The Profile: Sustainable Fashion Brand St. Roche’s Sue StempFashion
As a fashion fan, any time I hear CDFA next to the name of an up-and-coming designer, my interest is immediately piqued. Especially when said designer is also attached to the Lexus/CFDA Fashion Initiative, which gives a nine-month mentorship program to five new labels that are working sustainably. One of these brands, St. Roche, caught my eye thanks to it’s luxe knits and cool-girl dresses.
So, I was super surprised and delighted when the brand’s designer, Sue Stemp, replied to a DM from me on Instagram. Once I made the connection, I knew I had to talk to her about St. Roche, what she is looking forward to throughout the mentorship program, why sustainability is important to her, and, of course, what are a few of her other favourite eco-friendly fashion and beauty options. Our correspondence is below!
*Congratulations on the CFDA/Lexus program. What are you most looking forward to over the nine month program?
Thank you! I’m really looking forward to being mentored and educated by experts in the sustainable fashion arena. There is a lot to learn , in all aspects of our business and it’s changing everyday. The program is really making us analyze our processes.
*Why do you choose to work sustainably?
When myself and my husband, Paud Roche, launched St. Roche three years ago, we had recently moved to LA (from New York). The vision for the brand was created out of my own necessity for a new wardrobe when I became a new mom living on the West Coast, with an increased awareness of global environmental and social issues. Our ethos is to design unique everyday clothes, made as sustainably as possible, with a beautiful handcrafted quality, at an accessible price point.
*You have a very impressive resume. Why did you decide to go out on your own with St. Roche?
I’ve worked for numerous brands and designers in London, New York and LA over the years. I had my namesake label, Sue Stemp with Paud until 2009, so we knew we had shared ideals and we could work well together! I was disillusioned by big corporate manufacturing when I designed for a couple of larger fashion companies out here, a series of work trips to China opened my eyes to how wasteful and polluting fashion is as an industry. I really wanted to start something that was designed more on our own terms, more artisanal, (we share a love of traditional textile techniques and fabric), and taking the eco-friendly option where there is one.
FOR MORE OF MY FAVOURITE SUSTAINABLE FASHION BRANDS, CLICK HERE.
*What eco-friendly initiative are you most proud of within St. Roche?
I’m really proud of some of our fabric developments and hand work. Working closely with local block printers, weavers and hand embroiders in India has produced some really special results, I’d like to keep further developing these skills and crafts with some of the people we’ve met and worked with there, translating it into cool, modern clothing.
*What is your 5 year plan for the brand?
To continue to grow our business globally, implement processes that will make us more sustainable, increase our brand awareness and hopefully expand in to other product categories. I’d love to make homewares and St . Roche bridal is something I’ve always wanted to do.
*How has your brand, and the industry, changed since you launched in 2014?
Since 2014 the fashion industry as a whole has experienced major changes in the way people shop, mainly shopping online and the “season” debate / buy-now-wear-now etc. We’ve always had our own e-commerce operation, but this is now more important than ever and we are growing—engaging customers and telling them our brand story, what we are doing and why is so important. Our clothes are quite trans seasonal anyway (even though we make sweaters too), and this to me is less of a wasteful attitude to shopping, and it’s easier to translate that with direct-to-consumer selling, than it is being in a store and having our clothes marked down, before the real season has even started. We put a lot of energy into using organic or eco-friendly fabrics and often this is lost to our end customer when we wholesale to other retail outlets. Hopefully this is something that will change as people are becoming more aware of responsibly designed and manufactured fashion, and how we need to protect our planet and it’s people.
*Do you have other favourite sustainable lines or beauty lines that you love? Can you list a few of your favourite products?
I’m obsessed with Dr. Alkaitis’s Organic Nourishing Treatment Oil. In fact all their all-natural skin products are great and smell amazing. Mini-Rodini, Swedish sustainable kids’ clothes, my son lives in their organic cotton leggings and matching tanks with cool illustrations on them. I am also a big Stella McCartney fan, I especially love her lingerie!