Designing a fashionable life
She’s a regular in Vogue, Glamour and Marie Claire. Her clientele includes celebrity fashionistas Jessica Simpson, Ashley Judd and Selma Blair. And with her collection of bridal wear, she’s the go-to designer to find the perfect dress.
New York City fashion designer Lela Rose (Art’92) says her designs are “classic silhouettes with a whimsical twist,” a far fetch from the outdoorsy, casual styles seen in Boulder featuring fleece jackets and hiking boots.
But the Texas native, who has established herself in the übercompetitive design capital with her embellished, innovative designs, says her fashion venture kicked off during her time at CU.
She started working with fabric in her CU art projects and decided she wanted to learn to sew. This led to her love of textiles and fashion, and she started a line of vests made out of vintage scarves.
Her passion for design took her out of Boulder and to New York’s Parsons School of Design, where she got her associate’s degree in 1993.
“Although CU doesn’t have a fashion design program, its art department was a wonderful training ground for creativity,” Lela says. “I was granted a fair amount of freedom to work in the medium I wished, therefore keeping an open mind to different materials to work with.”
After obtaining her design degree, she started her career under renowned designers Christian Francis Roth and Richard Tyler as design assistant and fabric buyer. In 1996, she started her own line, the self-titled “Lela Rose.”
At first, she worked out of her New York City apartment and catered to private clients. But the 2001 Bush inauguration served as a kickoff for her design career — Jenna and Barbara Bush wore her designs at the event, and Lela’s business expanded to big-name department store clients such as Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.
“I believe that a well-rounded education is a great foundation for whatever you choose to do in life,” Lela says. “One of the most important traits when trying to break into any industry is persistence and hard work. Showing dedication and passion for something will stand out in the long run.”