How did you get your start in the fashion industry? Did you always know that you wanted to be a designer?
My great grandmother was a milliner in the ’20s, so she was gorgeous, stylish and a killer knitter.
Both my grandmother and mother sew, knit and create, it runs deep in my family. I grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho, a cosmopolitan county town, riding horses and day dreaming of the city.
I studied fashion at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, moved to New York where I fell in love and three months later married my husband who is my biggest supporter. We had two beautiful children, nearly moments after our second child was born we opened a children’s concept store in Williamsburg called mor mor rita. Soon after, the house collection was launched.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
I think there is always a modern, edgy element balanced with a pretty simplistic poetic flavor. I have become known for the subtle colors I favor, but never lack a spike of a bright. I am trying to master the perfect shade of pink, which happens to be my favorite color.
What made you transition from kidswear through mor mor rita to womenswear?
It felt like a natural transition. I had many requests over the years from the amazing mothers who bought mor mor rita for their children. I took some time off after the birth of our third child and it gave me the time and space to conceptualize the women’s collection. When I did launch Ryan Roche, my namesake women’s RTW collection, I already had this fantastic following.
You are credited for using organic cotton before it was “trendy”. What made you choose sustainable fashion?
I had a conversation with a friend in my initial stages of sourcing for the first mor mor rita collection. She told me of an organic cotton mill in Japan making the most lovely organic cotton fabrics. I looked no further; it made so much sense in every way.
Could you tell us a bit more about the all-women’s cooperative in Nepal? How did you originally get involved with the organization?
I was introduced to the cooperative back in 2004 through an industry friend. I have worked with them now for nearly nine years. It’s a wonderful partnership. They work with destitute women by training them in handicraft and give them the opportunity to work and support their children. Most of the women are from rural villages from the Gorkha District and abandoned by their husbands and/or widows. Being a single woman in Nepal not only makes it harder to raise children but also bring a lot of social stigma and exclusion. So far they have trained more than 100 women in knitting, crocheting, embroidery and stitching. A small margin from the sales of their products goes to a clinic in Gaikhur village, which supports impoverished women and children by providing them free medical check-ups and medicine.
Personally, what do you like to wear? Who are some of your favorite designers?
I kind of live in my own collection…maybe that’s because I live in the country and I am a horrible online shopper. I really love Acne, A Détacher, I love The Row and often draw into what they are doing at Valentino and Balmain, Stella McCartney; I love the way she runs her business. Dries Van Noten, I’ve always loved.
What made you choose Williamsburg for your boutique location?
We lived in Williamsburg for ten years, it was home and it needed a great kids store!
You live in a very romantic setting—an old stone house with a farmyard of animals. Do you draw design inspiration from your home setting?
I do! We actually had to find new homes for the farm animals. As my business is growing I am finding I don’t have time for animal husbandry and my collection with three small children. So for now all the goats and chickens have new happy homes. I will do it again later in life when I have more time because I love it. I am dying to get a horse but settle for riding lessons at a near by barn for now. I love being removed and having a clear mind upstate, it keeps it authentic.
What do you spend the most time doing at home when not designing?
Obsessing about finishing our 1688 stone house renovation with my husband and cooking! I love to cook.
Do you see yourself branching out beyond kidswear and womenswear in the future? Maybe home?
Yes, I would love for Ryan Roche to become a lifestyle brand, for now though I am so happy to focus on the women’s collection. For FW13 I am focusing on mainly knitwear, which is my ultimate love! I have just signed on with Goods and Services, a new showroom by Joey Laurenti (formerly of Opening Ceremony) and Cindy Krupp of Krupp Group PR. I am looking forward to building my women’s collection.