Ros Duke is such an exciting Irish Designer, she launched her label in 2015 and since then has certainly become one to watch. Her creations are beautiful and her work with cashmere is just breathtaking. What I love about her work is her commitment to high-quality cashmere, and she focuses on stitch technique to create truly unique knitwear collections.
Her path to creating her brand included studying Fashion Design at NCAD, followed by a Post Grad in Innovative pattern-making from Central Saint Martins in London. She then went on to work with top designer John Rocha for ten years. After working alongside John Rocha for those years, she decided to take a break and agreed to teach in Griffith College, Dublin. It was then she decided to develop and launch her eponymous Ros Duke brand. And we are delighted to be featuring her today.
Have you always had an interest in fashion and design?
Yes always, I spent hours making clothes when I was little and designed and made a full shoe collection from carpet remnants when we had the house re-carpeted when I was 8. They were very groovy.
Do you remember when you decided to take the step to become a designer?
My design journey started in earnest in NCAD where it was suggested to me that my talent might be in fashion rather than fine art. I was very into street style and the subcultures around Skaters, Cureheads and hip hop, and discovered a love of sitting down and designing my own garments. That has never left me and I’m happiest pondering new ideas.
Can you please tell us a little about your career journey to date and your time at John Rocha?
I graduated in 1998 and spend a year doing various fashion jobs, like sample cutting, designing kidswear and, interning. Fashion is an industry you need to learn from the ground up, so much of it is practical and I learnt lots in that year. Unfortunately, production and manufacturing of garments is pretty much gone now, but I was lucky enough to get the last year or 2 in some sample rooms and factories before the industry left Dublin for good.
I spent 2 years travelling around Australia and Asia, when I got back I worked with Lainey Keogh for 4 years and then Sphere One for a few seasons. I upskilled in Central St Martins, in Innovative Pattern making, and started working as John Rocha’s mainline pattern maker when I got home from London.
I spent 10 years working with John, we did a fashion show at London Fashion week twice a year. This was about 40 outfits on the catwalk, I worked directly with John developing patterns for these outfits, fitting the garments, draping new designs and then making sure the patterns were perfect. John was great to work with and it was an amazing experience to be able to work with the most amazing fabrics, incredible textiles crew, who embellished many of the garments, knitwear designers, and of course the sample room team who’s knowledge and experience in making beautiful garments was massive.
Fashion week was always crazy busy, fitting the models who came to walk the show, making sure every look was perfect. Occasionally things would change back stage and I’d be called on to lope off 10 inches from a skirt or make something sleeveless, but I always enjoy flying by the seat of my pants and being a part of a bigger creative vision.
Did you find it challenging starting your own label?
No, my label started quite organically. I left John Rocha’s when my two girls were small, to be a home with them. I always knitted for myself and my friends, and I toyed with the idea of starting a brand making cashmere scarves.
Cashmere is such a beautiful textile to wear and I am sure to work with. What drew you to create with it?
I absolutely love cashmere and I’ve been lucky enough to work with 2 of the best cashmere designers, Lainey and Lucy Downes. It’s what I know, and as they say, once you’ve experienced cashmere you can’t go back to plain old Merino wool!
Cashmere has a traditional aesthetic which I like to push against and use as a challenge to make modern unique and luxe knitwear, which are relevant for the world we live in. I’m obsessed at the moment with surface texture and the process of gently manipulating cashmere to create tactile sweaters and garments that you just can’t stop yourself from touching.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I draw my inspiration from things I see everyday and also ideas which I keep coming back to. I love nature, it’s such a cliché, but really all around us are beautiful miracles to see, on a small scale if you are looking for them. I love the patterns on leaves, seeds and petals. They always influence my stitches, and the processes I use to create movement in my knit. Sometimes a collection is about trying to capture a feeling. The process then takes you on a journey and all influences feed into that. I have also surrounded myself with amazing women, and who they are and how they live their lives influence me.
Although I am sure it is hard to choose, what has been the proudest career or brand moment to date?
I think anytime I see someone wearing one of my pieces it’s a thrill.
Would you have any tips for those hoping to start a career in fashion – something that someone had said to you when you were starting out?
Work hard, focus on developing your own style and get some internships while you are in college. Fashion is practical so experience is the best way to learn, the more you can get the better. Have integrity, do your own thing and don’t care about anyone else.
Where would you like to see the brand going in the next five years?
I’m going to grow the brand internationally over the next 5 years.
And lastly a very important question… Lyons or Barry’s tea? And favourite dipping biscuit?
Lyons all the way, strong and no sugar, and I’m partial to a toffee pop or two.
A massive thank you to Ros for doing the interview, I found her journey to creating her brand so interesting and loved learning where her inspiration from. I would highly recommend that you take a look at her beautiful creations on her website, and follow her journey on her Facebook. Personally, it is her Instagram that I love to check in on.
All images kindly provided for use.
If you enjoyed this interview in the ‘Floralesque Meets’ Series, then you can click here to read more exciting interviews with designers, creators, artists, photographers, entrepreneurs and more – enjoy meeting the makers!