Rochelle Gregory is as intricate and bold as her designs. “The pattern is a maze,” she says softly, speaking of a geometric die cut pattern found in some of her leather jackets and vests, her thick Australian accent sweetly molding her words.
“The Pattern replicates my mad and over active mind, however at the same time the movement through the line work portrays a sense of freedom. This now resonates with me as I feel like my mind is more free as apposed to feeling trapped.”
Rochelle says, embracing her rocky past that has clearly played a part in jet-fueling her spirit and her craft.
“I would always turn to the wrong things to mask these feelings. I was destructive to myself and others and experienced a rollercoaster ride of emotions. It wasn’t until I started studying Fashion Design that I found another vehicle to express myself.”
Although finding herself sometimes lost as a young girl, that reality has become a voice in her designs and is reflected in styles, such as her Baroque jacket which seems to reflect the battle between dark and light, in such a way that the best art does.
“The inner fire and passion that exists within me is the motivation and strength behind the brand. There is a lot of meaning and emotion behind the label, which will start to be more noticeable as the brand grows.”
Rochelle is unlike any fashion designer I’ve ever spoken to. She has redefined the rules of her trade, she has no fine art background and instead, has trusted her instinct and saved money to build Rocky Rafaela from the ground up.
“Its just me at the moment and my manufacturers, my dad is an accountant so he helps me with keeping track of my finances. My strengths lie more in the design part so the business side is a little tricky. I can’t sit still for too long so i get very antsy on the computer.” Rochelle explains laughing.
Having support from her family and working closely with her life coach Wendy Jacobs has helped her find her passion and purpose in life. Rochelle explains proudly, “The inner fire and passion that exists within me is the motivation and strength behind the brand. There is a lot of meaning and emotion behind the label, which will start to be more noticeable as the brand grows.”
photo by Kenza Le Bas
Rochelle’s focus isn’t on industry name dropping and when I ask her to name some of the brands she would like to collaborate with, she asks me if she’s pronouncing Buscemi correctly. “It would be a dream to do carved fur and laser cut featured on the shoe.”
Rochelle is referring to her process of literally carving fur to create the intricate patterns that are found on the backs of her 2Tone Biker and Baroque jackets. This detailing has become her signature, impossible to ignore and an absolute show stopper when seen on anyone.
Rochelle represents pure creativity and entrepreneurship, focusing more on her own art than one who the hottest runway designers are. Playing her game has allowed her to invent a process of making leather jackets that is one of a kind and absolutely stunning grabbing not just our attention – Mstr of Disguise wears a custom leather jacket of hers and film and fashion force Ruby Rose have rocked Rocky Rafaela on the red carpet.
“I’ve been gifting jackets when I can afford to, to people who inspire me and it’s been great in getting the brand out there.” Rochelle explains. “I’m mostly doing women’s jackets but I have received orders from men as well.”
Talking to Rochelle is exciting, the feeling is similar to finding a musician before they go platinum, you want everyone to know about them but know that it won’t be long before you’re seeing them everywhere and it will no longer be your secret.
I ask Rochelle if she has a word of advice for young creatives in fashion or elsewhere?
“Mistakes are honestly the best way to learn. No matter how many things go wrong, keep going and if your heart is purely involved you will succeed.”
What would you tell your young lost self knowing what you know now? I follow up sensing a nostalgia and reflection in the stories of her past.
“I would tell her to treat herself and others better and with respect as I lacked this. I think sometimes when you’re in really dark place you lose all sense of respect and love for anything. However, without going through what I went through, I don’t think I would be as brave and strong as I am today. This has definitely the motivation behind my brand as I want to help other people feel brave and strong through my clothing.”
Rochelle Gregory wearing her work.