BR-04-smallversion-b&wWe recently spoke with designer and Toronto native Beth Richards about the muses that inspire her, the versatility of her garments, and finding beauty in religious art.

With over a decade in the industry under her belt, Richards started her own line of swimwear and bodysuits complete with UV protection, and the ability of the garments to be worn in many different ways. In her second season, Richards continues to fuse the influence of vintage design and sensibility of the modern era in her work, creating wearable, functional pieces that would be as at home on the beach as well as on a city girl, like herself. Check out our interview with Beth Richards below.

OAK: You’ve said that your collections are inspired by muses from across the decades, and you’ve even named your pieces after them (eg. Faye, Brigitte, and Kate). What about these women do you find inspiring?
BETH RICHARDS: I would say they are all fearless in their own way. Most of the women I look up to have remained true to themselves amidst criticism and adversity. Kate Moss comes to mind, and her honesty and humanness is something I can relate to.

OAK: Iconography, such as the cross has also inspired your work, and even has found its way into your brand’s logo. Were you religious growing up? What role does religion or spirituality play in your life today?
BR: The cross is there more as a provocative symbol rather than a religious one. I grew up in a religious household, however was never able to personally connect with religion. As a child at church I would always drift away in thought more interested in the stained glass and art, rather than the content. I consider myself spiritual, but more so in a whole/universal or astrological way.

OAK: Religious imagery is definitely beautiful and inspiring, even removed from its affiliation. What do these images mean to you outside of the church? 
BR: Regardless of belief they are still beautiful rich pieces art, made by hand.  In the crosses case, iconic.  I actually appreciate them for the same reasons as they are such meaningful symbols to many. I am fascinated by it even though I don’t subscribe to the same ideology.

brigitte topBrigitte top by Beth Richards, available now in store. Kate bottom by Beth Richards, coming soon to online.

OAK: Your designs are inspired by vintage styles, yet offer a modern functionality and diversity not found in a lot of brands – such as being able to be worn many different ways, as well as offering UV protection – what lead to the decision to create your collection this way?
BR: It was really important that the collection worked and was functional. I wanted produce something that our customer could feel good about buying, knowing it would serve her a few different ways. With regards to the UV, as I get older it has become more important to protect the youth I have, and protecting our skin is just a part of it.

OAK: Both the versatility of your garments, as well as the evolution of your collections from your first outing to your second have a very cohesive and organic feel to them, how do you see this feature informing the future of your line, and how do you want to expand your brand going forward?
BR: Thank you. I am certainly trying to show more of myself each season and raise the bar for myself. I would love to include more Ready-to-Wear in the collection and I think you will start to see those notes moving forward, but keeping the core of the collection focused is key.

censor mesh topCensor mesh top by Beth Richards, available now in store. Faye bottom by Beth Richards coming soon to online.

OAK: How did your experience working for other brands inform the way you run your own line?
BR: Well over the years I certainly learned a lot of what “not” to do! Really I see my professional experience as a huge influence in the way I do things, seeing challenges first hand and learning how to troubleshoot. I still face challenges and learn new things each and every day but feel working for a large company gives you perspective.

OAK: While your designs can be worn outside of the pool, and away from the beach, what is your favorite vacation spot?
BR: Hmm, fave vacation spot, that’s hard! I am super lucky to live in a beautiful place with amazing nature in my backyard, but not sure if I have found my dream destination yet. There is so much I haven’t seen in the world (but want to), however I love Mexico and was recently in Sayulita, which was super fun and mellow vibes.

OAK: Where else are you hoping to travel?
BR: Growing up in Toronto I’m a city girl at heart so I often love visiting cities.  I haven’t been to Japan yet and would love to see Tokyo soon, as well we have a trip planned to Barcelona this summer which I’m looking forward to, especially seeing the Sargrada Familia in person.  In general I love architecture, food, drink and art/culture. Wherever it takes me I’m happy to go.

faye topFaye top by Beth Richards, available now in store. Faye bottom by Beth Richards, coming soon to online.

OAK: Where would you most like to spot a Beth Richards design?
BR: I am hoping you will see these designs at the beach this season, which carry her out to stoops and BBQ’s and rooftop parties alike. I would love her to wear them and consider them with everything else in her wardrobe throughout the year.

OAK: What’s something our readers would be surprised to find out about you?
BR: Probably that I love junk food and find it hard to resist McDonalds on a road trip!

Selected styles by Beth Richards are available now in store at OAK, and more are coming soon to our online shop.