Rose Valentino of Rosalba Valentino Designs is an artist who creates unique couture clothing for women with creatively sourced materials, including vintage and antique, recycled and new elements.
Her style has an organic, feminine, modern-gypsy feel, but it's a real mix due to the collage-style work method and her tendency toward textile-based designs.
In this interview with the Livingston, VA, native, we explore the creative mind behind the artist who explains "clothing is my obsession, and nature and the human body and mind are my endless sources of inspiration."
How did you become a clothing designer?
I have known I wanted to do this since I was a child. I learned first from my mother and grandmother, and then from a variety of art teachers and mentors, in particular the owner of an amazing local fabric shop who brought me into her network of expert knowledge and love of textiles and sewing.
My greatest influences have come from stories. I’ve always been an avid reader and have found incredible emotive imagery from mythology, fairytales, science fiction, poetry, theater and performance--seeing Les Miserables as a young teenager was monumental. I also grew up in a natural, beautiful rural homestead surrounded by artistic, self-efficient people who were inspiring in their encouragement of creative endeavors.
In terms of recognizable figures: the lives and work of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, the sculpture of Auguste Rodin, fashion designers John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Alice Temperley.
Where do you get inspiration? Do you follow trends?
I get inspiration from all the other artists out there in the world making the most incredible works of art from anything from rocks to wire screen to toilet paper. The internet has opened up such channels of viewing and communication--every day I discover another artist or musician. Sometimes they’re people who are gone now, and all that’s left is their work; sometimes it’s people out there right now creating and sharing. It’s such fuel. Along that same thread, the idea of trends is changing to me because we share so many ideas on Facebook and Pinterest that challenge people’s ideas of what’s hip and what isn't. I hope people follow whatever feels genuine to them.
What motivates your art at the moment?
Currently I am inspired by powerful, elemental metal colors like black, red, and silver, and am playing with color, texture, and transparency to create simpler, sensual pieces in silhouettes reminiscent of the 70’s.
Where do your materials come from?
My materials come from many places. I source fabrics both locally and online, from companies in the US and abroad. I’ve worked more with organic fabrics-particularly hemp-in the last few years and all of that has to come from outside the US because our government’s links with big business would be blown apart if they legalized hemp for its many uses here in the states. That’s a story for another time.
I also frequently receive donations of fabric and supplies from clients who are clearing house, or have had a family member or friend pass away who had a stash. This benefits us both, as textiles/clothing tend to carry more emotional ties for people and they appreciate letting these items move into their next reincarnation rather than throwing them away. Also, when I travel I seek out possible textiles or materials to bring home, and to my delight, my friends and family do this for me as well.
Why do your customers shop with you?
My customers come to me to find something very unique and beautiful that they know they won’t see on anyone else, or because they have been left to hang by a clothing industry that’s largely based on unrealistic concepts of women.
The latest piece is an A-line skirt with reverse appliques of flying birds done in lace so that the image is see-through.
What are your most popular items and why?
Because I work largely in one-offs, that is not a particularly relevant question for me. And since each person has individual style, people gravitate to different pieces I’ve made for different reasons. This question makes me think of this one dress I made that looked like true vintage, yet it wasn’t. Without fail, people commented on it, asking if it was vintage. Most people liked the look of it, but one woman had a visceral negative reaction to it, and this was really interesting to me. Collectively, the dress seemed to impact everyone, which I guessed was because of its nostalgic quality, but this woman must have associated it with something that carried a bad taste for her, and though I’ll never know what that was, I love that, for her, it was an immediate ‘no’.
How long have you been creating this form of art? Do you pursue any others?
I have been creating clothes, in one form or another, for about 15 years. I also do fashion illustration and occasionally work in charcoal, colored pencil, water color, or ink.
What time of day do you prefer to work? Where? What helps you concentrate?
I think the number one thing I took away from 4 years at university (VCU) was learning the discipline to work when I need to, which is a different thing from when I want to! I don’t have a preferred time of day to work unless I’m working on something very technical and then earlier in the day tends to be better--I feel clearer and more focused. But I’ve also learned to pay attention when inspiration hits. That’s what most artists live for and I try to be responsive to that when it forms up, and that can happen anytime, anywhere.
When I work at my studio, I have to have music on, and I need the temperature of the room to be nice, which is a challenge in an old converted school with a clanky dungeon furnace. I’m like Goldilocks--too hot! too cold! Luckily, I always have lots of clothing available for quick changes! Also, an almost daily 4:00 chocolate break helps.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you (or would never guess at first glance)?
Nobody would know that I can do a few hula hoop tricks. I’m still learning! But what a great question--I think my favorite thing about the human race is that people will always surprise you with their stories!--that surface appearance is just that, and tells us so little!