WHO: Rowen Rose
FROM: Paris, France
Rowen Rose’s girl is something you’d expect to see inside a speakeasy in the 1930s – languid, glamorous, sharp in the shoulder, a denizen of the night who goes forth boldly, knowing what she wants. She plays vixen, she plays vamp, but she is always a lady. She wears pastel houndstooth, fur-trimmed coats, and a saffron silk gown exaggerated at the shoulder yet cinched at the waist with the kind of savoir-faire you’d expect of the era. Decadent, always. Indulgent, yes. She is not a wildcard, however, but is intelligent and worldly and elegant with an insatiable taste for style.
Her director is Emma Rowen Rose, a 22-year-old sophisticate with a prolific imagination and roaring creativity. Born Emma Raphaëlle Rotenberg into a multicultural family in Paris, she ditched her “difficult” Spanish/Polish moniker in favour of an anglicised one that was easy to palate and sold her car to kick-start her dreams. “After graduating and working for various fashion houses, I decided to expand my portfolio a little more by creating a mini capsule collection that I shot with some friends,” she says. Sharing the collection the only way any young millennial knows how, via Instagram, ‘A Chambermaid’s Diary’ soon went viral. “I was surprised to see how people responded. I got so many requests that I thought, ‘Maybe that’s what I am meant to do?’ So I launched my company in July 2018 when I was 21.”
A year later and fashion’s enfant terrible has been picked up by luxury e-commerce giants Luisa Via Roma and Moda Operandi, the latter even showcasing the handcrafted, made-in-Milan brand through one of their exclusive trunkshows. “I never create a collection out of nothing,” muses the designer. “I feel like I can’t design without a meaning. I use mostly art, cinema, poetry, literature.” When dismantled, the Rowen Rose aesthetic reads like a film: it has clear characters, narrative and plot, the designer crafting a well-defined mise-en-scène for its growing audience.
It makes sense considering each collection pays homage to art that has moved her. This season, ‘Double Jeu’ is an ode to the 1936 film Le Roman d’un Tricheur, or Confessions of a Cheat, melding ’30s glamour with ’80s kitsch. There’s sherbet-hued houndstooth, plume-trimmed frocks, plush velvet and plenty of coloured PVC. ere’s also plenty of power shoulders, in what’s fast becoming the defining trope of the adolescent brand. ‘Santa Cruz’, the collection prior, tapped another world altogether. Based on the play of Federico Garcia Lorca, La Casa de Bernarda Alba, it tied back to Rose’s Spanish roots, revealing a deeply mysterious, almost melancholic mood with flamenco accents. Then her opening act, ‘A Chambermaid’s Diary’, which riffed on the classic by Mexican- Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, a provocative, complex woman in leather, lace and hourglass silhouettes. Delve deeper and each collection is also introspective, her culture and heritage told through the lens of fashion. “I see how it impacted my vision now… My contrasted aesthetic could be influenced by my origins, between the passionate and eccentric Spanish influence and the serious elegant Polish side,” she ponders. “I understand now why contrasted personalities and styles appeal to me so much.”
Her native Paris also inspires her. But with its old-world obsessions and rigid structures, its rarefied air can be stifling for young designers. For Rose, however, it’s the city’s refractory counterculture that excites her and oxygenates the brand. “Paris has this amazing nonchalant energy,” she says. “I was born and grew up there, and it is definitely a part of Rowen Rose’s aesthetic… its rebelliousness… this woman with an attitude.” One look at Rowen Rose tells you this. And while building a brand from scratch at such a young age is an incredible feat, selling your creative soul to the world is even more impressive.
But perhaps even more laudable is soldiering on when faced with prejudice because of age and gender. “I face these challenges on a daily basis and with my suppliers a lot,” she laments. “Moreover, I am young, which doesn’t help. But I fight, I try to overcome it with positivity even if it isn’t always easy. It takes courage and determination to face these difficulties every day that only concern women. But we have the shoulders.” It’s true, in Rowen Rose’s exaggerated, power-shouldered shirts, coats and dresses, we do have the shoulders. Extra big ones.