Fashion shopping in Hong Kong

Fashion designer Rosetta Getty on balancing business success with raising a family

Getty’s label produces high-quality pieces meant to endure season after season, and she brings a wealth of experience to her work – as a former model, a serial entrepreneur and also as a woman who knows what clothes should do

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 May, 2016, 10:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 May, 2016, 2:55pm

Some might make hasty judgments about Rosetta Getty. The Los Angeles-based designer is married to actor Balthazar Getty, great-grandson of oil billionaire John Paul Getty, and counts Demi Moore, Courteney Cox and Patricia Arquette among her close friends. She lives in a fabulous home in LA complete with a private chef and holidays at exotic destinations.

In person she looks the part: chiselled cheekbones, raven hair and delicate features (she once modelled for the likes of Azzedine Alaia). But, as it turns out, Getty is more than just a pretty face and Hollywood socialite.

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Since 2013, she has been juggling two of the most important roles in her life – as a full-time mother and as director and founder of her fashion label, Rosetta Getty. In just three years it has become a firm favourite with fashion insiders and the press, who have compared it to stealth luxury labels such as The Row and Celine.

“Launching the line was very calculated for me. I had been thinking about it for many years, while figuring out what I needed in my wardrobe. I am constantly trying to figure out the concept of practical luxury and this is the result,” says the soft-spoken Getty, who was recently in Hong Kong to debut her spring-summer 2016 collection at Lane Crawford.

This is not Getty’s first foray into the fashion world – she previously owned a successful children’s clothing brand as well as a line of red-carpet dresses. She’s had an eye for fashion since she was a young girl growing up in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.

“I was born an aesthetic person. My mum always tells me the story of going to a shoe store when I was two years old and choosing the most expensive black patent leather shoes. At the time it totally shocked my hippie mother, who hardly even wore shoes. Since then it’s been the theme of my life – I’ve always been attracted to beautiful things and had a sixth sense for quality and luxury,” says the forty-something Getty.

By the time she was a teenager, Getty was taking figure-drawing classes at a local college in Pasadena, where she met fashion photographer Paul Jasmin. He took a few photos of her and showed them to a modelling agent. It wasn’t long before she was travelling to style capitals like Paris and posing for the likes of Bruce Weber.

After modelling for a few years, she decided to learn more about fashion, so she took classes at Otis-Parsons fashion college. During her studies, a friend approached her to make a dress for her daughter to wear to a wedding. A retailer spotted it and wanted to order more. Overnight the business blew up and the line, called Rosetta Millington (her maiden name), was soon available at over 350 retailers across the United States. After a successful 10-year run, she decided to devote more time to raising her four kids, shuttered the brand and licensed out the name.

It wasn’t until 2007 that Getty jumped back into the fashion world, this time creating evening dresses that epitomised the red carpet Hollywood lifestyle, under the name Riser Goodwyn.

“I think there was only four of us working on the brand, so it was all hands on deck. Everyone did everything but there was no way we could fulfil the need. We were overwhelmed. Then in 2008, I got pregnant and the economy wasn’t great, so we closed. Something I took out of that experience was that I needed to have a real infrastructure set up the next time round,” she says.

As they say, the third time’s the charm. When she launched Rosetta Getty, she had a much clearer picture of how to run a proper fashion business as well as the type of clothes she wanted to offer women.

“It was different from Riser because my life today is different. I am offering an entire wardrobe that is beautiful and well made. It has an eccentric feeling but is also clean and classic. I wanted the clothes to transition easily from day to night and be season-less in a sense. My personal style defines the collection, so it has little bit of a tomboy feeling because I am a bit of one myself,” she says.

Rosetta Getty can best be described as collectibles that women can keep season after season. Take, for example, the spring-summer 2016 collection, which was inspired by dance. It features fluid silhouettes including midi-skirts, leotard-style tops with cut outs at the shoulder and pyjama-style trousers covered in Madras checks. Tops and dresses have ties trailing down the entire arm while tunics open at the side for ease of movement.

While the look is clearly polished and elegant, wearability is the foundation of all her designs. Trousers appear tailored from the front but can be pulled on for comfort. The skirts are hand knitted and cling to the body like a fine mesh.

“The wearer has a say in how it’s worn. A lot of the pieces are multifunctional –they don’t wear you, you choose how to wear them. For example, one thing we carry over every season is our button-up shirt dress. You can wrap it so it looks sexy, wear it with trousers, or unbutton it and tie it in the back. I’m giving women a foundation but you are making it who you are.

“I am not a better designer than a man, but I know how the pant should fit my leg because of the way my leg is curved. I know where on my arm I don’t want to show. So much about being a woman is helpful to designing my collection,” she says.

Also integral to Getty’s philosophy is quality. She works exclusively with factories in New York and Italy on fit and fabric, designing her pieces from the inside out. As such, her prices are on the higher end of the spectrum, putting her alongside brands such as Lanvin and Saint Laurent.

“I’ve always been a luxury shopper that understood fabric. Once you already know clothes on that level, you can’t forget it. Unfortunately our price point limits most people in the world, and it troubles me actually.

“At the same time I hope my brand is something that the market hasn’t seen, something that will become more and more part of women’s collections. In a sense, it’s a lot more down to earth, organic and natural. It’s not so contrived and forced luxury. It’s an easy discovery of something that’s quality. The more and more you wear the more you see the beauty in it. Luxury is about the touch, the feel, the fit. That’s the foundation of what we do,” she says.

It makes sense then that Getty’s philosophy has extended beyond clothing and recently she branched out into shoes, which are doing incredibly well. That being said, she is taking her time when it comes to expanding into other lifestyle categories.

“A lot of the time I can’t help myself – I walk into a room and then I design the room in my mind. I design everything all the time, not just clothes. If I can share that and if anyone wants it, I will do it. But for now I will focus on clothes and shoes and making them the best that they can be. I will move on when it’s appropriate,” she says.

Of course, running a fashion label comes with plenty of challenges, including juggling motherhood and work. However, she is determined to make time for all her passions in life.

“It is stressful and can be overwhelming, but the truth is you can be everything, You can be a great mother if you are a great mother when you are with your kids. It’s possible to have both and it’s as simple as having the right attitude. I always think about what message I’d like to give to my children. As a woman who doesn’t have to work, I want them to know how important it is to do things you are passionate about,” she says.