17.05.17

St Roche – Sustainable Style With A Feminine Feel

There are fewer places on earth with a stereotypical cultural image as distinctive as California.

When you think of the Californian dream, you may picture long stretches of sandy beaches, rolling waves with surfers dotted about, tropical palm trees lining the star-studded streets of Hollywood, the quirky pedestrian culture along Venice Beach and eternal sunshine and breezy days.

So how did one clothing brand go about doing justice to a place they love so much, without falling into the cliches and simply fading into the backdrop?

As you’ll come to discover, there is so much more to the Californian dream than meets the eye. This is such the case for St. Roche. A fashion label that depicts everything there is to love about the laid back Californian coast but with a message that you need to plunge beneath the waves to get a real feel for.

California Dreaming

Working from their Laurel Canyon studio, Paud Roche and Sue Stemp are very much living their own version of the Californian dream. The husband and wife duo have created a global fashion brand that fuses together their talents and shared values.

The St. Roche collection exudes a laid back approach to life where a desire for comfort and versatility doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice style.

Their designs are the epitome of the West Coast vibe we love to romanticise and yet, they’ve captured the imagination of an ever-growing collective of ethically conscious consumers. This unique combination has produced a label that not only does justice to the lifestyle they so dearly love, but serves the new wave of ethically-minded consumers looking for better alternatives.

Utilising original textile designs and traditional embroidery techniques, they incorporate sustainably sourced fabrics to create a light and breezy feeling to their range. Their designs are distinctively feminine with dainty frills and delicate details.

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“I dislike the throw-away, disposable aspect to fast fashion. We don’t need more stuff. Quality over quantity rules."

A Change of Pace

Sue has spent her entire working life designing across the fashion capitals of London, New York and LA working with top-tier fashion labels. It wasn’t until she began to question the ethics within the industry that she turned a new page in her own book.

“This is the first time that I have ever used sustainable fabrics and being consciously aware of who makes our clothes and how they are being treated, which is of equal importance to us as the environmental aspect.”

It was on the heels of her own journey moving from New York to Los Angeles with her family she began to prod deeper into what was her own ethical stance.

“We moved to Los Angeles from New York with a small family. With very young children we became increasingly aware of using organic fabrics.  Also, when I moved to LA from New York I felt I didn’t really have the clothes I needed or wanted to wear everyday. Something throw-on for the school pick-up that you can wear to dinner afterwards that is special and feminine at the same time.”

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Designing a Better Future

Feeling disillusioned by her corporate design jobs, and seeing firsthand how others were simply not asking these same hard questions she had been asking of herself, she and Paud made the plunge to launch their own label.

“I dislike the throw-away, disposable aspect to fast fashion. We don’t need more stuff. Quality over quantity rules. Also you have to think how these mass market companies are making their clothes so cheaply…someone at the very bottom of the labour chain is losing out.”

The first step for Sue and Paud in bringing St. Roche to life, was meeting with several textile manufacturing families from India. Their focus was on employing local artisans like hand printers, dyers, weavers and embroiderers. Finding manufacturers who shared similar ethics to them created the bedrock for their transition into what is now the St. Roche label. Sue travels to India twice a year to work with them directly.

Pursuing their own label has given them the freedom to choose the eco-friendly option wherever possible. Sue explains they love incorporating GOTS certified organically grown and locally woven cottons, biodegradable Tencel, and sustainably produced knitwear in their collections.

"You have to think how these mass market companies are making their clothes so cheaply…someone at the very bottom of the labour chain is losing out."

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st roche

ON WORKING TOGETHER

In hearing that the duo work full time together in their business, some may question their sanity.

Sue laughs this off and explains, “Luckily it works really well for us. We’ve worked together before when we lived in New York and it seemed natural for to us to do it again. We have similar tastes and ideals plus we get on really well! Paud takes care of most of the business side and I concentrate on design, but love Paud’s creative input. Our studio is also in our home in Laurel Canyon so we do have a bit of a problem that we’re always at work, but having our kids running around balances that.”

Their down-to-earth attitude is reflected in their designs. This is a refreshing change from the pretentious attitude many would associate with high end LA labels.

“Our clothes have a relaxed easy fit with a softness about them. Their unique design details will make you feel special and feminine but not so precious that you don’t want to wear them everyday. I want people to buy St. Roche because they love the clothes and feel great in them. The fact that they are made from organic cottons or eco-friendly fibres really should be the icing on the cake!”

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CHALLENGING THE STATUS QUO

Whenever someone branches out and offers an alternative to the status quo, you will never be without roadblocks. For Sue and Paud, the education piece has proved to be the biggest challenge.

“When we wholesale to stores, it’s quite difficult to get our message across to the end consumer that we are using organic cottons, sustainable fibers and much of our embroidery, printing and dyeing is hand work using traditional textile techniques. I feel that aspect can be under appreciated. A lot of time and work goes into our clothes.”

But change is on the horizon and it’s brands like St. Roche who are leading the way.

Sue talks about some of the exciting things they have in the pipeline.

“We’re increasing our beach and resort wear range and we’re working on a new collaboration with an amazing hand crafted jewelry designer in India. We also have a few more collaborations with artists in the pipeline which we’re excited about. Also I’ve designed many wedding dresses and hand embroidered veils for friends over the years and we’d love to develop bridal in the near future.”

Shop the St Roche collections here

Emily Uebergang

Emily Uebergang is a writer, farmer and ecoprenuer who transitioned from the urban jungle to a working farmstead in the beautiful mountains of the Manning Valley in New South Wales, Australia. She writes like she's out to try and save the world... or at least make a difference for the better.