Catching up with Carolyne Roehm's Design & Style...

by - Monday, December 03, 2018

The classroom buzzed with a mix of trepidation and excitement. The Design Studio mentor was about to arrive, and we needed to have our sketches all set for her to comment, critique, and select. Carolyne Roehm was a very busy lady, you know! I worked on at least seventy different designs, everything from fluted bodices to clever couturier silhouettes. Smaller in size, not thumbnail sketches nor full-page illustrations, I still managed to get particular with details. There were about seven croquis to a page, and I carefully mounted them on crimson textured Bristol board. After all, presentation was part of the grade, and I surely wanted to make a memorable first impression.

She worked quickly, knew what she liked, and voiced comments candidly. When Carolyne looked at my spread, she zeroed in on three styles, two roused my excitement, the third not so much. After another glance, she checked the third one, and moved on to the next student. I was dumbfounded. The design she expected me to incarnate was a black and white sliced gown with plunging ladder-back V, structured high cap sleeve 'ears', and a dramatic fishtail hemline.

It was the most challenging design in my lot.

Well, I did make that gown, and it was a showstopper on the F.I.T. runway, rhinestone crusted buttons and all. Carolyne Roehm was thoroughly impressed. And I will never forget to this day what she said to me, "Sonya, I picked this design because I didn't actually think you could do it. But I am happy you proved me wrong. Great job!" That gown was a life lesson for me. 

A true mentor teaches you about not only your craft, but also the art of living... -C.R.

On a youthful whim, I sought her latest book which is part coffee table candy, part vibrant biography. Design & Style - A Constant Thread is a true page-turner, one photo spread more beautiful than the next, as you can see from the images here. But amid the exquisite folio, she expresses her humble beginnings and chronicles the personal journey of designing a beautiful, rich life, only after uncovering her strengths when faced with challenges of will and spirit.

One of the trickiest things to determine in any creative endeavor is what you're good at... What I was good at - what I'd always been good at, what belonged to me - was understanding the relationship between a woman and what she wears. -C.R.

Her seamless creativity equally displayed in fields of fashion, floral art, interiors, entertaining, gardening and gifts has afforded her the title Tastemaker. With the constant thread of "an innate love of color, nature, quality, and classicism", Carolyne's culminated result is this real sourcebook of style. Flipping through the pages, we are all invited to live a beautiful life.

Something I have observed about creative endeavors: you can't always perceive the true destination until the journey is underway. -C.R.

From days as Oscar de la Renta's assistant and model to lifestyle author of thirteen books, she inspires a greatness, whatever your craft, with a "desire to give women something at once beautiful and useful, something that could support them in their lives' different roles".

Few of us set a course in life and stick to it - variation is the norm. -C.R.

Besides her innate talent for styling, she is quite an artist. Another later-in-life passion blossomed in meticulous botanical illustrations. Once again, her color sense and understanding of construction allowed another version of the designer to emerge. 

The luckiest people in the world are those who get to follow their passions. -C.R.

Her thoughts about color: On so many levels, color speaks to us. It isn't just a tint, a hue, or a value. Color can convey softness and gentility or great energy and force. It can set a mood - flirtatious, sophisticated, dramatic - or indicate a state of mind, even the most nuanced. When I design, color is often the first element that comes to mind. For me, it captures the excitement of life.

The foundation of creativity involves taking design precedents and reinterpreting them with one's own vision and style, thus creating something entirely new and yours. -C.R.

Uncovering and embracing your strengths, finding something you are good at, and allowing a beautiful life to arise of what you find is what I recall most while catching up with Carolyne Roehm's Design & Style... xoxo-Sonya

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