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The Rose Moreno Backstory Part 2

Hello again!

So, I continue my tale about who I am and how Rose Moreno came to be, and bring it to a conclusion– well I suppose there isn’t a conclusion yet, and won’t be for many many years I hope, as this personal and collective journey continues!

I left ‘Part One’ at the point where I was at school heavily inspired by Mexican art and craft. Now, we go onto my adult years, a rollercoaster of ups, downs, twists and turns– all which have melded and moulded me into the person I am today that has created and is developing the Rose Moreno project/business/brand with a very firm set of values and beliefs.

Having graduated in 2008 from Kingston University with a First, I was soon making my strides in the industry, completely pushing aside my very personal (maybe sometimes confused) creative identity, to fulfil the visions of others. I wasn’t to reference any of the ethnic Mexican inspiration again, stripping this all away down to a very urban, minimal aesthetic- which I was not opposed to. I adopted this style happily, fitting in with the fashion crowd and the industry trends. After-all, as an aspirational graduate, I was envisioning being a part of luxury high-end fashion, and my whimsical inspirations felt rather out-of-place.


Happy times at Giuliano Fujiwara.  Post runway celebration!

By early 2009 I moved to Milan to take on my first serious design role at Giuiliano Fujiwara– a very cool and underground, yet high-end Japanese brand. It was a dream first job! I was soon an integral part of the design team with considerable responsibility in the creation of collections for both men and women, runway shows, photoshoots and collaborations with the likes of Adidas and even Kanye West (pretty memorable and funny).  I grew close to my Japanese-Korean-Italian team, but the company was too small to sustain my aspirations and in 2011 I got itchy feet when offered a job as a menswear designer at Burberry in London– one of the aspirational brands at the time for any fashion designer!


Genuinely the first time I ever share this picture, haha, Feb 2011!

I moved back to London to take on this big opportunity, what would be an incredible experience that would sharpen my skills and professionalism, but also it would become a double-edged sword. I started at Burberry as a junior, but was soon handed a lot of responsibility, including extensive business travel to develop the collections. It was so exciting, and with some great managers when I started, I felt so motivated. However this enthusiasm waned when the rhythm (Burberry was commonly known in the industry to be relentless) caught up with me. There was no time to breathe or think– deadlines overlapped, product after product, things became repetitive, nothing was ever enough and there was the constant headache of bosses in positions of control that they didn’t know how to manage. I had a full-on meltdown and exited after 2.5 yearsan all too common occurrence in the fashion industry! I should have seen it coming in the reflection of other more senior colleagues– burnt out, chewed up and depressed– I knew I didn’t want this for myself.

The colours and textures of India that inspired me on my sabbatical!
Physically and mentally exhausted, and incapable of working, I took a year-long sabbatical. I was a mess at first with my confidence rock-bottom and insecurity sky-high, but little did I know that this would be the year in which things would really start to shift and I would start to understand what my purpose was. It was a classic case of, ‘meltdown– go and find yourself on a Himalayan mountain’– well not quite the Himalayas, but I travelled to India alone and did find myself up a mountain staying with a Buddhist family. Later in the same year, I travelled through South America and gravitated towards any textile artisans or museums that I could find, and ended up spending 6 weeks volunteering with a textile cooperative in Guatemala.
The invigorating colours and patterns of Guatemala.
An opportunity to learn about designer – artisan dynamics at the Guatemalan textile cooperative Trama Textiles.

So, in between the fascinating folklore– the colours, patterns and textures– that invigorated me across India, South America and Guatemala, and the enriching experience of interacting on a daily basis with indigenous artisans with an objective to help them sell their work, along with a much more acute awareness of human disparity and inequity around the world (which made me contemplate its relationship to the fashion industry!)– I had a series of lightbulb moments, gradually reigniting my childhood and teenage visions. I felt energized again with a sense of purpose, and started dreaming up my project– in the full knowledge that I would need some more money before I could dedicate myself fully!

Oh the irony, after all this soul-searching, I ended up at the fast-fashion monster that is Zara to make this much-needed money. Ok, so I may be branded a hypocrite, but I had various justified reasons at the time to go this route– 1: There wasn’t much else available at the time. 2: See inside the devil’s mouth for yourself and make my own conclusions. 3: Be a force for change on the inside (wishful thinking). 4: Understand what women of a global demographic really want to wear (influence my future business). 5: Invest my earnings in my future social-enterprise. 5: I love Spain! Ok, so the social and cultural aspect of life in Spain was wonderful, I will always look back on my time there with warmth and am at least grateful to Zara for the opportunity. But I hated actually working for the company , for so many reasons (won’t go into detail, rather avoid legal action– but I will say this, I really doubt the sincerity of their green agenda and they don't care for the origin of anything, whether it's an ethnic textile or small brand). Let’s say that it was the final nail in my corporate fashion industry coffin!

Visiting backstrap loom weavers in San Andrés Larrainzar on my research trip in November 2017.

As soon as I left Zara I had my mind firmly set on a the idea of going solo and setting up a project working with Mexican Artisans. It would purposefully and consciously be everything that corporate fashion had not been, built around my fundamental admiration for Mexican textiles and their creators. In November 2017 I took a one month research trip to Chiapas and Oaxaca, prior to which I did intense reading and scouring of online resources. I'd managed to collate a list of contacts and was quite literally calling out of the blue and knocking on doors, and was mostly received open-mindedly– it was a thrilling experience. I knew however that everything would have to start with honest and sensitive conversations, working on the relationships and gaining the artisans confidence would be key to the success and integrity of the project. I was very aware of the colonial power dynamics at play (even though far less than I am now) and didn't want the artisans to feel at risk with me. For this I thank the way that my parents brought me up and showed me the real Mexico in all its complex layers. On this trip I only touched the surface of possibilities, but started to get a sense of the techniques I’d like to use and requested several samples to get things going.

After this very fruitful trip, I spent 6 months freelancing in London as I continued to hone in on the details of the project, including deciding to focus on artisans in Chiapas, for the time-being, less would definitely be more. Also, I had realised that there were more fine-tuned textile projects coming out of Oaxaca and there was a lot of potential to reach that level in Chiapas, as well as the need for more projects to flourish there in what is a very deprived state (the ambition however is to expand the project across many states!).

In July 2018 I made the big move to Mexico City, my life packed into 3 huge suitcases– i'd been longing to live in Mexico as an adult for many years and finally i was doing it! It was so exciting, especially to be near my family consistently for the first time in 20 years, including living in the same city as my brother for the first time in almost 15 years! I felt at home immediately, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t nervous, would I make it past 6 months on my project? Where would I start? How about understanding the ins and outs of setting up business in Mexico– fiscal subjects for example? Would I soon be networking with like-minded people? Mexico is a challenging place to live full-stop, things don’t run as smoothly as in Europe or other ‘first world’ countries and you will stumble continuously. However, almost 3 years on and here I am, with my feet firmly on Mexican ground! The brand has launched, relationships are being nourished, lessons are being learnt and despite the ongoing challenges, I won’t stop, I believe so much in this project and know it has great potential, it feels right– I just need a business partner (any takers), a team and some money (easy demands right haha). I am so excited to see where this project takes us and am determined for it to be a project that really does good in the long-term, not just pay lip-service! So, keep supporting us and being a part of our evolution and fashion as a force for good!

Rose Moreno's first collection launched in 2020, bringing my two worlds together!