words by Hannah Atira

Caribbean rooted and New York based label Diotima wants to change how the world defines luxury, placing an emphasis on craftsmanship, quality and uniqueness.

After winning the CFDA emerging designer of the year award, Jamaican designer Rachel Scott has clearly impressed the world of fashion by what she brings to the table. While Rachel and her team are on the early end of receiving their recognition, Rachel is no rookie to the industry and Diotima, which has been underway since 2021, is ready to take luxury to the next level.

As the brand showed its Fall Winter 24 collection this week in New York City, its second official season on the calendar, I sat down with Rachel at her studio pre-presentation, to look further into the collection and talk all things Diotima.

Nestled in a side street of Chinatown, the studio was one of the quieter buildings amongst the decorations and celebratory remnants of Chinese New Year. As I stepped into the second floor studio, although two days out from the presentation the team had a calm aura about them. Moving about the studio to the sounds of afro-caribbean music, the energy between Rachel and her team including stylist Marika-Ella Ames flowed quite naturally. While in the midst of fitting models, pining small alterations, and completing casting, Rachel waved me over to speak with her in more detail about the new collection.

HA: So you’re still working on getting the cast together and everything, what can we expect this season?

RS: Yes, the cast is super important to me, the personality and representation needs to be there. Right now I’m actually petitioning to add a dress into the line up so the stylist, Marika and I are working on that as well. Otherwise this season there is obviously crochet, as there always is. It’s a new stitch that I’ve done a version of before but it’s a new motif, there’s also new silhouettes but everything is a little bit undone. That’s really the thing that is linking everything in the collection is this sense of undoneness. Then there’s also macrame, which is something I’ve also done before. Actually in my very first season, I macrame’d t-shirts myself then I did it last season too, but this season it’s done in a more delicate kind of material, it’s a really big story for me.

Of course there’s also tailoring, as always, this season with a beautiful hand stitching that connects the seams. On the black suit it’s a white hand stitch, and then on the plaid suit, it’s a burgundy hand stitch with beads incorporated into the stitch, so it has a little sparkle when they move. That technique is actually on one of my favorite pieces in the collection, which is a shirt almost sewn together entirely by hand.

HA: Crochet and tailoring are something you’re trying to, almost marry together. As you continue to grow the brand, how do you emphasize that aspect?

RS: It’s definitely something I came up with out of necessity, but then it became the most interesting thing to me. How it’s connected is very unexpected, you know? I think that these kind of deconstructive moments, that kind of ease and tension are so Caribbean. You know, you’ll see the men with a proper suit, but then they have a mesh marina under. It’s that kind of contrast and that energy I’m trying to approach in a silhouette.

HA: To your point, it’s something we really haven’t seen, especially in the industry thus far, I have enjoyed seeing how it develops each season. Speaking of development, last season there was an anatomic heart necklace that I thought was just so beautiful and intriguing. Are there any plans for accessories in this season or overall for the brand.

RS: I mean that heart I have to say was so so special. It was made by the artist Laura Facey who I collaborated with. However we didn’t end up producing them. We do have some accessories this season, we have some really fun earrings, and we also have the spaghetti trim belts. It’s almost like a mini skirt, but not quite. We have some bags as well, in this spaghetti technique that’s been braided onto a beautiful open mesh. Additionally we have some necklaces that are hand beaded, that look almost like fish eggs, they’re basically fish egg necklaces and bracelets too. So there’s always a little bit, it’s something I love and I really want to do more of just one step at a time.

HA: You mentioned the sculptor, Laura Facey and how the heart pendant came from her. Sculpture art and art in general seems to be a big source of inspiration for you. As you were developing this season, were there any pieces of art or other artists that were a point of inspiration?

RS: I think that this collection really came from an abstract kind of idea more than something that concrete. It was really thinking about the collection almost in a cinematic type frame, but that takes place over one day. The day begins at four o’clock in the morning, when the party’s kind of ending, but you still have a sense of this energy. Then you go through your day kind of contemplative, thinking about the night, and about just life in general. Slowly, but surely however you get more and more buttoned up until you get back to the night. And then you’re back at your turnup, at the dance, and it begins again.

HA: I can feel that it’s truly creating a narrative through the wardrobe. I wanna backpedal for a moment to congratulate you on the CFDA win, that’s such a major moment. When you got the nomination, how did that feel knowing that you were up for the award?

RS: I was a part of the CFDA Vogue fashion fund at the time and I was doing my presentation so actually Stephen Kolb told me at that point. There was so much going on and it was the first presentation for Diotima, so it was shocking. In that award, you’re nominated by people in the CFDA, so you’re nominated by your peers. For me it was like, wait what, they know who I am, they know what I’m doing and they respect it?

I’ve said this a few times, but I sometimes feel like I’m in my own world. I don’t care to pay attention to or am interested in trends, that’s not it for me. Right now there’s all quiet luxury and I’m here with a crochet and crystals and it’s still for me. Quiet luxury is a very easy way of showing good taste and I think it’s so easy and so prescribed that it’s actually poor taste. I think that to be able to understand the taste, you have to be able to understand complexity and nuisance. So to feel people see my work, appreciate it and think there’s something interesting there, is like okay great, I’m not crazy!

HA: I feel like you’re kind of redefining luxury in your own way. I mean, is that kind of part of a goal or something that encompasses the brand?

RS: 100%. That’s actually like the foundation of everything for me. I think we need a re-evaluation of what luxury is and where it comes from. Luxury for me is something made by hand by someone who has incredible knowledge, there is nothing more luxurious than that. Each piece has a signature from the person that made it and that person’s labor is valued.

But what I think is even more important is that we’ve just understood luxury to only come from Europe. I’ve been in the industry for 17 years and I know that Europe works with India, I worked with crochet for a long time in South America and I know it exists in Jamaica. So I think it’s really important to understand that things are already being made in other countries and only now over the last few years are we even realizing that. It’s not to say that there isn’t value in Europe, I lived in Italy for like four and a half years and I love Italian woven fabrics, but I also love wools from the UK, and cottons and wools from Japan. We just need to understand that, there is so much more and I want to change that, you know.

HA: You can see that so strongly in the brand, in who the brand attracts and who’s captivated by the brand. When you’re designing and as you continue to evolve, is there a certain kind of individual or an essence that you envision in your clothes and in your designs?

RS: Oh my god, there’s so many people. I mean, generally speaking I always say this, but it’s a bad bitch. Whether that’s Grace Jones, or an incredible gallerist that’s changing the art world like a good friend of mine, Ashley James, who just did the show at the Guggenheim or Nicola Vassell. I’m a huge fan of her and her gallery; these are groundbreaking people that don’t care. They’ve never accepted what they’ve been told where they should be and that’s super exciting to me. That’s who I want to wear the clothes and that doesn’t mean it’s only women, it can be anyone and I think what’s exciting, is that’s who the customer is.