Subilme Simplicity: An Interview with Rotem's Fashion Designer, Jean Roth
IndieMade: I am assuming you practice yoga…how does your yoga practice inform your work?
Rotem: When it comes to yoga, I am a beginner’s beginner, but so many people told me that they wanted to use my tanks and cardigans (the latter, sadly, no longer available) for their yoga practice because of their softness, stretchiness and nature-inspired designs, so I do describe some of the pieces as yoga-friendly.
IndieMade: I notice you have a background in graphic design. Did you go to school for design or did design “find you?”
Rotem: Design found me in a roundabout way. My background is actually in Asian Studies, particularly Japanese, which landed me jobs in marketing and public information, both for Japanese companies and the Japanese government. I also worked in a couple architectural firms in a marketing capacity, where I started to learn both the principles of design, and design software. However, my connection to the richness of Japanese culture most definitely informs my design aesthetic in terms of negative space, the natural world and what I call “sublime simplicity.”
IndieMade: Is Rotem LE your first business?
Rotem: Rotem Limited Edition is my second “sister business” to an online pop culture t-shirt shop I started in 2002, Rotem Gear. Both are under the umbrella of RotemStudio.com, my boutique graphic design studio offering marketing design and “creative alchemy” for other indiepreneurs. I love working with other artisans!
IndieMade: How did you get your start designing apparel?
Rotem: Designing apparel grew out of the Rotem Gear t-shirt shop, where I learned a lot about production and participated in a very active shopkeeper feedback program. As the business changed, I got a little tired of the “print-on-demand” model and the lack of business control it offers, and wanted to try my hand at independent offline printing. I started with pima cotton scarves, and it took off from there.
I do not personally screen-print my apparel. I work with a very knowledgeable local small business on whose experience I rely on to find the best way to get the particular effect I want for different types of fabric — whether translucency, stretch, double print, or the “just right” kind of metallic. My colleague also loves to run experiments for me and it’s exciting for us to see how to develop the right effect that makes RotemLE just a bit different.
IndieMade: Your work is based on your own botanical photography, can you tell us about your process?
Rotem: In my graphic design work I use PhotoShop extensively. I use a combination of painting, filters and illustration to create the design; then I prepare it for transfer to silk screen.
IndieMade: What drew you to textiles? Is it hard to find good sources?
It takes a lot of research and time to find the types of apparel I want to offer. Rather than have them sewn, I envision ready-made garments as canvases for my art, and I seek out styles that are just a bit different, yet fashionable. That can be hard to find, as companies are over-producing for the ubiquitous youth-oriented tee shirt market and it’s hard to those unique pieces that appeal to 20-somethings as well as 50-somethings. And when I do find them, those very styles may no longer be available to me in six months’ time, at which point I have to switch gears. It’s a challenge to plan ahead and forces me to stay creative!
IndieMade: You are very good about getting press. How does someone get such great press?
Rotem: Maybe it’s a result of being a former PR person, but I just keep my eyes and ears peeled for media opportunities, and don’t hesitate when one crops up. Only a few ever work out so it’s important to keep sending pitches and press releases. As for celebrities, while I have gifted quite a few, I honestly can’t tell you who has ever worn my gifts, with the exception of actress Stephanie Drapeau (Castle, Medium) and TV host Kara Birkenstock, who has also been kind enough to feature my line on her TV show, radio segment and fashion blog. My celebrity gifting has largely been a result of my membership in The Artisan Group, a juried organization that represents small business artisans at entertainment and press gift lounges and coordinates handcrafted product placement on popular television shows.
IndieMade: How has IndieMade contributed to your success?
Rotem: IndieMade allows me to run my business efficiently and economically, and I appreciate the ability to have my own URL and branding. As a graphic designer I design websites and running my own site does not scare me, so I explored a couple of open-source scripts before coming to IndieMade. But finally I decided I did not want the hassle of dealing with scripts, upgrading, add-ons, and having to plumb forums to find answers to things. I just want to sell my artisan apparel and have it WORK. With IndieMade I don’t worry about any of these things, plus the support is great — especially Axel who always helps me find a way to do things that are not immediately apparent. I don’t hesitate to recommend IndieMade to new shop owners that want a hassle-free selling experience no matter what their level (or lack) of web expertise.
IndieMade: What is your #1 piece of advice you give to a new creative business founder?
Rotem: Don't be intimidated to go for that creative journey. Everyone started somewhere, and with a platform like IndieMade you pretty much have all the tools you need.
IndieMade: I also notice you really use many of IndieMade’s built in features. How do you use the “news” and “galleries” features?
Rotem: I use “News” for shop-only updates, sales, events and news. I use the Galleries feature to show the original photographs of the apparel designs as well as items no longer available and customer model shots. I also use the extra Pages we have available for my Look Book, Testimonials, Events, and my About page with a video.
IndieMade: How did you create such a cool home page? Would you be willing to share a screen shot from your dashboard of it?
Rotem: Thank you! Here's a screen shot, although I can only show one version as I have a slider on the home page to show the transformation from photograph to garment, which was a matter of designing the slides and slipping in the code. I also coded in the “Featured Items” you see below the slider with an IndieMade -like hover effect — I think this would be a really nice feature to have on IndieMade!
IndieMade: Thank you for this interview!