Designer spotlight: Interview with Rosie Assoulin

Designer spotlight: Interview with Rosie Assoulin

Modern-day fairy godmother

Text: Dora Aljoofri-Shrestha

Image: 2015 CFDA Journal
Image: Nicole Cohen
Image: Greg Kessler

What better way to kick off the first day of NYFW SS16 than with a chat with one of our favourite New York designers, Rosie Assoulin about her eponymous label and collection of statement-makers

Sculpted silhouettes, exaggerated shapes, architectural and voluminous, these are just some of the unique elements that make New York designer Rosie Assoulin's creations stand out from the crowd. 

Every piece from her collection since her resort 2014 debut spells drama, but not the ostentatious sort we're used to seeing on runways and red carpets. Assoulin's idea of grandeur is stripped bare of over-the-top embellishments or ornamental details. Her high-drama signature: The use of exaggerated shapes and vivid, vibrant colours in clean lines. 

From billowing sleeves to cascading ruffles, Assoulin creates statement-making clothes with one goal in mind — to make wearing eveningwear in the day modern and approachable. Each piece is beautifully crafted yet extremely wearable and practical (think: ballgown skirts with pockets).

With a fashion following as strong as the six collections she has already dished out with dramatic flair, this is only the beginning for Assoulin and her gamut of stand-out creations that are making its red carpet and street-style rounds globally.   

We speak to the young designer who recently won this year's CFDA Swarovski Award for Womenswear about femininity today and her time interning at Oscar de la Renta and Lanvin before branching out on her own. 

"The first few collections were all pieces that I had dreamed of wearing, but was never able to find anywhere."

What made you decide to branch out into a solo fashion career?
It was something that I had been thinking about for a while. My parents and friends would tease me and tell me I needed to start my own line and finally, we just decided to go for it. I knew that this was a true passion, and that I had to make that leap.

What is your creative process like?
Inspiration really comes from all over. We extract ideas from anytime and any place and then we hone in on a few specific ideas and expand on them. It's really about what feels most urgent and what jumps out at the moment.

What was the inspiration behind your fall/winter 2015 collection?
We pulled from a lot of different places for FW15. The inspiration kind of ran the gamut from the sculptural works of Andre Borderie to a kid's TVshow called Daniel Tiger on PBS [Public Broadcasting Service].

Practicality is an important part of your design process. Tell us how you have achieved this with your brand and your collections?
I personally love a practical and wearable ensemble. For me, those are two of the most important factors that go into a purchasing decision. But I still live in an amazing city, where great things happen and you want to be able to dress for that occasion while still looking and feeling incredible. Our designs practicality came from wanting that balance and understanding what is needed to create that balance.

How has growing up in New York City played a part in who you are today personally and professionally?
You can't mark and measure the effect a city like New York has on you. It's so exciting for me to say that I even still live here. I am so thankful. It emboldens you to see all of these people trying to pursue their own dreams.

Tell us how the Balloon sleeved top was born.
It was something that I always wanted to wear. The first few collections were all pieces that I had dreamed of wearing, but was never able to find anywhere. The balloon top was one of those dream pieces.

Leandra Medine in the Rosie Assoulin Balloon sleeved top

You're also known for your functional use of fabric, what do you think women look for in functional dressing?
Comfort, transition and wearability.

What do you think it means to be feminine in this day and age?
There is no limit to what it means to be feminine. Where we start getting into trouble is when we try to explain it in finite terms.

When you look back on your time at Oscar De La Renta and Lanvin, what do you think was the most valuable thing you took from your experiences there?
Passion, work ethic, going with your gut and balance. Work and life have such an effect on one another...they are so intertwined and feed off of one another. Living a life where you feel like both your work and personal lives are fulfilled is a beautiful thing, and that balance is key.

If you could wear anything you want to a formal event not caring what the world would think, what would you rock up in?
It really depends on the occasion and my connection to the event, but if I was dreaming up the ultimate occasion, at the best location and with my closest family and friends, it would have to be something I could dance the night away in. I love to dance! Something fabulous, fun and colourful.

"I also think that we really need to work on creating more sustainable industry practices. We only have one world and we need to do our best to preserve it."

Drama is in your brand's aesthetics. What's your favourite TV drama series?
Mad Men. It was so complex and unexpected.

Name three of your biggest guilty pleasures.
Guilty pleasure is a night at a local hotel, room service and a clear schedule the next day.

If you could change one thing in fashion, what would it be?
On a personal level, I would have to say the thoughts around beauty standards and what those beauty standards mean to the rest of the world. We try to make room for everyone and I hope that people feel as though we do. I also think that we really need to work on creating more sustainable industry practices. We only have one world and we need to do our best to preserve it.

Complete the sentence: People will be surprised to know that my favourite item of clothing is... overalls.