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Roux Stitches: The Artful Practice of Garment Construction

In our conversation with Rosa Jordan she outlined her transition from being a sculpture major at Michaelis to starting her clothing business Roux Stitches. Making custom garments was partially a question-to-self of “What else am I going to do?” and a natural inclination towards transforming fabric into valuable, playful and animated forms. The slow process-based practice of Roux Stitches is what makes her approach so personal.

As a self-taught fashion designer, pattern maker and garment constructor, Jordan draws stylistic inspiration from her sister Juno Jordan (studying at FEDISA), her aunt, and local designers like Amanda Laird Cherry. While completing her studies, her fine art practice echoed the realm of wearable sculpture and performance. Her graduate piece involved a character, Red, wearing a skintight red mesh bodysuit.

Through her graduate exhibition titled “How Did We Get Here?”, Jordan was looking at her place in the world and trying to make sense of how she perceives and is perceived. “People are politicised by gender, race, sexuality… and are based on these assumptions whether they’re informed or not. What does it mean for this character to explore, as if it had woken up and all these perceptions are then imposed on it? How do you retreat and repair from that? And where do you go from there?”, she asks. Jordan then began to experiment with fabric installations, and the juxtaposition of malleable form in wearable sculptures.

Jordan was raised in Durban, and now resides and works from her studio in Hope Street, Cape Town: quaint, practical and stylish. Her love for three-dimensional elements was arguably influenced by a divergence from the long line of painters in the family. “I want to see where I can take it, where it can grow and where it can take me,” says Jordan. “I try to do the things that I’ve been putting off the most, first, and maintain balance as much as possible, especially when your work space is one meter away from your bed. I find making practical things very satisfying, I like the functional aspect. In second year we had an assemblage/collage project with Jane Alexander. I used all my fabric scraps to sew together this weird 3D collage dress pantsuit thing with wings and flowy bits and frills and stuff.”

Asked about her favorite garment Jordan points to what she is wearing and says, “I like this yellow dress, I think it’s one of my staple favorites and probably will be for a long time. It’s versatile, it’s not for a specific person, a whole variety of people could wear it and feel comfortable. It works for different contexts: day and night. And the main thing is that it would work well on people of different ages… comfortable, but stylish, and it makes you feel good. This dress is one of those. I like things that are playful. I like things that make me feel like a child.”

Photograph by Grace Crooks

At the Future of Fashion event in 2020, a business called Rewoven Africa had made recycled versions of cottons and fabrics, new but with zero water and zero chemicals used in the production. Jordan recalls how one speaker explored the idea that objects carry the energies we put into them. Similarly with clothes, we can see how destructive the fast fashion industry is and how quickly items break and are wasted. “And these people making clothes in the fast fashion industry, I don’t think they enjoy the process,” she continues. “You can’t put love into something in those sorts of environments. When I do get to a point where I can increase the quantity of what I’m producing with other people, I want to create a space where the people who are making it enjoy making it and you can see that love brought through in the clothes made.”

It’s undeniable that when you know where a garment comes from, it holds more meaning. “There’s a depth to something you’ve either put energy into attaining or something someone else loved before you,” says Jordan. “I like that idea that you imbue inanimate things with energy and they can carry that. Objects link you to those histories.”

As the brand’s website states website, Roux Stitches’ aim is “to accentuate your proudest features as you walk taller still. To create clothing, consciously designed and worn until the final threads begin to part, perhaps generations past.”

When wading through the confusion of endlessly unfolding fine art spaces, Jordan says plainly, “I just make things that I like to wear. If I like it maybe you will too!” As for the ways she’d like her business and craft to grow: “I want to teach people how to sew, have a brand, I want to see if I can get onto runways, I want to see how far and how big I can take it and make some kind of imprint on sustainability in fashion, whether it’s in South Africa or overseas. I don’t know… and I guess that’s exciting and terrifying? I don’t really have a specific plan of action, so for now I want to just keep doing what I’m doing until I feel a sudden burst of energy to take the next step.”

Follow @rouxstiches on Instagram.

Image supplied by Roux Stitches

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