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Be daring, be bold

Natanga Smith

Be daring, be bold

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Say the name Roland Bascombe and people would scratch their heads. Say “Rojoe” and many can describe the eccentric 48-year-old designer as one who dares to be different, seen around town in abstract patterns and prints and vibrant colours.

Roland said he is known more so as “Rojoe” of Rojoe Designs, a company he started years ago with his then fashion partner Jewel.

“Jewel and I used to work together for someone. We went on our own and so took part of her name and mine to form “Rojoe”. I love that name so much I named my son Rojoe,” he said, chuckling.

The designer was sharing a photo shoot with two other  well-known design icons, Rykii De Jude and Rosca McDonald and the talk was fashion.

“Yes that is how a suit jacket should lay,” Rojoe said to Rosca, who was soothing the back of the grey jacket the model Jason  was wearing.

Rojoe has been in the business for over three decades, starting out while a student at Christ Church High sewing bags for his fellow students. After school he then made baggies (surf shorts) when he started to surf.

“I was never taught how to sew. God gave me my special training. I didn’t go anywhere to learn this. But I must say all the people in my family are naturally very talented with their hands and my mum was a seamstress although she didn’t teach me.”

He moved on to making football trunks when he saw a guy in one and he was dared to make one. He did and made it better than the one the guy  had on.

“I was so good that the Wotton football team at the time asked me to make the football trunks for them.”

Rojoe said he learnt to sew by reading. “I read in a book that the best way to make a piece was to take it apart and look at the construction. I loved watching westerns and like to see how the cowboys were dressed, so I started to make pants and shirts. My first pants was a denim one.

“There was a factory in Newton that was making jeans and they used to throw out the end of fabrics and scraps and that’s what I used to experiment with. I picked a pair of jeans apart and studied the parts and structure and then I made one  for myself.”

Rojoe said he is a perfectionist and started many pieces, only to leave them unfinished.

“I didn’t like how they were looking so I would leave them and go back to them later. I had many ends of clothing that weren’t finished,” he said laughing.

Rojoe has played a huge role in the fashion industry, travelling to showcase his collections and also having clients fly in from various parts of the world.

“I can make anything. I am multitalented. Once I see something I can get it made. I have made belts, hats, shoes, separate pieces, two and three piece suits.”

He said various male clients would just leave the creating of the design up to him.

“A suit is a suit . . . .  There is nothing you can do with a suit. It is the little details that give you the extra edge. I even choose the fabrics. I love working with all types of fabric. Linen is the easiest and velvet is the hardest.”

With his dramatic sense of style and flamboyant and out-of-the-box designs, Rojoe has literally given up the shirt off his back to eager buyers.

“Many people see me in town and ask for the pieces I have on. I have either sold it to them or make one for them. A tourist once bought a T-shirt from me in Oistins. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. I went home barebacked.”

“I like a lot of colour. And I don’t like matching. I colour block a lot. As a designer I do what I want to do in fashion. I call myself the guinea pig. I wear the first one and then people see me and tell me they like it and order. I used my own clothing to market myself.”

But some of that didn’t go down well with eveyrone.

“Because of how I dressed people used to think I was gay and called me gay. But I am not gay. I am just a flashy dresser. I like to dress like a cowboy, some people can’t do that. I like to make my suits like James Bond, sharp and well fitted. I like to make them for my clients too. They like that fitted, Italian style. I have never made anything big for anyone.”

He prefers a three-piece suit (with a vest) and says pants length preference is for the individual wearer.

“What I want is for people to be comfortable in what they wear. Have the gumption to be an individual and stand out from the crowd. Don’t think that because you dress in a suit or anything you are finished. Add an accessory to it. Be it a watch, tie, cravat, ring, belt.”

The 48-year-old has risen to the top of his game over the years, working hard and steadfastly, even in the face of disappointment.

Rojoe has over 20 sewing machines in his studio, bought because he had a vision of owning a factory but found it difficult to find a dependable and consistent workforce.

“I used to cut and leave stuff for the girls to finish but the work was poorly done. I got to not trusting people with my work . . . . I preferred to do it myself .

“The industry is dying,” he lamented, stating, “many of the seamstresses are now doing odd jobs here and there that has nothing to do with sewing.”

Rojoe, who used to make clothing for males and females, now concentrates only on the males, while his wife does for women and children.

“I am older now. I have to time myself and not overwork so I take on what I can manage.”