Spotlight: Chelsea Rose Bell, Fashion Designer
Chelsea Rose Bell is owner and designer for rosie + belle. The company name comes from the combination of her middle and last names—Rose and Bell. She uses the alternative spelling of Belle because it means “a beautiful girl or woman, especially the most beautiful at a particular event or in a particular group”. Chelsea believes when a woman is wearing clothes that fit her properly and make her feel comfortable, she exudes confidence and beauty.
Tell us about your journey to become a fashion designer. How and when did you learn to sew? When did you discover your passion for fashion?
My affinity for clothes dates all the way back to my “small-town Texas” childhood. I was blessed to come from a long line of creative women who were avid seamstresses. Frequenting my mom’s sewing room I developed very a definitive opinion about my own personal style, not something that might be expected from a small-town Texas girl. Even before I could sew, I would come up with ideas for outfits and my mom would work her magic in the sewing room to make my visions become reality. It was there she breathed life into my future ambitions.
By sixteen I knew I wanted to continue down the path of creativity established by my own mother and grandmother. I chose the design program at the University of North Texas. In May 2006 I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design. My senior collection received the award for Best Collection at ArtWear–the annual student fashion show juried by design professionals.
After graduation I spent the next several years in arts education and received a Master of Education from Sul Ross State University. The art classroom brought me to Dallas where I helped open a public charter school. While teaching was very fulfilling for me, I felt the void of not being involved in the fashion industry. I decided to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Fashion Design so I could teach at the university level.
Do you feel that you chose your “passion,” or did it choose you?
I definitely think my passion chose me. Until I was a sophomore in college I had a living great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother. Those women, along with my own mother and grandmother, were all expert seamstresses. While I am the first one who studied fashion design in college, the sewing and design lineage speaks to where my passion for making comes from.
What is your creative process like? How does an idea in your head get to a finished garment or accessory in your fashion line?
Ideas are always swirling in my head and there is no set organizational strategy to get them contained. I keep a sketchbook of rough sketches and notes. I also pin lots of things I love on Pinterest. In addition to that I also keep a folder of pictures in my phone of things that I think are exciting or inspiring.
For me, creating is all about drafting that first pattern. Once I have a design in mind, I draft a pattern, sew a muslin and fit it to myself. Then I make any necessary changes to the pattern and then sew the first sample. I love to spend time wearing the sample to make sure that the pattern is comfortable and works well. Once everything is as I like it, I send the pattern to my manufacturer in Austin. They grade the pattern and make it into a size run, then they sew a size run of samples to make sure the grade works. Once we approve the samples, the manufacturer begins the production run.
There are some things that I produce in very small quantities, so I produce them myself. I also produce all of the jewelry and all of the bags myself. I make the bags from vintage textiles that I collect.
How do you stay organized when working with multiple design ideas and processes?
Organization is not my strong point, but neither is working on one thing at a time. I always have multiple things going on and I like it that way. It keeps things exciting. The great thing about having multiple things in motion is that you just can just walk away and move onto something else when stuck. Inevitably the answer will come to you when you quit stressing about it.
Just this week I wore a sample from my debut collection that never made it to production. One of the reasons it never made it to production was because it was too expensive to produce. As I wore the dress and thought about how much I loved the pocket detail, I figured out how to make the pockets look almost the exactly the same with a much simpler construction technique that will save money during production.
What do you wish you knew about fashion and accessory design before you got started?
I think the most common misconception about fashion design is that it’s not as glamorous on the inside as it looks from the outside.
What is your typical day like?
My typical day usually involves getting kids to school so I can settle into working. Some days that means creating new patterns and samples, some days that means doing paperwork, and two days a week, it involves teaching a fashion history class at El Centro College in downtown. Then I pick up kids, run them around to activities, have dinner with my family, hang out with my husband, and finish up any work left from the day. The day always feels too short, and it’s always a whirlwind, but I truly love what I do.
What is your favorite tip for organizing your stash of creative supplies?
I often need to be able to get to my supplies while I am drafting patterns and working but I don’t want them on my cutting table, so I have pegboards hanging above my cutting table and behind my sewing machines. I use a system of hooks and cups to store all my supplies where I can see them while keeping them off of my work surface.
What does your studio look like? Where does the magic happen?
My studio is an upstairs room at my house. I have a cutting table, two long tables with machines, a dress form, lots of rolls of fabric, and of course, patterns hanging up against the wall. I also have a closet overflowing with folded fabric, like any good sewing enthusiast.
How do you make time for creating? Do you try to create daily?
Realistically creating everyday is not an option. I work everyday, but because of the nature of my business, there are days where all I do is work on paperwork and marketing tasks. Despite not making everyday, I always have ideas swirling around in my head.
Who or what are your main influences and inspirations?
My main influences are the wants and needs of real women. I want to make clothes that work in the lives of busy women. I am also influenced by details from fashion history, particularly clothing from the 1960s.
Which current trends are you following?
My line is not about trend, but about personal style. My goal is to help people find quality clothes that they love and will wear for a long time.
What’s next for you?
To continue to grow rosie + belle and expand the line to offer more product choices.