On the Rail

For the next six weeks (make that five now) a pop-up shop called Rail is occupying the former Russian art gallery on Old College Street. It’s billed as a place where art and fashion collide; it mixes extremely wearable designer clothes and knitwear juxtaposed with minimalist artworks.

Rail Edinburgh

Art and fashion colliding

Rail lies in the heart of student Edinburgh in Old College Street, nicely neighbourly with Brew Lab, which with its ‘single origin coffee’ must still be the hippest cafe in the city. It is the creation of three Edinburgh University students, and will move to Mayfair premises in June.

The fashion is designed principally by Gigi Ettedgui, who worked in Hermes in Paris in her first job, aged 18, and still keeps that connection, in her third year in Edinburgh. Art is by Oisin Gallagher, the artist she and friends Ariadne Irving and Hugo Ross enlisted in a shared dream to create a temporary fashion space, cum art gallery.

“I wanted to create a collection, in terms of the silhouettes, clothes that you would find in an artist’s studio: a 19th Century man’s night shirt, an old sailor top, very simple very natural fabrics,” Gigi said. “I was very conscious of the idea of it being able to work and interact with Oisin’s art.”
The name Rail, with an intentionally unfinished, imperfect studio look – brieze-block benches, the eponymous copper clothes rails – reflects that “in all of our work experience, in art or fashion, wherever you look, the most important person in the room is dressed most simply,” she said.

Rail Edinburgh fashion


Hugo is a fine art student, Ariadne is reading history of art and Gigi history, but all three have unusually varied experience in art and retail. None have yet graduated; but Rail, from its hastily whitened walls to a gym-style softened floor in the front room, is the product of a shared dream several years in the making.

While Gigi is the primary designer the three share the same aesthetic, pushing the idea of an unintimdating environment that would pull browsers in the door. “We have been talking about it for two years, planning it for two years,”Ariadne said. “I have moments when I have been walking in a gallery in New York or London and almost feel too intimated to walk in. ”


Ariadne, with Oisin’s artwork, matched with blouse

Rail’s clothes have nine styles in five or six different fabrics. Simple billowy tops, dressing gowns, slender jackets; in black velvet, corduroys of bright red, stone, and black, a black gabardine, and a natural denim. (There’s a blue workman’s shirt in a preview of what will be shown in London when Rail reappears in Mayfair.)

The offerings include sweaters in pale and coloured knitwear commissioned on a trip to the Shetlands. The clothes are made in the Sampling Unit in London’s Holloway, where Gigi oversaw the work on a daily basis.

“Our initial thing was lets try and do it in India, but it was so difficult that we weren’t there, we couldn’t personally choose the fabrics, that we could actually touch before we could make them,” Ariadne said. “We had some samples made in India, they didn’t come back as we wanted them to. Gigi decided to do it in London, so the prices were higher.” The movable rails were made by a group called Splinter, recent graduates from Dundee in product design, working with the Hidden Door festival.
Rail Edinburgh Fashion

The shop’s look reflects its creators’ diverse exposure to the retail and art trade. Hugo has interned for the Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York, the Louisa Guinness Gallery in London, and Bonhams. Ariadne has interned for the Art Production Fund, Christies, Paul Kasmin and Sperone Westwater Gallery (New York). Gigi – who like Ariadne has a family background in the fashion trade – worked for APC (Paris) and still works for Hermes (Paris), and Connolly (London).

Friends – who may not be impartial – insist that Rail is the real thing. “I wanted to combine all of my loves, fashion and art and I felt there was a need to sell the context,” Gigi said. She came up with the name when she first worked in Paris, with “the basic idea of fashion and art and an idea of changing every few weeks or months. It felt so silly not to be doing it in Edinburgh, whilst we were all so young and naive enough to do something like this.”

“It was the beginning of this term when we met Oisin after trawling through the art school (Edinburgh College of Art). We looked at his work and immediately agreed he was the artist we wanted to work with. It’s the idea of someone walking into the shop, walking into this environment, where everything complements one another, then maybe buying something if they feel like it.”

Prices start at a lambswool tee-shirt for £40 with the knitwear all under £100 (it has been selling strongly). The top item for full retail is a £250 “captain’s jacket.” Not cheap, perhaps, but struggling students get up to 30 percent off, and in London these prices will be “super-affordable”, they say.

Rail’s own website with a video on Oisin is here and from a place that inspires attempts at arty photography some more images below:

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