Ryan Roche photographed by Mark Seliger for BlackBook
The fashion designer Ryan Roche lives on 12 acres in the town of Hurley, about 100 miles from New York. Her studio is in the barn. Despite the distance from the city, she’s managed to integrate herself into New York’s fashion elite–she’s a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist and was nominated for this year’s LVMH Prize for young designers. It’s her deft touch at creating cozy knits for the cool chick that first brought international attention to her designs. Her inventive sweaters envelope the body in ultrasoft crocheted cashmere, and each is charmingly personal from the start. It takes the knitters in Nepal (from the fair trade women’s cooperative Roche works with) eight days to complete just one.
“There’s some magic between me and the head knitters in Nepal who know my work so well, because we’ve worked together for so long,” Roche says.
Roche maintains a high standard of social responsibility in her manufacturing processes, and as her customer base and product lines grow, Roche plans to continue this consciously elevated approach. The shearling Roche introduced for spring is a rescued byproduct of the industry, colored with natural dyes. She’s headed to Peru soon to scout for another knitting cooperative–as her brand grows, she’ll need more hands on deck. These skilled knitters and seamstresses don’t exist only in far-flung locales; there are, as Ryan says, “incredible small factories [in New York] that are holes in the wall.…I love the idea of supporting New York manufacturing as well.”
Don’t think that these small operations will limit the designer. The relationships she has with her manufacturers are built on trust, a quality that allows her creative endeavors to thrive. She’s also looking to learn from the successes of industry greats like the socially and ecologically conscious Stella McCartney, whose company Roche looks to in admiration as she expands business.
Rather than creating fault lines between her brand and the pulse of the world’s fashion capital, the fresh air surrounding Roche in upstate New York allows space for innovation. In her secluded studio, away from the distractions of the city, originality blooms.
This article appears in the spring 2015 issue of BlackBook on stands now.