Rosemary Goodenough, 64
I hit it off with Rosemary Goodenough the moment I was introduced to her by the guys from the London Sock Company at London Collections Men, 2 years ago.
There she was, at Victoria House, head-to-toe Issey Miyake, launching her new menswear accessories collection. I recall her ties, in particular, had caused quite a stir.
I remember thinking to myself then, what a wonderful air she had about her. You see, Rosemary, ambidextrous sculptrix, fine artist and now fashion designer had initially entered the foray of menswear with a line of luxury silk scarves, but had turned her creative eye to deconstructing the humble neck tie – after the gauntlet of designing one was thrown down by a former hereditary member of the House of Lords who said he wanted ‘something different’ to wear with his suits.
This was no mean feat, given that just about everything had already been printed or woven in to a tie. But then it struck Rosemary that if she created a separate interchangeable fabric woggle-style knot, this part would always be a different colour to the rest of the tie. It was a momentous moment, that was not lost on The UKFT’s International Director Paul Alger, who pointed out Rosemary was the first person to redesign the tie in 150 years.
I discovered Rosemary and her husband, the photographer Michael Waller-Bridge reside in my beloved Norfolk, so we made a pact that the next time I was in Nelson’s county we would get together, and that we did. Rosemary invited me in to her wonderfully appointed, Grade 2* Listed part 500-year old abode, and no sooner was I through the front door than we were outpouring our love for the land of the big skies.
She proclaimed “If it is good enough for the Queen (who resides in Sandringham) it is good enough for us.” Their home is furnished to perfection – like something out of a World of Interiors editorial – tulips on the kitchen table are arranged in OCD-like precision and quirky nuances like curtains made out of a Knights Chain Mail Suit of Armour replace traditional cupboard doors.
It is a home brimming with the couple’s artistry – from Rosemary’s paintings such as the one depicting a mature and youthful Lorenzo de’ Medici to Michael’s portraits of parliamentarians.
We sat down, with Rosemary’s cat Kisses keeping a watchful eye over the proceedings…
• Sartorialee: You have a very distinct style. Describe it and who influences it?
• Rosemary Goodenough: I am mad about the work of Issey Miyake who I regard as the greatest Designer of the 20th and 21st Centuries. When wearing pieces by him I always feel that I am completely myself rather than a person wearing Issey Miyake and I know this is completely insane and entirely wrong but I always feel he is designing just for me as they fit me and suit me so well. I have never met him and he clearly has no idea who I am but I nevertheless feel that he completely gets me and I completely get him. His AW16/17 Collection was I think the best ever and as he will be 80 next year he sets a perfect example of living a life that is completely engaged, never settling for the last best thing but always moving forward. I believe he has taken a back seat now but every piece that bears his name is still validated by him. I love his quote “Design is not for philosophy, it’s for life”.
• S: Who is your mentor?
• RG: We met Maurice Mullen, Head of Fashion & Luxury Goods for the London Evening Standard and ES Magazine when showing at London Fashion Week and he has become my unofficial mentor. His knowledge is deep, his insights profound and his guidance subtle and thoughtfully expressed. He is also an incredibly nice, very clever, very funny man and a joy to know.
• S: Who do you most admire on the UK menswear scene and why?
• RG: I would like to answer that in two ways, firstly from the long established brands I would probably say Huntsman on Savile Row as they haven’t just stuck with one formula since 1849 but always moved forward in a subtle way.
Secondly for a new brand, well, when showing at London Fashion Week Men in June 2016 we were completely blown away by Consistence London. Their tailoring is immaculate, the quality of their fabrics is stunning and their styling is absolutely brilliant as it is a perfect mix of funky and classic which is incredibly difficult to pull off. They were founded in 2014 and were selected by Giorgio Armani personally to show in the Armani Space during Milan Men’s Fashion Week for AW/17 in January 2017 and it was stunning! They even managed to get the very handsome supermodel Hu Bing to model for them on the catwalk so we predict a great future for them as they have made a major impact very quickly and the Founders & Designers, husband and wife Tien and Fang Fang, are totally reliable and incredibly hard working.
• S: Describe the challenges of being a woman in a predominantly male profession?
• RG: It seems to me that it is an asset rather than a challenge as, on a superficial level it makes one stand out from the crowd and I also think a lot of men are very comfortable talking with a woman about fashion and how to make their look more stylish. I absolutely love Men’s Fashion and a well dressed man will be taken seriously in whatever role he is in whether that is formal or informal. I enjoy working with men and with women and have never felt for one moment that being a woman is in any way limiting or a problem either for me or the people I am working with.
• S: Who epitomises women’s style in your opinion?
