Interview: Flora Backer, designer and founder of The Rya Collection

At Underpinnings, we love the Rya Collection. It marries the kind of details that you usually see on only the priciest lingerie, the artistic vision of couture, and the size inclusivity and fair price point our clients adore. We sat down with Flora Backer, longtime designer and founder of this line.

Hi, Flora! Tell us a little about your background.

I am a true immigrant; I was born in Isfahan, Iran, the most poetic and artistic city in Iran. I moved to the United States for a better education in 1972. Currently, I live in New York City, the place I absolutely love. Regarding my education in design, I attended Fashion Institute of Technology and Pratt Institute.

Who are your biggest style influences? Designers or people or models or time periods, anything that speaks to you.

I am foremost influenced by people, architecture, and my favorite period of time, now. However, I am also very inspired by the luxury of the golden age of cinema.

You always have the most gorgeous materials. How do you select your fabrics? What makes a fabric special?

When you mention fabric, you are also including laces and embroideries as well. When I look at fabrication, I am very keen on the touch and functionality. What truly moves me is the laces and embroideries, which talk to me. That’s what creates the “wow“ moment.

How does your process work, start to finish? How long, for example, does the lace design take?

It starts with research, development, and critical thinking. From there, we move on choosing fabrication, embroideries and laces dependent on the mood of the season, people, and the country. We are constantly listening. From start to finish, the process takes about three months.

How do you want your client to feel in your garments? What kind of moment do you imagine her in?

I was told by my clients that my garments make them feel more self confident and brings out their inner beauty. That is exactly what we want. As the design process begins, we picture our client celebrating themselves and that can be everyday, birthday, wedding, etc. Of course having said that, I have a special spot in my heart for the brides.

What kind of things go on your mood board?

Research and forecasting images. Yet we cannot forget the candid images that we get from the streets of New York City. These photos can be advertisements seen while taking the bus, glimpses of flowers we see out the windows, slogans and statements painted on the wall of a mural, or the smile of a child.

What do you wish people knew about your job?

My job is as uplifting and fulfilling as it can be. Yet, the details of daily necessities are tough and sometimes takes lots of strength. I want the person to really join this field, to know the only way to carry it on is to have persistence.

How did you know you wanted to be a lingerie designer? Was there an "aha" moment?

It was a process. I truly achieved my experience as a evening wear designer first, and the “aha” moment was when I met my husband, Marvin Baker. He was representing a lingerie line, named Glydon who was designed by Bob Mackie. I fell in love with the fact that lingerie is limitless in creation.

What's an up-and-coming trend you're excited about? What is a hard pass for you?

I love the Renaissance and historical references that are happening in lingerie now. A hard pass is living through these times in Covid globally.

Where do you see lingerie going in the next 10 years?

Collections will become smaller, people will purchase less but better quality. The focus becomes how we differentiate ourselves and how we tell our story.

What do you think is special about the Rya viewpoint?

I am a storyteller at heart and I Iove romance. Each collection tells my story, the story of love. Every individual piece in our collection reveals this message through our embroideries, laces, and colors.

Is there a piece you're most proud of from your career?

As a designer, your last piece is always your favorite. The piece I remember feeling most proud of was a teddy I created at the very beginning of my career. [I created it] at my namesake company, Flora Nikrooz, and I called it “FrouFrou”. I remember how much the public loved it, way beyond my imagination.

Tell us about expanding the size offerings of your line and the process of doing that!

We are living in a very special time in our life and history. I am proud to be able to be here and take part of it. Inclusivity is the most important message that I would like to spread. By creating extended sizes, I felt that I took part.

Whose work do you really admire?

In general terms, if we are looking at trend setters like Dior or Gucci, of course I admire them. I admire the younger designers that are stepping into this field, fearless and spreading their talent.

Thank you so much for your insights, Flora! We adore your work and cannot wait to see your next collection!

Kirsten Schofield