When I haven't heard of a designer, I normally try not to look up too much about them before a show. I like to go in with a clear mind and develop an opinion for myself because, if I may quote the classic film Working Girl, you never know where the big ideas come from, you know? Sometimes a smaller name could (and in my past experience has) yielded some beautiful, unusual, thoughtful garments that turn me into a follower for life.
Such was the case with Ryan Roche. I merely read Roche’s biography before going backstage and attending the show. Upon arriving, the information I most remembered was that she was known for her knits, lived in upstate New York with her family, and had received positive attention from some major publications. The latter, for the aforementioned reason, I didn’t read too much about—I have had designers email me before and say they were written up in some high-end publication when, really one of the editors had merely Tweeted about their show. I nevertheless arrived with an open mind; the few images I saw of her work online had piqued my interest.
I am happy to say Roche absolutely delivered. What I said to another photographer backstage is that Roche thought inside the log cabin for fall/winter, when so many designers were thinking outside of it. I had come from a show earlier that day that felt like The North Face’s attempt at high style, and it was grossly disappointing. Everything at that previous show had been hard and bulky and foreboding, making me me fearful of the frosty climates one must have to endure to wear such clothing.
But Roche’s knits were soft and welcoming, not to mention exquisite—they were made of some of the finest cashmere I have ever touched. The collection made me think more of cozy nights by the fire of said log cabin than fear of being frostbitten. Her color palette was also, in my experience, unusual for fall/winter, in that it ran in hues of blush, peach, beige, cream, grey and black. I’ve seen so many collections for that season that run along the darker spectrum, as if there were some hard and fast rule stating this was the status quo.
Her pieces, like cashmere jumpers and long, roomy sweaters and ponchos, gracefully and elegantly hang on the body, as if asking me to remember that winter can also be a time of style and not just of braving the cold. On a 17-degree day (and below) day like today, I’m grateful for such a reminder.
For me, Roche’s quiet, elegant vibe began backstage at the High Line Hotel, where it seemed at least on the surface everyone was so calm and relaxed. Makeup, by Romy Soleimani for Beauty.com, was lush and light, featuring bright eyes, soft pink cheeks (matching Roche’s collection), and dewy eyes, all with products from bareMinerals. Hair, by James Pecis for Beauty.com using PHYTO products, was loosely structured in messy waves woven together at the top of the head, flowing freely down the shoulders. Sounds of The Velvet Underground, Elliott Smith, and Joni Mitchell bathed the comfortably warm room in thoughtful repose. Everyone sipped a juice and read books when they were unoccupied. The clothes Roche made fit perfectly into this environment, one absent from the loud, thumping basslines I perpetually hear in the tents at Lincoln Center that seem to put everyone on edge. Roche’s pieces were meant for floating gracefully through space, though, not banging down a runway; her backstage and ultimately her presentation reflected this.
Part of the High Line Hotel was once a cathedral, and Roche’s presentation was held in a room known as The Refectory. Its ornate high ceilings and dark brick walls were interspersed with panels of stained glass. Two young girls sang in soft voices at the stage, likely the former altar space, their voices casting a sweet melody throughout the space. Models came out and stood in Roche’s attire while guests sipped champagne and perused the collection. That same feeling of overarching calm infused the entire event. Roche and her team managed to create not only a fashion presentation, but an experience, one in which I am grateful to have participated.
So what did I learn about Ryan Roche? She was the runner-up in 2014’s prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition, which is no small feat, and has been dubbed ‘the next big thing’ and a designer to watch by the likes of Style.com, New York Magazine’s The Cut, The New York Times Style Magazine, and more. I know that I certainly agree with them, and I hope with her presentation (at her first ever fashion week) she’s made many more converts.