It was my favourite gown and remains one of my all time favourites. The “Maya” that led me to connect with this Australian born New York designer Michelle Roth and her family. I have loved watching the journey of the Roth brand (both Henry Roth and Michelle Roth) over the years and am thrilled Michelle’s gowns are returning to Australian shores and I’m even more tickled pink to have Michelle as a guest on Polka Dot Wisdom today!
Have you grown up with art, design and creativity as part of your childhood?
I was very privileged and honoured to have been brought up in Sydney with a bridal and architectural aesthetic imbued in my spirit and veins. From the time that I was young I was exposed to my mother’s draping, pattern making, designing and creativity with bridal gowns. Architecturally my parents, were super forward thinking. They approached celebrated Australian architect Harry Seidler (http://seidler.net.au/) who actually created and was the architect of our family home which is where my parents still live and is about to be listed and protected by the Heritage Council of Australia. We come from 3 generations of designers and from as early as the age of 5 I recall being in my parents design studio on Surry Hills in the garment district where they are still based. My brother, sister and I went on fabric and beading purchasing trips with my parents which included Europe, United States and the then Bombay which is now Mumbai in India.
With all this influence my sister Lilian is an architect and my brother and I are designers at Michelle Roth Couture and Henry Roth. I am not so certain that I fell into Design as much as I never fell out of it, it has always been my life.
Joseph and Aneta Weinreich’s Harry Seidler designed home base
What does a typical day look like for Michelle Roth? What gets you up in the morning?
My brother, Henry likes to remind at times whoever he can corner, that I am a “New York City Designer, and highly professional mother of two”. I am blessed in being able to say nothing to start with is typical in Manhattan, and in my life every day seems to be rewritten in some manner or form. I will however stop for a moment and try and categorise as best possible the pillars that create the architecture of my daily life.
Pillar 1 – I have daily meetings via Skype with my Hong Kong, Sydney and New York offices regarding design development. It is a huge task and among other things we decide on forward fabrication, bmus (bead mock ups), fittings, design specifications, briefing our design assistant and liaising with Henry.
Pillar 2 – Finances – Its normally not the case, however it seems to me that I am finely and acutely attuned to the financial sustainability and commercialism of the gowns that one hopes will be worn by brides worldwide. My husband Peter is a Wall St investment banker and so I have my eye laser sharp focussed on not just the commercial viability of what we are creating but the financial viability of the business in the USA.
Pillar 3 is my darling delightful New York City savvy, knowledge thirsty, highly creative and definitely challenging twins Ms Zoe and Master Max. They are 3 and a half year old twins, they are our family’s exuberant joy and as you can imagine raising twins in Manhattan let’s just call it a “handful”.
You can imagine between the twins, my husband, my designing, my financial involvement in the day to day running of my design studio and Henry a typical daily is typically different every day!
I like to try, once the kids have gone off to school, to clear my head with a walk. I am blessed with views of Madison Avenue and Central Park, it’s a heady mix and it clears my mind for the day ahead. Zoe and Max, my husband, Henry calling early, pressing matters and the joys of that potent cocktail would get anyone up early and often does.
Left to right Henry Roth (at rear), Joseph Weinreich, Aneta Weinreich, Michelle Roth
Why do you love designing wedding gowns?
I love creativity, I love texture, I love seeing something going from the rawest possible state for example the sun at the earliest stages of sunrise and how quickly everything changes as it bursts through to fullness at midday.
I love the feeling of knowing that inspirations and bursts of texture, touch and feel can be ensconced in a gown that represents an iconic moment for women around the globe choosing to say ‘I Do’ in one of my gowns. How beautiful, how wonderful and connected in such a significant way for the bride and her family
Of course as you know (and as Henry likes to tell the world) we are a family and that is important to us because there is something that is meaningful and significant when there is personal care and attention and a lot of that is disappearing in this day and age and this is something that we would like to hold on to.
Your brother Henry Roth is your co-designer. Do you both have distinct roles in the design process?
Oh that is indeed a very interesting process may I say! I co design with Henry for Henry Roth and for this newest collection we have coined the phrase “Dare to be you, Dare to be different”. We have a lot of fun with this label and it truly is a combination of two different aesthetics coming together to create something different, fun and Henry-irreverent.
