“For me, promoting artists is not just a passion, it’s a responsibility”
It’s no surprise that Rosetta Getty looked to the Bauhaus as inspiration for her latest collection. The designer has a lot in common with the movement, that is currently celebrating its centennial. Her garments are minimal, functional, always beautifully crafted and with a nod to architectural elements. For her resort 2020 collection, Getty looked into the archives of the Getty Research Institute and was overwhelmed by the generosity of the curators and the plethora of riches she found there. She found herself particularly drawn to some of the female artists associated with the movement, and incorporated many of the elements directly into her designs, most notably an ebullient polka-dot pattern inspired by Bauhaus member Gertrud Preiswerk.
A Los Angeles native, Rosetta was always drawn to the world of fashion, teaching herself to sew as a young child. She became a model at 14, appearing before the lens of legends like Bruce Weber and Paul Jasmin. She briefly studied fashion at Otis-Parsons, before leaving to start a childrenswear line, Rosetta Millington. In 2006 she started Riser Goodwin, a collection of cocktail dresses that quickly became a cult favorite. Soon after she took some time off to become a full-time mother to her four children who she shares with her husband, the actor Balthazar Getty. The Rosetta Getty collection was launched in 2015.
Getty is an avid art fan who looks to up-and-coming artists to serve as distinct inspiration for each collection. She’s worked with artists like Hayden Dunham who she likens to a scientist, Liz Glynn with whom she shares an affinity for the color palette of the California desert and the Berlin-based Alicija Kwade, among others.
As one of my favorite current fashion designers, I was eager to talk with Getty about her work, especially as her eponymous brand celebrates its five year anniversary. Measured, confident and direct, much like her clothes, Rosetta was gracious as we discussed her collection, her influences, and her vision for the future of the brand.
Interview Each of your collections seems to have been inspired by a theme or idea related to a specific artist. How do you select the artists you work with each season?
Rosetta Getty Art has always been a natural part of my life, and as a family
we have always been very involved in the art world. Since I’ve had my collection I’ve always sought to have a specific theme or idea to inspire each season. I’m always out looking at shows…and finding an artist I want to work with is something that just intuitively happens.
Eileen Bernardi And it’s especially important to you to support up-and-coming female artists?
RG For me, promoting artists is not just a passion, it’s a responsibility. Lately, I’ve recently felt more in common with female artists…there is so much we share.
EB Can we get specific about some of your recent collaborations and talk about how some of the artists you’ve worked with have inspired you?
EB Let’s start with Alicija Kwade (FW 17). She’s one of the few artists you’ve collaborated with that isn’t based in LA.
RG Yes, I first met Alicija at a show at the Boros Bunker. I was so in awe of her. She’s a very complex, but also very warm person, in a sort of odd way (laughs). I just felt a really nice vibe with her and she is so easy to work with, connect with and communicate with. I love the way she is uncompromising, in the best way. She doesn’t settle for anything less than perfect, and I’m a little that way too.
EB And what are you drawn to in her work?
RG Her work with heavy materials is so interesting. She uses stone and different types of metal, but makes them appear light, almost feather-like. It’s just so beautiful, floating. This is just one aspect of her work, of course, but something I find so inspiring.
EB And then you worked with Analia Saban for your fall 2018 collection.
RG I love how she uses materials. And she has such a great sense of humor. Her practice is manipulating paintings and sculptures by playing with their foundation and definition. She’ll take yarn and dip it in cement or paint to create incredible paintings that are so unusual and so wonderful. She works with a lot of fabric, as I do of course. She can take a piece of metal and bend it to look like fabric. She’s just so incredible in her own way.
EB The collection inspired by Anna Ostoya (pre-fall 2019) is one of my favorites. I want every piece! When did you first encounter her work?
RG I first saw her work at the MOMA in 2013. She’s always doing something unexpected, mixing materials, playing with newspapers and cans of paints. She’s just a really cool person, and there are always these incredible underlying messages in her work.
EB Is there an artist you’re hoping to collaborate with in the future?
RG No one specific at the moment, but I’m currently exploring a lot of conceptual photography.
