We spoke with Valentina Muntoni of Rat & Boa, which she and her friend Stephanie Cara Bennett founded in 2015, regarding their cult status, celebrity following, and their creative vision – by women, for women. Rat & Boa is favoured by the likes of Rosie Huntington Whitely, Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski.
Tell us about you and your brand. How did you (Valentina and Stephanie) initially meet and how did you decide on the name?
We met at a party in the UK while we were both studying our fashion degrees over ten years ago, and instantly clicked. We enjoyed getting dressed up and going out, always dreaming of creating clothing that was in our imagination but out of our reach. We finally pursued our dream whilst travelling and established our vision in Rat & Boa.
The name is inspired by an old Stevie Nicks quote, ‘He and I were about as compatible as a Rat & Boa constrictor,’ which plays on our contrasting styles and personalities.
Rat & Boa has become a favourite amongst industry influencers. At what point did your brand first gain significant exposure?
We are lucky and very grateful to have built wonderful, organic relationships with incredible women that have supported our brand over the years. Kendall Jenner wearing Rat & Boa to Coachella back in 2016 was a major moment for us, as well as Kaia Kerger wearing our ‘Valentina’ dress on the cover of Vogue Japan. That was a really huge achievement for the both of us.
The name is inspired by an old Stevie Nicks quote, ‘He and I were about as compatible as a Rat & Boa constrictor
How important is cult following to the success and survival of a fashion brand?
We’ve had a loyal following from the inception of the brand, and our customers are very special to us, keeping the faith going for us to keep doing what we’re doing. Over time, as we’ve grown and evolved, our customers have evolved with us – they have become an integral part of our Rat & Boa journey, which inevitably inspires us to keep moving and progressing.
What is it about the specific brand of femininity that your brand offers that has such mass appeal?
As friends, and crucially as women, we have controlled all aspects of the brand, from the design to the styling and photography. As neither of us have specialised in modelling or photography, we have utilised our creative initiative to our advantage to get everything going. It is a very ‘real’ and personal brand.
As we’ve grown and evolved, our customers have evolved with us – they have become an integral part of our Rat & Boa journey
We are women creating for women, we sense how they feel. Knowing that there are many women out there just like us – women that wish to express themselves – I think resonates with our customer. Our designs are feminine but strong, and allow our customer to celebrate style with confidence and power.
Valentina, you feature as a model in all the product sites on your website. As a brand that heavily utilises Instagram to perpetuate cult following, how do you deal with improper labelling of “highly sexualizing and objectifying content” within social media censorship practices?
Censoring photography, to us, invalidates it as an art form. However, we have since learned to be inventive in evading Instagram’s ban of certain areas of the female form. My style is one of the ultimate forms of personal self-expression and reflects my mood.
In a world where we are overloaded with information and inspiration, I think it is crucial to keep ‘doing you’ and stay true to yourself, however that may look. It is within us as humans to want to express ourselves, so I personally think each and every woman should be entitled to choose how they dress their body.
We are women creating for women, we sense how they feel. Our designs allow our customers to celebrate style with confidence and power
What’s next for Rat & Boa?
Whilst we are currently working through this changing and difficult climate, we are still embracing and marrying our different styles. We will also be giving deeper insights into the brand and showing more from the contrasting Rat & Boa personalities, as well as venturing into new categories, such as swimwear and tailoring, which we are incredibly excited about.