Conversation with: Rosie Assoulin
March 14, 2016
Dripping wax candles, colorful glitter, and a baby grand piano—the Rosie Assoulin Fall 2016 Presentation at New York Fashion Week was profoundly aesthetic and undeniably stunning. We sat down with the acclaimed designer to talk inspiration and her latest collection.
NM: Your set design was breathtaking. We have to ask: How long did it take to set up and light every candle? Did it symbolize something specific?
RA: It takes a village to put on a presentation, so we are fortunate to have the support of a very talented production team who has been working with us since the beginning. The wooden structures were built a few days prior to the show, and the team started melting candles on the structures once they were finished to make the candles look worn. They were pre-melting candles up until the first person walked in for the presentation. We cut it a bit close!
The decor didn’t represent one specific idea, but my dear friend (and life teacher), Esther, told me we create holidays and festivities where we get together, light candles, give gifts, and sing songs across many different cultures and religions to push back against the instinct to retreat during the winter months when the days are darkest, coldest, and shortest. I love the notion of that—kind of fighting against the darkness by being in a warm space, to feel and be moved and thus inspired and hopeful. Nothing specific, though—I guess I just wanted people to feel something.
NM: What do you like about a presentation versus a runway show?
RA: A presentation just feels more like us right now. People get to hang out, chat, and visit. We are able to float around the room and see people’s reactions.
The guests can touch the clothing and feel the fabrics. That is important to us. I want people to connect with the collection.
NM: Your fall collection had elements of the unexpected, such as a cable-knit sweater as eveningwear. Tell us about your creative process behind these pieces.
RA: We just follow our instincts, our gut reactions. We try thinking about the everyday in a new way. By re-contextualizing pieces that most of us relate to day-to-day, we create looks that feel exciting and desirable while maintaining a level of comfort and approachability.
NM: If you weren’t a designer, what would you be doing?
RA: I don’t know because I am so excited to be doing this right now. Let’s just see how it goes!
NM: Does inspiration strike you on a whim, or are there things you do to get into the creative flow?
RA: Inspiration can come from anything at any time. There isn’t really a process. Sometimes I find myself saying that a concept isn’t ready yet, and I keep tweaking it until it’s right. And sometimes things just have a certain sense of urgency and are in the spirit of the immediate moment.
NM: How did winning the CFDA Swarovski Award for Womenswear impact you as a designer?
RA: I mean it’s still sort of crazy to us! We are extremely grateful to have even had an opportunity to be a part of it. Getting to know the other designers and being involved in the CFDA is really great. We’ve had such amazing support from Swarovski and the fashion industry as a whole.
NM: Your designs often nod to a very broad understanding of fashion history.
Where did you gather that education? Is there a particular era that has most influenced you?
RA: I always just follow my curiosity and passion, and that always seems to lead me to the next step, whatever that might be at the time. It’s when I doubt my intuition that I tend to get into trouble, and so far fashion has been the greatest way to explore all my varied curiosities. It’s a wonderful forum for and convergence of lots of the most fascinating things—different places, people’s stories, and our history.
NM: And while we talk about drama, how do you achieve entire collections of statement pieces that never veer toward feeling like costumes?
RA: I don’t know. This may sound silly, but this question made me flash back to that old cereal commercial, where this dad asks a group of kids, “So what do you even like about this? It doesn’t even taste like apples…” and then this chorus of kids just shouts, “We eat what we like!” and I guess that is the same concept for us.