the Force which is just a little bit cooler. I was pretty convinced that someday someone would invent a lightsaber.

StarWars.com: It could still happen.

Marcus Wainwright: Yeah, it could still happen. I just always related to that character. I can’t really tell you why. And meeting Mark, it was amazing. I mean, I don’t often get starstruck and I’ve got to meet quite a lot of cool people over the years, but that was definitely one of the high points. And my son [Henry] was with me which was an awesome experience for him. For both of us, as you can tell by the picture. No, he was amazing. He was so kind to Henry and so generous with his time. He didn’t need to be, but he really was and they got on amazingly well for the two days we were there. And it was something he’ll remember for the rest of his life.

StarWars.com: Were you doing a set visit or was this part of your research for the collection?

Marcus Wainwright: No, we were shooting Mark for something we call The Men’s Project. It’s on the website. But we often shoot or film iconic people in rag & bone and the concept is rather than casting someone in a classic campaign and telling them what to wear and where to go and what to do — as you would, as a lot of brands do — it’s a collaboration with whoever it is. We like to pick people that we just admire being true originals in that series. John Tuturro, Wiz Khalifa, Mark was one of them, and Harvey Keitel. We went to them, “Would you be up to doing this as a portrait series? You can wear whatever you want. Do it whatever you want. You just have to wear whatever you feel comfortable in.” [Mark] was one of them and no one one that I knew had ever taken his photograph like that. The pictures were incredible, and that’s why I was there, just to do the fitting and the shoot.


StarWars.com: Let’s talk about how this collection fits into the Force 4 Fashion charitable initiative. When The Force Awakens came out, you had designed a special outfit to be auctioned for charity as part of the same program. Why was it important to you to continue to support Force 4 Fashion?

Marcus Wainwright: I think, you know, these days…anything you can give back is something you have to do. So when we get an opportunity to support any kind of charity, pretty much, we’re up for it. We did it two years ago. We did two outfits based on Kylo Ren and Rey and they were one-offs. And that was really fun to do and it was fun to be part of. Normally we’re quite strict about that kind of thing, what we do and who we’re doing it with, and the other brands. But for that project, Star Wars was enough of a hook. Getting to see a real live stormtrooper was all it took to say yes to that.

StarWars.com: And how does this collaboration fit into the mix with Force 4 Fashion?

Marcus Wainwright: There’s only one piece for this one, one T-shirt that they asked us to contribute towards it. So that was the “More Powerful” T-shirt, the quote. And so that came sort of after. We were doing the capsule anyway and they asked us to be part of Force 4 Fashion, so we just wanted to add another T-shirt. We just thought it’s a damn cool quote from the movie, which is difficult because there are so many of them. “I find your lack of faith disturbing” was the other one, but well maybe I’ll do that next time.

StarWars.com: If you were absolutely forced to choose, what’s your favorite single piece from the line? What is it that makes it stand out for you as something exceptional?

Marcus Wainwright: Personally, it’s probably that quote T-shirt. Just because it’s culturally very relevant at the moment. Star Wars is timeless for so many reasons. But I think just the general message that it has, the humanity, and what is going on in the world is pretty dark some of the time. I didn’t mean to get into the political side of it but I just think people should feel very empowered at the moment and that’s why I think that T-shirt is kind of cool. And it just transcends and means so many different things to so many different people. I mean, I love all the clothes. I love all of it. But I think that, personally, the first thing that I’m going to wear is that.

StarWars.com: And is there anything else you wanted to share about the capsule collection?

Marcus Wainwright: We’re really excited. It’s an honor to be part of the Star Wars story in any way and, you know, it’s a generational thing in some ways. Some people haven’t even seen Star Wars, but for me it was a big and important part of my childhood. It’s something I’ve referenced a lot growing up and continue to love. I watched A New Hope and Return of the Jedi this weekend with my kids. They love it. And the fact that it can last for 40 years…it’s incredible and it speaks to the timelessness of the concept. To be part of something like that is an opportunity that I just didn’t want to turn down. So it was great working with Disney and great working with Lucasfilm, we don’t often do this type of thing. I don’t think we’ve ever done anything quite like this. And we tend to keep to ourselves and stay on brand but this was an opportunity I couldn’t really miss.

Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them!

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