Designer Lela Rose talks Texas pride and secrets to an ideal dinner party
It’s shaping up to be a busy fall for Lela Rose. The Dallas-born and -raised designer is launching an e-commerce component to her successful clothing line, has a new book out on how to entertain and have a good time doing it, and has teamed with Lane Bryant for a collection aimed at plus-size women.
At the same time, she’s planning to show her Lela Rose spring 2016 collection at New York Fashion Week this month, just as her fall collection inspired by Wyoming (where she vacations) and the American West hits stores.
During a recent visit to Houston, where she made a personal appearance at Neiman Marcus, she talked about all of this — and more — along with some tips for a foolproof dinner party.
CultureMap: Tell us about your fall collection. Where did that come from?
Lela Rose: I spend so much time out in Jackson Hole, and I think just being from Texas, this whole kind of American West feeling started to come in. It’s still in a very Lela Rose way; it’s not so literal, but it’s taking motifs of the American West and translating them into a modern sensibility — like the fringe and the feathers.
It is a fun collection. The pleated tweeds are really fun.
CM: You were recently in Dallas to launch a line for Lane Bryant. What has it been like to design for a plus-size woman?
LR: I really thought I was going to have to approach the design process in a much different way than what I do with ready-to-wear, and I have to tell you I was pleasantly surprised that it was the exact same philosophy. Women want to look and feel beautiful. It’s that further democratization of fashion.
Everyone wants great style and quality at all kinds of prices — and, in this case, in all kinds of sizes. And this was really great, honestly.
CM: Why don’t you and other designers create clothes for them? I’m sure you have customers who are larger sizes.
LR: We absolutely do. We go up to a size 16 in our collection. But stores really don’t want to house [so many sizes]. When you don’t have a distribution channel for it, it’s a little difficult to really just take that on yourself.
CM: Can’t you offer larger sizes online?
LR: We’re launching our e-commerce, so we won’t really study that until then. We’ve got clutches launching in September, we have our new e-commerce site launching in September, I have a book coming out the end of September with Rizzoli. It is called Pret-A-Party, and it is all about this kind of entertaining lifestyle.
How do you dress yourself and dress your table and take one concept and work everything around it? It’s almost like planning your own fashion show. You take one idea and everything follows suit. It’s the same with entertaining and doing a dinner party.
Sometimes I’ll have a dress, and I think I have to plan a whole party for that dress. That’s fun.
CM: What are one or two secrets to giving a successful dinner party?
LR: I’ll tell you the biggest secret is specialty cocktails. Those are imperative. And being a relaxed hostess. I don’t care what happens. I don’t care if the dinner is on fire; order pizza.
No one likes a stressed-out hostess. It just sets the tone for the night. Greet people with a smile and keep it on the whole time and have fun. Because if you’re not having fun, it’s just not worth it. And everyone can tell, and it’s not fun for anyone else.
CM: Can you give me an example of a fun party you did?
LR: I just did a dinner the other night with a “youzoo” punch, which was fantastic. We do special margaritas, like pomegranate or spicy grapefruit. We do this Nor’easter cocktail. I always have a specialty cocktail that goes along with whatever dinner I am planning.
Whatever the color of the drink is, I always says there’s nothing more chic that matching your drink to your dress.
CM: You have been in New York for a long time, but you seem to be able to hold onto that Texas sensibility. How do you do that?
LR: Because I just think that is who I am. It’s funny: Both of my kids were born in New York, but they consider themselves Texans.
I grew up in such a warm welcoming home, and that is what our home is like. I’m always cooking, there’s always something going on. It’s fun. Honestly, I have a great time. I wouldn’t change anything. I am a person who loves to be busy and loves to have something going on. I never sit still.