Escape into the high fantasy world of emerging designer Rosie Evans, a young creative who has made sustainability the core of her brand.
What do FKA Twigs, Kate Bush and The Wombles all have in common? They’re all iconic in their own way, and unapologetically themselves. They also all happen to have served as inspiration to designer Rosie Evans, becoming part of the success story behind her eponymous fashion brand.
In 2018, after graduating from UWE, the Welsh designer found herself at a crossroads that many young creatives will be familiar with: a desire to nurture her creative vision on the one hand, and facing the reality of having to find a job to pay the bills on the other. Rosie, however, managed to find a compromise, carving out her own unique place within the pixelated wilderness of Instagram. Initially intended as a creative outlet, it wasn’t long before her page took off, with many potential customers captivated by her designs.
Sustainability is at the core of her creative practice; not as a gilded word thrown around to attract eco-conscious buyers, but the very foundation on which her brand was built. All the garments are made of fabrics and materials – often donated or from charity shops – that she has collected over the years, including bedding, upholstery and a lovely collection of tea towels. Part of the challenge for her has been learning to stay true to her vision whilst creating pieces that people will want to purchase.
During London Fashion Week, I happened to be at Bleaq’s event at The Bomb Factory, a small showroom nestled in the beating heart of London. Among other brilliant emerging designers was Rosie, presenting her collection. It turned out to be not just a showcase but a whole performance, with enigmatic models whispering into each other’s ears – codes perhaps, or spells – while wearing colourful garments, the likes of which I had never seen before. The presentation had its desired effect: I was mesmerised.
Can you please tell me about your background, and the story of your brand? When did you start, and how did you get into fashion?
I studied Fashion at UWE, in Bristol. Then, while applying for jobs, I wanted to keep making stuff and still be creative, so I started my Instagram page. This was in 2019. Then at the beginning of 2020, I was getting more and more people wanting to buy my stuff. Then when the pandemic hit and lockdown started, I had to move back to Wales to save money, as I’d also lost my job. While I was there I decided to try and do it full-time, and I've carried it out since then, which has been quite lovely.
What is your main goal as a fashion designer, and how do you measure success?
I think it’s to, aside from just creating and wanting to design the clothes that I want to make, trying to get people to shop more consciously. So, being more thoughtful with what you decide to buy, and not buying something just because it’s a gimmick or a trend, but buying something to wear, keep and cherish. Just be more thoughtful about materials and where the materials come from.
Could you tell me more about the materials you use?
With this collection especially it was all about trying to use everything I’ve hoarded over the years and try hard not to buy any new materials. There’s so much in the world already, we don’t need to buy eco-materials when we have so much to begin with! So I used a lot of textiles that were donated, or that I found in charity shops, or in the streets even. I generally use a lot of upcycled materials, such as tea towels, blankets, and old bedding. I just try to make sure I'm sticking to being conscious, using up the scraps that I’ve saved and kept with me for ages.
This brings me back to my childhood. Turning tea towels into dresses for my dolls.
Yeah, that was definitely part of my upbringing. Growing up there weren’t any fabric shops near us, so I just had to make do using what people were giving me, or upcycling. I learned how to make things just through not having lots of materials available.
When you first start working on a design, how do you turn an abstract idea into a tangible piece? How has your practice/creative process changed over time?
Because I use second-hand materials, it often starts with looking at what I've got and what I can design from that. You start by looking at the material, then thinking how much you can get out of it, and what would look best. Upholstery materials, which I use a lot, are really good for skirts, for instance. Whereas, some more delicate materials I tend to use in the corsets, because they have that backing and they have a lot more material going behind it to preserve the texture.
I think over the years I've become a lot better at understanding what’s feasible and what’s saleable - it wouldn’t be very sustainable if I made lots of clothes that couldn’t be sold!
Your designs seem to borrow from the past in a modern and innovative way. Who/ what would you say are your main influences?
I love vintage films, particularly weird dramas and fantasy films from the 70s and 80s. I also love children’s books and tv shows. There’s an old show from the 70s called The Wombles, a puppet show about these little creatures that recycle everything. All the clothes are made of weird materials that they stitch together, and all the furniture is made out of rubbish. That always comes to me, I feel like I’m just a little womble!
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
It’s kind of hard to remember everything I’ve done, but the first time I showed my collection at London Fashion Week, last year, was such a lovely moment. I was really proud of it. I’d done everything - I had made the lookbook and had everything ready to show to people in the showroom, people in the industry as well, rather than just online. When I first started, everything was through Instagram or online, so it didn’t feel as real, whereas that felt ‘oh, I’m doing this, this is real’.
I was recently talking to some emerging designers about how fashion schools often don’t really prepare for the harsh reality of setting up your own business: the competitiveness, the mental and physical exhaustion, etc. Did you have a similar experience?
Back when I was studying, having your own brand wasn’t seen as a viable option. We weren’t encouraged to, it wasn’t really talked about. I think that was hard, because I had to learn a lot of business skills as I was going and, since, made a lot of mistakes and learned from them. I also think sustainability wasn’t seen as anything – ‘oh it means you’re cutting up plastic bags’. It wasn’t seen as a viable way to make a career, which I know has changed a lot since then, but it was quite hard to merge how I was creating with that way of thinking.
Is there anyone, famous or not famous, who you would love to collaborate with?
I really love FKA Twigs, she’s so cool and creative. I’d love to work with her on any kind of project, or even just meet her. And also Kate Bush. I’ve always loved her music, she’s a big inspiration as well. She’s made exactly what she wanted and really believed in herself. It’s very inspiring for me, and makes me trust myself a bit more. Just because someone doesn’t get it, doesn’t mean it’s not going to be amazing!
Lastly, I’d love to know: how would you describe your personal style in a few words?
My personal style is quite vintage-y, 70s, kind of prairie style mixed with graphic t-shirts, baggy t-shirts, and a lot of knitwear! Big coats too.