Bold, adventerous, beautiful. These are some of the words that have been used to describe the exquisite collections of the JRothwell brand. And with a career spanning 20 years including stints at Calvin Klein and Norma Kamali, it’s no surprise that Jennifer Rothwell is known to many as one of Ireland’s shining lights in its flourishing fashion industry. After only seven months in business, the JRothwell label was chosen as a winner of the Brown Thomas Designer Programme in 2006 and in 2011 her collection was chosen to feature on Norway’s Top Model TV Programme. Since then, the darling of the Irish fashion industry has gone on to show at Boston fashion week, blowing both critics and consumers away with her beautiful prints and luxurious fabrics. We caught up with Jennifer to hear more about her brand, business and plans for the future.
Wigsandgowns - What’s your fashion background – did you study fashion at University?
Jennifer Rothwell - I graduated with an honors degree in Art and Design from the National College of Art and Design in 1995. In 1995 I emigrated to New York where I acquired extensive fashion experience working in the industry for over 12 years. I worked for a number of prestigious high end design houses and gained experience in the field of retail sales, design and production. I worked with Norma Kamali for over four years and it was with this company that I gained my most valuable experience. I also worked at Director level at, Katayone Adeli, Calvin Klein, Language and Yigal Azroue
Wigsandgowns - What made you set up your own brand - did you consider working for another brand? Why?
Jennifer Rothwell - I set up my brand in 2005 and at the time I felt there was a gap in the Irish market for high-end Irish designed clothing which was also produced in Ireland. There was a niche in this market at the time for high quality clothing in luxury fabrics with high end couture finishing. My target market is middle/upper income bracket women aged between 25-50 years with a disposable income, and in 2005 there was a large customer base which matched this profile.
Wigsandgowns – These days, do Irish designers still have to come to New York or one of the big fashion capitals in order to establish themselves?
I feel that it is important for Irish designers to gain plenty of industry experience before they embark on opening their own brand. Working for another designer is an ideal way for them to see how a fashion label is run on a day to day basis. The pool of designers is quite small in Ireland, so a graduate who is prepared to travel to London or New York will open themselves up to lot more opportunities.
Wigsandgowns - What or who inspires you?
Jennifer Rothwell - Fabrics and prints inspire my collections. I choose high quality fabrics and vibrant prints. I select a theme and then I work on designing my prints and from this I choose my colour palette for that season’s collection.Designers – Norma Kamali really inspires me and has influenced me. She has a long standing career in fashion and is still as relevant today as she was twenty years ago. I also like a lot of the work of Dolce & Gabbana. I like their high standards of quality and finish and their attention to detail.
Wigsandgowns - Who in the public eye would you love to see wearing your designs and why?
Jennifer Rothwell -I would love to have Florence Welsh wear my designs, particularly my signature humming bird or Kells Space Mythology print collections. I feel her complexion, hair colour and overall style would really compliment my brand and my clothing.
Wigsandgowns –What’s been the biggest challenge?
The recession in Ireland has impacted my business, as consumer spend is down and high end fashion is seen as a luxury spend.
Wigsandgowns - What’s been the biggest highlight so far?
Jennifer Rothwell -Winning the Brown Thomas Designer Mentor Programme in 2006 and being a judge for Norway’s Next Top Model TV show.
Wigsandgowns - Have you a favourite collection that you designed? (We’re in love with the White Collection and the Kells Space Mythology!)
Jennifer Rothwell - My favorite collection is probably my Humming Bird collection as it was the first time I designed and produced my own print for one of my collections.
Wigsandgowns - Any tips for emerging designers?
Jennifer Rothwell -
- Gain as much industry experience in a variety of roles and companies as possible.
- If setting up your own label have a good business plan from the outset.
- Look for a mentor in the industry who can help you with the set up and advise you through the launch of your business.
- Know your customer and design with them in mind.
- Marketing and PR are crucial for a successful business.
- Keep a close handle on your costs at all times.
For more information on the JRothwell brand and to purchase JRothwell designs visit the website here!