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Published on February 24th, 2014 | by Karma Symington

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Profile: Melissa Pinkstone, creator of RROMA

Melissa Pinkstone, a designer and former Central Saint Martin’s student, sits down with Arts London News over a large glass of red in the Queen of the Suburbs, Ealing Town, to discuss her new clothing line RROMA, her love of New York and what the future holds for the budding designer.

Three pictures of models wearing RROMA clothing

Melissa Pinkstone’s designs are heavily influenced by Romani culture. [RROMA]

RROMA, a Romanian term meaning ‘Gypsy’, is a London based label that aims to create luxurious, contemporary fashion pieces by merging traditional methods with new techniques and innovative fabrics.

Heavily inspired by Romani culture, her designs tell a story of the transition of gypsy style, from an old romanticised folklore image to today’s urbanised reality.

Pinkstone’s multicultural background influenced her to create a brand heavily inspired by cultural identity.

Having a second generation Romanian, French and Welsh father and a German-American mother, she states: “I’ve always been interested in my cultural background. My grandmother, who I was really close to, was Romanian and she sort of instilled the historical impact of clothing, which was interesting and mysterious. She was a large influence on me growing up, and I used that inspiration and channelled it into RROMA to display that cultural aspect.”

Growing up in west London, 25-year-old Pinkstone attended Hurst Lodge, an independent boarding school, and continued on to Chiswick Arts Educational, before studying at CSM: “Firstly, I studied a foundation course at CSM, before starting my four year sandwich course studying design print.” 

Pinkstone, who lights up when discussing her sandwich year – which took her to New York to work at Diane Von Furstenberg – states: “It was amazing, a real learning curve, plus I got to go out there with two of my closest friends who were doing the same thing. It was a lot of fun.”

Manic

Despite the glamour that is often associated with American fashion shows, Pinkstone says: “It was nothing like you see on TV, no way near as glamorous! We would be in the basement of the studio from 8am, sometimes until 10pm, printing and embroidering pieces of fabric for the designers. It was manic.”

After graduating in June 2012, she embarked on several internships: “I did an internship with Giles Deacon straight away for a couple of months in their show time. This was followed by Insley and Nash for 6 months. It was work experience to begin with, but then I got hired as a freelancer screen printing for London designers.

“If I were to give anyone any advice it would be to know your craft and to remain relentless. If you believe in it, fight for it.” Melissa Pinkstone

“Most of my days are spent emailing stylists, musicians and magazines to get my work noticed. If I were to give anyone any advice it would be to know your craft and to remain relentless. If you believe in it, fight for it,” adds the designer.

Pinkstone also explains the benefits of social media, which she hopes will result in a wider audience: “It’s funny, I was never really into social media, I’m a bit of technophobe but it is the best way when you have no money and are financing everything yourself to get your work noticed, so I’m Instagramming and Tweeting a lot more than usual.”

Studying at CSM cemented Pinkstone’s flair in design and equipped her with the independence needed for starting her own label.

Looking back on her time at university, she explains: “I’ll be critical and honest, I really liked it for the fact that my peers were the most inspiring people to be around as we were all striving for the same goal. Sometimes we were left to our own devices, which worked excellently as it made us learn to be independent. They don’t spoon feed us, which in this industry is essential.”

Thick skin

Models wearing RROMA fashion

Pinkstone says that her grandmother was large influence on her growing up, and she used that inspiration and channelled it into her fashion label. [RROMA]

Though an immense amount of pressure was put on the students, Pinkstone adds: “It toughens you up. We have to be critical of ourselves in this line of work, and you have to grow a thick skin”.

This hardworking and fearless approach is how Pinkstone began following in the footsteps of designers who inspire her, such as Agi & Sam, Shaun Samson and Craig Green.

According to the budding entrepreneur, all big things start small and an initial idea takes time and effort: “Last January after working for Insley and Nash I decided to start RROMA. I spent a lot of my time designing, sketching and embroidering.”

Fast forward five years of studying and a year spent developing her clothing website, it is clear that she has dreams, but is unpretentious with them: “I started with a design first and then I worked on the image I wanted to portray, capturing quite an urban feel with a folk twist. I like contrasting things together, mixing and matching ideas. And then I had to do a photo shoot where my dad actually took all of the photos. He likes photography. It’s a bit of a passion for him. He did all of my images,” explains Pinkstone.

RROMA is a predominantly male line which consists of polo T-shirts and sweatshirts, but also an embroidered accessory clutch.

Innovative

“The accessory clutch is a personal favourite, delicately crafted in either white and red or white and black, it is beautiful and eclectic,” said the innovative artist.

Constantly coming up with new ideas, Pinkstone says: “I have been experimenting with different colours at the moment for the clutch bag. A bit of neon looks good.”

“I am technically a one woman show…From PR, to marketing and distribution, I am doing it all myself. But I quite like it that way.” Melissa Pinkstone

Humble and completely modest about her talent, Pinkstone is not afraid of hard work: “I am technically a one woman show,” she laughs. “From PR, to marketing and distribution, I am doing it all myself. But I quite like it that way.”

Discussing her future endeavours, Pinkstone says: “In five years time? The goal is to have a bigger studio and employees. And to go back to New York to relocate. That is the goal, I fell in love with New York and for fashion it is so exciting right now.”

Before demolishing the remainder of our red wine and entering the cold weather, I asked the most generic of questions: Did you always want to be a designer?

Her replay makes it clear she was ambitious from the start:“When I was five I wrote down on a piece of paper that I wanted to be a fashion designer, and if that didn’t work? A property developer.”

 

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