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Going for bespoke


Natanga Smith

Going for bespoke

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Rosca McDonald comes to the interview dressed in denim jeans (Levis), white shirt with sleeves rolled past elbow, purple tie and a waistcoat with printed back and the same material is used for the lining. It is a cool-laid back vibe bordering on business casual and he calls his personal style “uncomplicated and free of ostentation”.

“I believe in being practical and comfortable which usually translates to a pair of jeans or a slim-fit tailored trousers and a dress shirt with sleeves rolled up. My day-to-day life is a factor in my wardrobe choices.”

Rosca McDonald has been the name behind many well-dressed men in Barbados, from weddings, to graduations to that special moment in their lives.

Rosca is a master tailor, doing customised tailored wear for individual clients.

He holds an associate degree in fashion design from the Barbados Community College (BCC).

“My interest in fashion design actually emerged when I was doing A-level art at Harrison College in 5th form. I always wanted my art to be functional and practical and so when my art teacher pointed out fashion as part of the A-level syllabus that was it for me. Following 6th form, I went to BCC.”

Every designer remembers their first piece and for Rosca it was suits for a double wedding. “You’re asking me to go way back,” he said, laughing. “It was in the early 1990s and I had to outfit two grooms, six groomsmen and a father-giver.”

Rosca is all about details and describes his pieces as “clean-cut, well-tailored and contemporary classic”.

“When I am creating what motivates me would be the 3Fs that I subscribe to – fabric, fit and finish. These three elements are all essential in my creation process, the omission of any one of these compromises the quality of the garment and is thus a big no-no.”

Rosca’s hands are full these days with clients looking for that particular customised suit or piece that makes them stand out.

He likes to create for people “that have a great sense of style and have the confidence that allows me to be as creative as possible . . . . I gain my artistic influences from any interesting details whether from nature, architecture and most definitely from period costume.  “When I create or design for anyone, including myself, the finished product must always be a reflection of the person’s style, preferences and needs.”

Rosca works from his studio in Roebuck Street under the label Rosca Design Studio and he calls working for himself “challenging and rewarding”.

“There are ups and downs of the business, pretty much the same as with any other business. Satisfying demand, working with limited resources including fabric options and a consistent workforce.”

Rosca doesn’t make all the pieces for a client, but he is the only one that constructs the blazers and jackets.

He has a process from start to finish: First, measuring the client, drafting a two-dimensional paper pattern based on the client’s dimensions, cutting the fabric pieces and then constructing the garments. He also pays great attention to construction ironing  – “a very important part of the process where you iron seams and so on as you make the garment. This makes a huge difference in how the suit or shirt looks in the end.”

Rosca deals with bespoke garments and explained that “bespoke is an old tailoring term that was used when a client went to a tailor to get a suit custom made. When the client chose the fabric, that fabric was put aside and was said to ‘be spoken’ for, thus the term bespoke. Traditionally, bespoke garments (much like haute couture) was totally sewn by hand. Semi-bespoke combines hand sewing and machine sewing.”

Rosca sources his fabrice for the custom pieces locally from Abed’s and also from Fakoory’s Tailoring in Trinidad.

“I work mainly with suitings which are usually wool-blend fabrics but given our climate I also like natural cellulosic fabrics like cottons and linens. I treat colour in fabric like paints on a canvas; I must always have a splash of colour in my work . . . . Give me any colour and I’ll work with it either in a loud way or as an accent depending on the intensity of the colour.”

Rosca loves what he does and while a fashion collection is in the pipeline, he is more focused on individuality.

“I do have plans on putting out a retail line at some point, but right now I’m more interested in customising tailored wear for my individual clients. Understandably, doing custom (or bespoke) wear is very labour intensive but also very rewarding . . .  I like to see well-dressed men in a suit that is tapered and fitting to their body size.”

And what maskes Rosca stand apart from the rest of tailors? “I believe my attention to detail, I’m very particular with my work. At BCC, my tutor Julia Hanschell-Chamberlain said something that has stuck with me since, which was basically that you should be able to wear your work inside out and still look good because of the quality of your finish.”

Rosca doesn’t follow fashion trends but says “keeping aware of trends is important but personal preference can override that once it looks good.”

To end the interview I asked “What are five items that every man should own?”

“A crisp white shirt, a pair of well-fitted blue jeans, a black or grey suit, a pair of black leather shoes and a smartphone,” he said, while checking his phone that he says is his office away from the office.

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