When #MeToo first erupted as an anti-sexual assault hashtag late last year in light of Harvey Weinstein’s public fallout, Time’s Up came hot in its heels, backed by Hollywood’s leading ladies determined to create concrete change in gender disparity. Both groundbreaking movements drove public conversation on women’s issues around the world. They came, they saw — but did they conquer?
One way to gauge their palpable aftereffect is in fashion, a mega industry closely linked to Hollywood. #MeToo succeeded in marshalling models and industry insiders to call out bigwigs the likes of famed photographers Bruce Weber and Mario Testino to stylist Karl Templer for sexual misconduct.
While this openness is a step up, there’s still another cold hard truth yet to be rectified. Statistics show that women make up more than 70 percent of the total workforce, yet less than 25 percent hold leadership positions in top companies. As an industry aimed at women and buoyed by female dollars, it’s still largely run by men.
Delightful, then, to come across females building their own label from scratch to worldwide brand magnitude. So is the rare case of Brooklyn-based designer Rosie Assoulin.
Cutting her teeth at Oscar de la Renta’s studio, she dropped out of school to become the late American designer’s protégé. Later, she moved to Paris for a stint at the Lanvin studio, working under the guidance of the label’s former creative director, Alber Elbaz.
“I spent many years as a career intern at a number of companies, but always had a bit of trepidation when thinking of actually doing it for myself,” Assoulin shared in an e-mail. “There were only so many years of delay that my friends and family could withstand, and they eventually pushed me over the edge.”
Biting the bullet came with great reward. Her premier Resort 2014 collection introduced sculptural volumes and modern eveningwear that were quickly picked up by eager retailers including Moda Operandi and Fivestory. One year later, Assoulin scooped the CFDA emerging designer award. The budding creative was instantly ranked on top of New York’s newcomers-to-watch list.
Granted, not many women’s pathway to fashion success is as smooth sailing as Assoulin’s. But her stratospheric success story serves as a gleaming beacon of hope for the next batch of girl-boss hopefuls to come.
These days, Assoulin stays busy dressing the likes of Amal Clooney and Ruth Negga. She also recently designed a 10-piecer consisting of warm-weather staples for Net-a-Porter. Here, we caught up with the designer for an e-chat on her take on modern post-#MeToo femininity and her Net-a-Porter summerwear capsule.
Every season is different and I am constantly inspired, but I always want my pieces to feel both comfortable and special.
Volume and dramatic silhouettes are something I can’t help but be drawn to. While I want my collections to be wearable and practical, it’s all about balance, and these exciting pieces create memories that are timeless and can be worn ten years from now.
I don’t like to define our customer or put women in boxes. I want to be there for a woman through every stage of her life, creating clothes for the formal elements to the more utilitarian. She should feel like the truest, most powerful, and most confident version of herself, and we hope our clothes inspire that.
I’ve never really thought about me being disadvantaged as a woman in this industry. Maybe it’s because my mother-in-law, [jewellery designer] Roxanne Assoulin, was always someone I looked up to, as she had three kids and ran her own business. She did it all.
Seeing someone in the street wearing something from our collection always excites me. It makes us feel so flattered and thankful.
They were both such amazing experiences with two legendary designers. They were always the quintessential designers that I looked up to. I felt like they both loved and respected women, and allowed women to play different roles in the clothes they designed.
We wanted to create something easy and fun that would work well for both beachy travel or hot (and humid!) city summers.
Rosie Assoulin’s Net-a-Porter-exclusive capsule collection is available here.
(Main and featured images: Jesse Ditmar)