Tara Lee Tillett, Fashion Designer & Owner of Tara Lee Belize
Roaming the showrooms of London Fashion Week Men’s 2016 reveals a sea of creativity as senior fashion designers and emerging fashion designers, among others, display their goods to buyers and press. As member of press/fashion designer while wandering the showroom floor, one display sets itself apart. A mature looking woman at a vender’s table with a rack of scarves and ties behind her. Although she looks a little out of place, the look on her face is very inviting and cheerful. Personally drawn to the accessories on the table, but more so to her, the thought pops in that she can’t possibly be selling these items, she must be just looking. However, upon walking up to her, she quickly introduces herself and her husband, “I am Rosemary Goodenough and this is my husband, Michael” she says in a manner that is super open, friendly and warm. She explains that these are her goods. Humbled to see that she had not hired someone to oversee her sales floor made an even bigger impression that as a more mature woman, she was even designing and displaying at London Fashion Week Men’s. London Fashion Week evokes hip, trendy, a scene for the outrageous and young creatives, yet here is this older, mature, conservative women with her darling husband wearing her tie and selling her accessories. Amazing! Enquiring about how she got into the fashion business, she explains that she is an artist for sculpting and painting. But what has this to do with fashion? She digitally transfers her images onto textile, thus creating her ties and scarves for her brand: Rosemary Goodenough. Delving further regarding her take on business in the fashion industry and from a more mature feminine perception, starting a new venture later in life, and her creative passions resulted in the following exchange. Interview: Tara Lee Tillett (TLT) and Rosemary Goodenough (RG) artist and designer of Rosemary Goodenough.
Rosemary and Husband Michael
Q. TLT: Why were you interested in the fashion industry coming from a background as a painter and sculpture?
A. RG: There are two types of artist, those who work in one medium and those who cross into many different mediums and I fall into the latter category. My curiosity was raised by overhearing someone at an exhibition of my paintings and sculptures say “if that painting was a scarf I would wear it”. I thought it would be fascinating to see one of my paintings on a moving surface and using Photoshop to change the colours of the painting whilst remaining true to the original composition. It opened another creative outlet to me and I have loved every moment of it.
Q. TLT: What is the difference in your thought as describing yourself as an "artist" rather than a "fashion designer”?
A. RG: Being an artist is very different to being a fashion designer as my passion goes into my original oil painting and my curiosity then allows me to develop that painting into fashion design. It is very important that I don’t paint for my brand I paint because I am an artist. I don’t want to paint to design as that would make my painting more mannered and less passionate and therefore to me less interesting.
Q. TLT: What is your muse for designing your current collection?
A. RG: My husband Michael, always!
Q. TLT: Who gave you the opportunity to sell your goods in their store, how did that open the door for your brand?
A. RG: The legendary Rita Britton was my first stockist which was an incredible honour and because she is so revered in the fashion industry and knows everyone it opened doors for me that could have taken years to find. Many years ago she asked me to have an exhibition of my paintings in her shop so she knew me as an artist and was very interest in me translating my art into fashion items.
Q. TLT: Why ties, scarves and pocket squares? Was it easier? Cheaper? Were you always interested in these types of accessories?
A. RG: Not easier and certainly not cheaper as I only use the best quality fabrics and craftspeople in our manufacturing processes. My scarves and pocket squares are made in Italy near Lake Como and all have hand-rolled hems and my ties are woven and handmade in England. I love accessories as they complete an outfit and can tone down something vivid or bring something very simple to life.
Q. TLT: Why the medium silk, wool, cotton, cashmere? What is it about these textiles that make you creative?
A. RG: Because they are so beautiful and luxurious. I am only interested in quality which has to be superb in order to be included in my brand.
Q. TLT: Being a more mature women entrepreneur in the accessory apparel sector in fashion has it been more difficult and/ or challenging to keep up with trends? And being a woman fashion designer creating men's accessories? Has there been any downfalls to the fashion industry and if so, explain one?
A. RG: Absolutely not, it has been the exact opposite, the best designer are trend setters not trend followers and I was thrilled when Trendstop took one of my scarves, ‘ Mad Red Flowers V’ to Magic Las Vegas as a perfect example of a bang on trend luxury British fashion piece. We have been very lucky and have received some amazing press many of whom see maturity as an asset not a disadvantage as life experience gives one a very refined eye and way of creating. It’s great being a woman creating men’s accessories and huge fun and I’ve never received a negative remark about it, quite the opposite in fact. I can’t think of any particular downfalls in the fashion industry, it’s been a fantastic experience for me, I love it and of course a lot of women buy too for their partners but also for themselves.
Q. TLT: What makes Rosemary Goodenough different then what else is out there?
A. RG: Rosemary Goodenough is completely different to everything else that is out there as all the pieces are from my own fine art and no other designer has access to my work except though licencing agreements and collaborations which we enjoy very much. My ties are unique, Paul Alger, international director of the UK Fashion & Textile Association said I’m the first person to redesign the tie for 150 years-It took a woman to do that which is fantastic.
Q. TLT: As I read your bio; you spoke on how it was difficult to create the particular tie and knot you wanted, why didn't you stop, what made you continue?
A. RG: I am a very steadfast person and don’t give up easily especially when there is something at the back of my mind telling me that there is something special there and if I just stick at it and keep thinking and keep working, I will find the answer, and thankfully I did find it.
Q. TLT: What advice would you give other fashion designers and/or artists out there who want to get into the industry or want to start another venture in their life?
A. RG: Try to find someone in the industry you are interested in whose advice you can ask, ideally not a friend so you will get realistic responses to your questions. Think very hard about the questions you want to ask and phrase them neutrally so you don’t try to steer the answer you want to receive and then very, very important, listen to the answer! It is amazing how many people think they have solved a problem by asking a question when in fact, that is the beginning of the solution not the end. The end is the answer and how you then consider its implications.
Q. TLT: Lastly, what does it mean to you to have a creative job and get paid for it? What does it mean to you to express yourself using the arts as a platform of expression?
A. RG: It means everything. I find it absolutely wonderful when someone I have never met and never will meet makes a decision to buy one of my pieces be it art or fashion, it is a huge compliment and I appreciate it enormously. There are a lot of artists out there and a lot of fashion designers and there is no reason why someone should choose my work rather than someone elses so my role is to respect that buyer, never to be careless and do my very very best to make a beautiful piece that will give them great pleasure.
You can find out more about Rosemary Goodenough here:www.rosemarygoodenough.co.uk
Written By: Tara Lee Tillett