• RG: For older women, it has to be Carmen Dell’Orefice and the very cool Diane Keaton, neither of whom thank goodness have caramel coloured hair which is so boring and on many women extremely ageing. For younger women I would say my beautiful and extremely stylish step-daughter the Composer Isobel Waller-Bridge. Eleanor Roosevelt once said “Beautiful young people are accidents of nature but beautiful old people are works of art”, I sincerely hope that is true!!
• S: Favourite style destination?
• RG: Issey Miyake in Brook Street! It’s not just the clothes although of course that is the primary driver, it’s the enviroment, the visual merchandising and the staff who are all very knowledgeable about their stock. Bernard, the Manager is absolutely brilliant and gets the way I dress and style myself completely so I feel confident that I will buy the right pieces and it’s also great fun.
When showing my brand at a Fashion & Lifestyle Mission in the British Embassy in Tokyo, my husband Michael Waller-Bridge and I went to the Issey Miyake Flagship Store in Omotesando Street in Tokyo which I think is one of the most stylish streets in the world, truly beautiful. Issey Miyake had moved his London Store from Conduit Street to Brook Street in London’s Mayfair and we were invited to the opening so imagine our surprise when 18 months later in Tokyo, we walked into the staggeringly elegant Issey Miyake Omotesando store and a beautiful young woman bowed and greeted me with the words “how very nice to see you again Madam” – I have to say an immeasureably more appealing greeting that the absolutely ghastly and ubiquitous “hi guys’ which seems to be EVERYWHERE in the UK and just makes me want to immediately walk out of the shop or restaurant, to continue…………………….. I explained to her that I hadn’t been to Tokyo before so she must be mistaken upon which she whipped out her iPhone and showed me a picture of she and I at the opening party of the Brook Street store and even more remarkably she said “and your husband had an umbrella with a silver duck head handle” and she had a photograph of her and Michael with said umbrella. WHAT a remarkable memory and of course it made shopping there even more fun. The icing on the cake was that I found the outfit I subsquently wore to my eldest daughter’s wedding so a perfect shopping experience in a friendly and stylish destination.
• S: Most stylish guy you know in menswear?
• RG:Maurice Mullen without a doubt. He was here in Norfolk for lunch with us a couple of weeks ago and was the epitome of elegance and style. We’ve met David Gandy a couple of times at London Fashion Week Men and he always looks fabulous.
• S:Proudest moment?
• RG: At our debut in the fashion world we showed the brand at the Saatchi Gallery in Scoop International Fashion Show and on the second day received 2 orders from Fortnum and Mason!
• S: How long does it take to make one of your ties and scarves?
• RG: Oh my goodness, well the silk twill scarves start with my original oil painting, then there is the photograph so I can then work on changing the colourways as I never use the colours of my original painting but remain true to the composition. Following that there is the development and sampling at the printers in Italy and finally the packaging so for each product it is several months from intial concept to actual product but once past the develpment stage it is a matter of a couple of months for repeat orders as the hard work has already been done. Each collection of Ties from weaving to making up to full production and also my Silk/Cashmere ‘Hot City’ woven scarves take a few months in development to manufacturing.
• S:Where are they made and by whom?
• RG: All of my Ties and Silk/Cashmere Scarves are woven and Made in England by one of the great English silk weavers. They are in the 9th generation of the same family of weavers so they certainly know what they are doing, they also weave for the likes of Hermes and Brioni etc.. so we are in good hands. All our Silk Twill Pocket Squares and Scarves are printed and have the hems hand-rolled in Italy at Lake Como by a 5 generation family of Silk Printers.
• S: What item of clothing would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
• RG: A lifetime’s supply of Black Wolford Velvet De Luxe tights!
• In what place are you happiest?
In our lovely old house in Norfolk with my husband and our beloved little cat “Kisses” the prettiest studio cat in the world!
• S: What drives you?
• RG: Being an artist one is always driven to create so the drivers for me are entirely internal and not pressure from the outside world.
• S: Tell me what’s in store for 2017/2018?
• RG: We are concentrating very much on Licencing my designs to interesting companies such as the London Sock Company who launched the Rosemary Goodenough ‘Hot City’ Collection for the London Sock Company on the 8th June 2017 and are discussing with Consistence London my designs for fabrics for their jackets and shirts which is extremely interesting. I am also working with the extremely talented Tailor Kimberley Megan on her new showcase collection which will incorporate some of my fabrics so life is an endlessly interesting visual adventure. We have an absolutely inviolable rule which is that we only ever work with people we not only have great respect for but also like very much and never work with someone we don’t like or feel guarded about as it will always go wrong.
Apart from Licencing I have several ideas up my sleeve for new product lines but they are very much at the development stage so will have to remain a secret, what fun, watch this space!