Bright Light Feature Artist: Rove & Roam

 Rove & Roam is lively, celebratory, retro-inspired, American-made sportswear for the modern woman. Hand sewn by an, “Irish lass and a Russian boy,” who met in New York and fell in love like two punks in a pod, the label expresses a zest for life matched only by their careful, caring attention to each piece, and each person who wears it.

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EOU: We know your background is in sportswear, in New York City. When did you live there?

I moved to NYC in 1996, from Manchester England where I studied clothing design and technology. I freelanced thru an agency while looking for a job, they sent me to Ralph Lauren Mens Underwear and Sleepwear where I ended up working full time for a year or so. Let’s just say fittings could be interesting and I learned a lot about the fashion industry there. 

I worked as the knitwear designer for DKNY jeans and from there back to Ralph Lauren, this time as design director for Women’s Sleepwear. 

EOU: What was your favorite part of the city? Have you been back lately?

I lived in the East Village for most of my NYC years and loved it. Surrounded by vintage clothing stores, dive bars and every kind of food you can imagine–I was in my element. My favorite thing about NYC was walking: I would wander from the East River to the Hudson, passing thru the West Village and the meat packing district, down to Battery Park and back up thru TriBeCa and Soho. I could clock up 10 miles without noticing. I try to go back once a year for work and pleasure.

EOU: Tell us about Ireland! How did you get your start there?

I grew up in Belfast but never actually worked there. I moved to Manchester for school and I worked part-time for a small fashion company while I was studying, making patterns and sewing into the wee hours. It was the 1990s in Manchester when I left university and there was a huge music and club scene erupting, the time just seemed right to start my first label, “Freak Show.“ I was definitely inspired by my surroundings creating and selling funky sports-influenced separates and dresses. This little venture was surprisingly successful, allowing me to follow my dream to move NYC.

EOU: What’s your favorite part of the design process?

The design process is personal for every designer; for me as an independent designer it is perpetual, and while I’m designing one thing I might have an idea for another. I get excited when I find a fabric that I love, this is usually the starting point for me, ideas for styles can flow if the fabric is right. If I try to sit down and just sketch I usually get stuck. I prefer to work in 3D, draping on a mannequin, then when I get close to a shape I like I’ll quickly doodle it on a scrap of card or paper. My partner (and husband!) Sergey is a mostly self-taught patternmaker. His background is in theater and the circus! So of course he takes care of the technical side of the process!!!

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EOU: What inspires you? What or who do you find endlessly interesting?

I have always loved vintage clothing, growing up that consisted of prim 50s dresses and 60s two-piece suits but I would wear them with bright tights and back-combed, dyed hair, kind of like a punk version of Jackie Kennedy. 

I still draw a lot of inspiration from vintage style but rework ideas to make them current. I’m definitely a dress person and my thing right now is “it’s better than sweatpants!” I love designing and making dresses that are comfortable and as easy to wear as sweatpants.

EOU: How do Wilmington or NC affect your product or aesthetic, if at all? Versus NYC? 

The weather is big factor in design. When I worked in NYC we would have to design special product for the south and I really didn’t understand why until moving to NC. While the rest of the country is getting cozy in sweaters Wilmington folk are layering flannel shirts over shorts, which is fine as our Morgan shorts are one of our best sellers!! Most of what we design and make is sold locally so we are tuned into designing styles that can be worn year round.

EOU: How would you define Rove & Roam’s style? What celebrity icon would you most like to see wearing your clothing?!

Rove and Roam style is classic yet modern and not too serious. We try to design pieces that you will have in your wardrobe for a long time and that won’t go out of fashion.

Emma Watson, she takes her youthful but timeless style from street to red carpet with ease and I could see her incorporating a few of our pieces into her looks! Michelle Obama, as First Lady she has brought everyday clothing onto the world stage with effortless style, she wears American brands and it would be great if the next step was wearing an American brand actually MADE IN AMERICA!

EOU: What’s your biggest challenge today? Designing, branding, exposure…?

As a small design company one of our biggest challenges is how to grow our customer base. We don’t have the resources that large companies have for advertising and fashion shows so exposure and getting the word out is key. Social media is a great tool but it can only take you so far. We are lucky enough to have a lot of return customers and rely on their word of mouth. 

I have always believed that as long as we working hard and doing our best the customers will come, but a lot of success can be gained by the right person wearing one of your designs at the right time, you know, the Oprah effect. I do think Michelle Obama would look great in our Morphin twirl dress, wink wink.

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You can always find a collection of R&R pieces in both EOU locations! But, this month you can shop an exclusive assortment of their favorite pieces during the Second Saturday trunk show - November 12th!