I’m a big fan of slow fashion. Buying garments because I truly love them, waiting for exactly the right thing rather than impulse purchasing and, wherever possible, investing in well-made lovingly-designed pieces that will remain in my wardrobe for years. Sometimes you need to spend a little bit more to get something that’s just right for you, but that becomes an absolute joy when you’re spending money with a small business rather than a big brand.
One of my favourite small brands is Gowns by Roberta who make beautiful timeless pieces, often with a signature rose appliqué, and much to my delight the latest collection has even more of a rose theme. I spoke to Roberta Dolinska, the woman behind the brand, to find out more about the gorgeous new Rose Gardenia collection.
Lori: This is your first fully realised collection for Gowns by Roberta; what made you decide to come up with a themed collection of designs this time?
Roberta: Gowns By Roberta started with black pair of palazzo trousers with red velvet rose pocket. (which up to this day is the most popular design, colour combination and my overall best seller). For a while there wasn’t anything else and you couldn’t build up a full outfit at my brand. It was always a random selection of designs that were beautiful, but maybe didn’t make much sense to be released at the same time, but somehow I did it this way.
I am very organised and have crazy eye for detail and so it started to bother me that it wasn’t as well curated as I would like, so I decided to put ideas and colours together that go well into a full collection instead. (But even this time, I brought the black palazzo trousers on the set because I wanted to match it with one of new blouses and it looked so perfectly together despite it wasn’t part of it but couldn’t resist it!) After this very overwhelming release I am already working on next collection. It’s all a learning and improving process for me.
Lori: What inspired the beautiful fresh colour palette for Rose Gardenia?
Roberta: Rose pink and pistachio macaroons! I like to wear pink in the daytime and black in the night time. You are right, this colour palette is very fresh and vibrant – the first time I am using a more extended colour range. Rose Gardenia is all about pink, lilac, purple, fuchsia and mint/pistachio greens. I carefully chose the photography location (Château Amade), because I think it’s important to showcase the clothes in equally beautiful background as it brings the right atmosphere. It’s very dreamy, romantic and poetic.
Lori: I’m a massive textiles nerd, so am always fascinated by fabrics and I know you take great care to select the best for your designs. Can you tell me a bit about the different fabrics used in the collection?
Roberta: I always pride myself in using materials that are soft and nice for the touch. I have various fabric suppliers all over Europe that I always come back to, but I use some polyester blends too. Not every polyester is like that infamous 1970s polyester! There is a reason why I choose the fabrics I work with. I don’t generally use linen as I hate the creased look of the garment. (However, I have made a linen version of the palazzo trousers before; all you need is to request them from me if you want them from this type of fabric.) The polyester blend here is chosen to last and give these garments their dramatic shape. I am conscious about the impact on working with newly made materials on the planet, but it all depends on what you work with. I have tried using true vintage fabrics before, but sadly the samples I had made from 1940s materials fell apart after the dress was finished because the fabric was too old.
That’s why this collection also comes with catalogue that includes fabric swatches where people can touch it before they make a decision, plus I think it’s a nice thing to have a little brochure as it has very old school feel. I love samples and swatches so wanted to include them here to give people more of an idea about what are they actually getting, as sometimes people are persuaded by the feel of clothes more than the description. But using the right materials in highest quality is extremely important for me and my brand, because I want this to last you a lifetime.
Lori: How did you develop the idea for expanding the iconic rose appliqué to include a stem and a bow? Did it take a lot of sampling to get it exactly how you wanted it?
Roberta: The lipstick red rose (finished as a pocket) had been with me since the very first beginning of my brand, and it has slowly started to expand. I’ve always loved roses; fresh ones, planted in the garden, on home decor, on my drum kit when playing shows, or on Depeche Mode’s Violator album cover. Later on I started to experiment with colours and you can now choose from eight (for example pink, burgundy, blue or even black!). It was always a handy, but pretty pocket – not everyone knows it is fully functional pocket actually. Then I tried to sample the sizing and got a half-size version of it but that’s only used as an appliqué.
I have always been obsessed with 1950s circle skirts heavily decorated with appliqués. I like a good skirt and there is this hilarious traditional song back home in Slovakia about woman owning more than 70 skirts and still couldn’t make a man to fancy! This collection is the very first time I have brought in other appliqués than just the rose (its stem and fancy bow), but it’s still an experiment and you will see more of it in upcoming designs. Gowns By Roberta appliqués are custom made for me so they are very unique (I don’t sell them separately) and you won’t find them let’s say on Etsy or in a haberdashery. This is a very exclusive part of the brand. Also, I have always loved Iggy Pop you know, and he has this song, Gardenia. And mixing it with the word rose, this collection happened to be named Rose Gardenia.
Lori: And finally… do you have a favourite piece in this collection?
Roberta: Of course! I can’t get over how beautiful the Anna blouses came out. That three piece appliqué design on a 1940s inspired ballooned sleeved blouse is so lush. I couldn’t decide on the colour so I kept all three in the end for my personal wardrobe. You can wear it over or tucked in, it’s very eye catching and conversation starter – I already have more colour ways in mind! I really love the matching Lana skirt as well, it has some boning too and, when worn together, it actually looks like a dress. Obviously the Roberta dresses with rose pockets or crocheted dots are great staple pieces. I also like the Frances skirt because it comes with detachable over skirt part and you can wear it with or without it. Basically two skirts in one and the fit is amazing! And the cape! That Theda cape is a drama!
The Rose Gardenia collection is available to purchase now from the Gowns by Roberta website. Photography by Natália Jakubcová. Models: Roberta, Sweet Lady Lollipop and Anastasia Sevastyanova. Shot on location at Château Amade.