Michelle Roth Couture is mainly created by me and my mother Aneta Weinreich and our sounding boards are my sister Lilian who is an architect based in New York City and Henry. It’s not that we sat down and divided up how we are going to work, it’s just a process that has come naturally and is working well. I think that with creativity as soon as you try to force something it becomes non creative and cookie cutter.
Is there a ‘Roth signature look’ or do you (you and Henry) have completely different design styles?
There are two very distinct signatures between Michelle Roth and Henry Roth, I think it is important to convey two different feelings and mind sets that we try and communicate directly with our brides (here we ask Henry to describe Michelle and Michelle to describe Henry)
Henry about Michelle Roth Couture: “I always almost envy Michelle’s ability to convey simplicity and chic elegance in such a way that is striking, demanding attention and yet very low key. To me, McKenzie and Olivia x convey that chic sophisticated understated signature that is Michelle Roth.”
Michelle about Henry Roth: “Henry Roth is flirty and irreverent and appletinis and Rihanna and party and is the unexpected. I think that Kara, and for bridesmaids Liz and Jojo epitomise my brother’s collection.”
How do you gather fresh inspiration for designing your collections?
My aesthetic comes from vintage markets on 20th St downtown in Manhattan, the serenity of the East River at high tide in Manhattan when the water can be magically still like reflective glass and the gorgeous simplicity of my twins at the very innocence of their age that reminds me that less is always more…. and of course I am inspired by my husband as well who is my number one cheerleader, partner in life and rock of Gibraltar.
Neta and Kara gowns
What are your favourite fabrics and laces to work with?
If you look at my collection you’ll note that I love the gorgeous simplicity of liquid lace (Neta), the silk satin of Odelia and textured draping such as the silk taffeta of Olivia X.
Olivia X and Odelia gowns
Do you have any tips for body types and the styles you would recommend?
I love a little bit of diplomacy… (when I first arrived in Manhattan I worked at the Australian Consulate liaising with the then attorney general at Rockefeller Centre) I think that brides are much less tied up to body types and it just seems to be the way that I work my collection. It’s about slipping into a gown and looking in the mirror and thinking, “I look gorgeous!” and “I can see myself walking down the aisle looking amazing”.
What are your favourite things about Australia, and about New York?
I am glad that you asked me the question because I often get asked which I prefer. Of course there are special things in every place, I look at it the way my parents have taught us, “if you look up into the sky you can see either clouds or sun”. I love Manhattan for the hustle and bustle, the fabulous sushi bars, the Met, the New York Philharmonic and the Guggenheim Museum and for the kids, Radio City Hall during Chanukah time. For Australia, it’s the global perspective, our relaxed can-do attitude and working to live and not living to work (oh how I adore that) our pristine beaches, open sky. When I fly in to Sydney and see those red roofs as the sun rises over the Harbour that gets me every time and I have quiet tears (the truth is I have a good old Aussie cry).
Jojo and Liz bridesmaid gowns
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In New York City my husband and I like going to the opera, escaping to upper Connecticut and walking in autumn leaves, getting on my treadmill, singing in my bedroom (I was trained classically at the Conservatorium of Sydney to be an Opera singer and I competed in eisteddfods in Sydney). In Sydney it’s all about catching up with the family and having my favourite poppy seed strudel at the Gelato Bar in Bondi (extra yummy).
The good life is…….
Thank you Michelle (and Henry) for so generously giving us your time and telling us a little about your couture designs and life in New York. You can find out more about Michelle’s designs here.
All images courtesy of Michelle and Henry Roth
Michelle Roth gowns are available from:
Adelaide Brides and Bloom, Adelaide
08 8245 8498
Shop 3, 4 Main North Road
Blakeview SA 5114
White Doves Bridal, Canberra
02 6239 2663
107 Wollongong Street
Fyshwick ACT 2609
Vision in White, Sydney
02 9687 2443
40 Macquarie Street
Parramatta NSW 2150
Raffaele Ciuca, Melbourne
03 9387 1133
441-443 Sydney Road
Brunswick VIC 3056
Samantha Wynne Designs, Perth
08 9444 9866
Shop 1, 190 Scarborough Beach Road
Mt Hawthorn WA 6016