Interview with the One and Only: Rebecca Rowes

Rebecca Rowes tells me all about her journey through fashion design starting with duct tape ending with her newest badass collection. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it.

Her Campus uOttawa: How did your interest in fashion begin? 

Rebecca Rowes: I’ve always had an interest in fashion. When I say always, I mean always! I must have been about six when I put together my first dress. I used duct tape at the time of course, seemed easier then thread. My interest was always more in putting the clothes together but over the years my line has developed to be more about self expression and diversity. 

HCuO: Are you self taught or did you study fashion design?

RR: I originally attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn NY for fashion design. After freshman year I took a year off and then completed my education abroad at ESMOD Paris. 

HCuO: I'd love to learn more about your study abroad in Paris. What did the experience teach you and how was it different than the Pratt Institute? Is that where you found your voice as a designer? 

RR: I think it was really beneficial for me to have attended both schools in different countries because the shock wasn’t from the work itself but from the culture. New York was all about moving fast and getting it right the first time. I remember staying up all night working on projects that had to be amazing. It was a much more competitive environment whereas in Paris adjusting to the more laid back way of working was the biggest adjustment. At Pratt I learned how to pattern-make and it was more about how to put the design together and in Paris it was about the art of the garment. In hindsight the two types of education were very complementary but at the time I spent a lot of time comparing the two.  I don’t think I was able to find my voice as a designer until the last collection if I’m being honest. At school you’re given projects to help you find what type of designer you are but it’s not until you’re thrown into the real world that you’re able to really determine your style. The first couple of collections too you’re still figuring it out and taking advice from outside sources. When you get more comfortable with your design aesthetic you need that less. This collection is a perfect example of both knowing what I wanted to say and being open to suggestions. Especially with the men’s looks I wanted my model’s opinions on if they liked it, would they wear it, how did it feel etc. 

HCuO: What inspires you in the creative process? What inspires you right now?

RR: Emotion is my go to for inspiration. Clothing can affect your mood and self esteem. I try and to create clothing that makes the woman wearing it feel a certain way. My collection this season is about; power, self confidence with a bit of edge. I want this girl to feel cool. 

HCuO: What advice do you have for anyone who is trying to break into fashion design and doesn’t know where to start? 

RR: You can’t do it. It’s a joke. Is that what you really want? 

To anyone breaking into this industry I want them to be ready to hear those words and know that they can. It doesn’t happen over night and to stay true to their design aesthetic. Artists have a tendency to go all over the place. Stay focused. 

HCuO: How do you find your work/life balance?

RR: I don’t understand the question. I love my work. It doesn’t always feel like a chore when I create. I know that you’re asking how I manage to have a social life and to be honest, I have a group of really good friends who support my passion and who are okay with sitting in my studio watching me sew. 

HCuO: What would you like to achieve by the end of 2018 in terms of short or long term goals?

RR: I would love to have my spring collection in retailers and build my online presence. 

HCuO: What is a day in your life like? RR: Honestly, it depends on the day. One constant is coffee…bet you think I’m kidding. I wake up with a cup of coffee, check my business emails. I try and keep on top of my inbox because it’s my most hated part of my job. I like to go to a yoga class before work, keeps me a bit sane, then I go to work. I currently work two jobs to be able to support my business. You can find me either in a restaurant, serving tables or in a bridal shop helping women find the perfect dress for their wedding. Depending when I finish at work it’s back to my studio. Days off are filled with pattern-making, sewing, sketching or meetings. 

HCuO: Your fall and winter collection for 2017 is pretty bad-ass. What is your go to power outfit?  RR: I am obsessed with this collection! I want every woman to feel bad-ass when she puts on one of these looks. I am personally pretty tall, it was a part of my appearance that took me a long time to get comfortable with and now it’s what I like to accentuate when I’m looking to feel confident. My go to power outfit has to be a black long pencil skirt I made out of a faux textured leather, black long sleeve top, textured vegan leather bomber with red lining and my really big black heels. Still shows off my feminine shape but I definitely look like I mean business in that outfit. 

HCuO: On the day of a fashion show, what can you be found doing?  RR: Drinking coffee. The day of the show I’m not usually all that stressed. Anything that isn’t done is not getting done so there is no use in stressing about it. I like trusting my team when it comes to hair and makeup so I’ll give them some direction and then let them do their thing. To be honest I’ll probably be found catching up with my models and trying to make them as comfortable as possible. 

HCuO: If there was one take-away that you wanted the audience to have after they saw your collection at this year's Capital Catwalk, what was it? RR: Whenever I do a show, especially like this one, that has a strong message I want the audience to leave silent. My goal is to have a show and the audience is so moved that everyone is quiet for the first few moments. I also want them leaving thinking, “oh, I could wear that!” fashion is for everyone. I never want people leaving one of my shows thinking, “I wish I had somewhere to wear that”.