Runway News

Downtown Designer Alice Roi Tells Us Why She Left Fashion — and What It’s Like to Come Back

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tFS: I'm also curious about how and where you've found your customer since returning. Is it the same clientele that you had five years ago? Are you finding new customers? How does that work?

AR: I've been really surprised in a positive way, because I've spoken to what I consider the younger people, in their early twenties and been like, "Oh, you'll never remember the line." If they say, "What do you do?" And they say, "Oh my god, of course! Oh my god! I've been looking all over for stuff, I always go looking for your product, oh my god." I'm shocked by the response. Additionally, I'm comforted knowing that there's a little bit of an older fan base, people who are 35-40, who say, "Of course I remember! I used to wear your pants religiously…" Stuff like that. So I'm finding that the clientele is the right age of where I think the brand is and where it's going: 20-40, want something special, want something they love, something that's simple but has a twist and great fit. 

tFS: Do you feel that your design sensibility has changed at all in the past five years? Do you feel drawn to different kinds of shapes or items or styles?

AR: Yeah. I think that I've become a lot more lifestyle-sensitive, because in the past it was very show-sensitive. It is a little distracting, sometimes when you're doing shows. You think in terms of showstoppers and maybe pay less attention to subtle detail. So definitely that's a way I've evolved, paying deep attention to quality and subtle details. Rather than, "Can you see this from eight feet away?" My designs also become a little quieter but at the same time, there will be a boldness to some of the decisions. But definitely, it's more wearable, for sure. That's a main concern. I think that right now the focus is on how to balance the most wonderfully intriguing item with wearability. You don't want to feel like a goofball wearing something.

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tFS: My last question — how are you finding it to run a fashion label while being a mom? Those both seem like very stressful, time-consuming occupations. 

Alice-Roi-5 AR: It is hard, definitely. But I always try to be positive about anything that comes my way. So let's say I'm at the park with my son and I'm saying in my head, "Oh no, I should be home designing, it's getting late in the season." And I always say to myself, "Well, I could be sitting in a white room, in an office, at a white table. And I'd have a bunch of paper and boards with inspiration and sketchbooks in front of me. Or I could be at the park." And if you think about it and try to look deep into your soul, you're probably going to do a better job with references if you're creative enough to find inspiration at a kid's park. You're probably going to do something more unique and probably even a little more thoughtful. So I'm trying to balance it, but I'm also trying to glean some inspiration from it. Because it's a great experience being a mom. You're getting a perspective that not everybody has, so in that way, I'll be at the park with my son and I can also look at the old water fountain and say, "Wow, that's a great bit of imagery, the little relief that's at the bottom of the pedestal." And then some girl will run by me and she'll be wearing sparkly Mary Janes and I'll be like, "Hmm, those are very Marc Jacobs of her." 

I'm such a fashion person that I can't get it out of my head anyway, so sometimes I'll be on the swings and think, "That rubber on the swing is really interesting. I love the color, I wonder how that would look in a raincoat." So I'm always designing, even when I'm being a mom. So it's tough, you have to be extremely organized and extremely forward-looking. I plan my schedule sometimes a year ahead. But I think that there's a way to make it work all together for everyone. Sometimes I even ask my son, "What should I make for this season?" And he gives me some ideas. I think there's a way to make it all work organically. 

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