EB 2019 marks the centennial of the Bauhaus movement. It’s clear that Bauhaus has been a strong influence in your own work. Your most recent collection was inspired by the movement, and you are currently sponsoring an exhibit on Bauhaus at the Getty Center in LA.
How has this school of thought influenced your own evolution as a designer?
RG My interest in Bauhaus started when I was studying fashion and architecture years ago. Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer were big influences. I’ve always been such a lover of minimalism and rough materials, like cement, and the use of bold colors.
The movement was all about the elevation of craft to fine art and focusing on teaching artists and designers to create useful and beautiful objects that are appropriate for modern times. I feel that I deeply relate to that as a designer in my own practice, as I always strive to create a purposeful collection: something modern and a reflection of the times women live in, yet timeless in terms of the fabrics we use. I always reiterate to my team that we focus on craftsmanship and quality over trends.
EB Can you talk about how your recent Bauhaus-inspired collection came about?
RG My friend Analia (Saban) was doing her residency at the Getty and she became fascinated with the loom and when she started conceptualizing her practice we talked a lot about Bauhaus, and other artists who were weaving. It was then that I realized I wanted to study it and make it a part of our collection. And then I heard about the centennial and the upcoming Getty exhibit and I was so excited! This was the moment.
EB Were there specific figures you looked to for inspiration?
RG I found Lena Bergner to be an incredibly inspiring figure. Like most women, she did not have a linear career… volunteering as a nurse for the Red Cross during the war before arriving at the Bauhaus school to study and eventually becoming the weaving director. With her weavings she was at the intersection of working with form and color. When I saw one of her weaving samples at the Getty Research Institute amongst all the other works, I immediately gravitated towards it and selected it for the collection.
Other works I was strongly inspired by were by Gertrud Preiswerk’s Exercise in the Interplay of Circles and Squares Based on Distance, Location, and Color and Exercise in Subdividing Squares with Equally Sized Rectangles. I instantly singled in on the geometric circle and rectangular drawing. I had been thinking for a while that I would like to do a polka dot print but in a fresh new way. When I saw these drawings, I found the perfect answer. The result is the Bauhaus Dot Print which came to life on our signature cotton poplin and fluid silk charmeuse.
EB You are celebrating your own anniversary this year. What achievements are you particularly proud of as you celebrate five years of Rosetta Getty?
RG Keeping the commitment since we launched that we will never compromise on quality. We try to keep all of our production in New York, and almost all of it is. We haven’t figured out a way to do leather goods locally, so those are done in Italy. As is some of our knitwear. I’m proud of our relationship with artists and the partnerships we’ve established over the years. And I’m so proud of my team as it continues to grow. And I love seeing so many incredible women wearing the collection. I feel very fortunate.
EB Any challenges you’d like to tackle?
RG We are all being challenged by global warming, and as someone working in the second most polluting industry in the world, this is where I would like to put my focus as long as I need to.
My goal is to make a strong, modern collection without compromising ethics and key values, and always taking into consideration where materials come from and who is making them.
EB What specific steps are you taking to tackle environmental concerns?
RG It’s been said that 20% of the damage to the environment is coming from the clothing industry. Clearly, this is not the luxury sector. We don’t produce in a mass way, thus we don’t pollute in a mass way. Just the definition of luxury implies that it’s not the same thing. But, there are always ways to contribute and do better. We are committed to making pieces that aren’t made by taking advantage of our planet, in which process is more important than trend and there is a purpose to every single piece.
At the moment we are working on introducing a disruptive leather processing technology to the industry and ensuring that the mills we work with practice sustainability. We look for vertical mills that complete fewer fabrics, reducing production stages and thus the carbon footprint. We repurpose our fabrics and use almost everything we buy, or donate it. And we donate a percentage of our ecommerce sales to NGOs.
I’m also the cofounder of GiveLove along with my best friend, Patricia Arquette. A decade ago we identified proper sanitation as one of the most important factors in keeping our environment healthy. This is a project that is very dear to me.
EB So what’s next for the brand?
RG We are looking to expand into other categories. And we are also hoping to create more physical experiences. We recently acquired our first space here in LA. It will serve as a showroom, event venue and creative space. A place where people can come in and be a part of the brand.
Interview EILEEN BERNANDI