Having lunch one day at Panda Express, Rochelle Carino questioned her career as a fashion designer. Feeling lost in the industry, she was at a place where she almost decided that she did not want to do this anymore. While on the phone with her husband expressing her concern for her career, Carino opened a fortune cookie and the rest was history.
Taught by her mom when she was younger, Carino mastered sewing and making outfits for her dolls. She would use old clothes, cut them up and make her own design wear. Her skills eventually elevated to sewing alterations and buttons for her mom.
Her mom’s experience with design was limited, because the real designer of the family was her mom’s sister. Carino’s aunt was a tailor back in the Philippines and was extremely close to her mom. Sadly, Rochelle and her design influencer were never able to meet one another.
“She passed away before I was born,” Carino said.
“Though an unfortunate situation, it made my mom want to express fashion designing more because it was a bonding thing between my mom and I.”
As Carino got older, she put her design career on hold for another passion, dancing. Though designing was no longer her first love she still had an attraction to it because it brought her and her mom closer.
“Fashion is definitely something my mom and I bond over,” Carino said.
“Even to this day, my mom lives in Vegas and I always call her for fashion advice.”
Detour to Designing
Carino transitioned to a dancer, and fell in love with her dancing career.
She danced professionally for two years, and saw a future within this passion. Unfortunately, it came to an end when she got a really injury.
“After my injury, my friends recommended that I get into designing because of my talents in sewing,” Carino said.
“At first I was nervous, sewing was only a hobby for me. But, after I enrolled in designing school I fell in love with designing all over again.”
Enrolling at Los Angeles Trade Tech, was one of Carino’s favorite designing experiences. The two-year program taught about technical styling, sketching, draping and designing elements. The process was five days a week, six hours a day and two years of intensity. Trade tech taught on both the technical side and design sign of fashion. They also taught the business of fashion history, technical, costuming, computer skills and buying and merchandising. The classes also made Carino feel confident as a designer.
After two years of studying, Carino graduated in 2005 with experience in both styling and designing. Her first fashion job was at an Italian leather jacket company. Her next position was as an associate fashion designer for Ruby Rox. Though Carino liked the position, the company did budget cutbacks and turned the position to an internship to save money. She then decided to dabble with stylist consulting at Saks Fifth Avenue Beverly Hills. After working for various companies she realized that she wanted to work for herself. For a while, Carino struggled to find a position because of the recession and down hiring of designers. Luckily for Carino, she had skills in both designing and styling, and became a freelance stylist.
to Self-Titled Collection
The Los Angeles fashion scene is inspiring but sometimes damaging. Designers in the industry are gifted, talented and hardworking. However, many times they do not get the credit that they all deserve. There are not a lot of designers anymore that focuses on the crafting and art of fashion. Now anyone with a name in the social media or industry can immediately start a brand without any type of education or recollection of the fashion industry.
After the gap between jobs, Carino began to doubt her fit in the industry. Working for someone else was no longer an option and she was questioning what was her next step at the everyday restaurant, Panda Express.
“While I was on the phone with my husband, I was telling him about my distress for the industry,” Carino said.
“That same time I opened a fortune cookie.”
The fortune cookie said "take that chance you've been considering".
The calling went off like a light bulb in her head and her excitement for her message startled Chris ONeill, her husband. However, he went along with her dream.
According to ONeill, being married to a fashion designer is a constant adventure where everyday happenings can turn into something amazing and sometimes shaky.
“It's exhilarating because there are deadlines, clients, pop up shops, fashion shows, a parade of new people constantly coming into orbit who could be anything from an awesome model with a great sense of humor and no self-consciousness to a magazine editor considering her designs for an editorial,” ONeill said.
“It never ends.”
This motivated her to start her own self-titled collection in 2011. Her independent line and her designer skills were invited to assist the New York Fashion Week. She put together an Indiegogo campaign to raise money, to go to New York for the first time.
After the cookie, everything fell in place for Carino. She enjoyed her time in the Big Apple and the fashion kept her in awe.
“It is a different kind of vibe for fashion in New York then there is in Los Angeles,” Carino said.
“I love Los Angeles but, New York respects the artwork more and Los Angeles focuses on who is wearing what.”
After receiving a great response from New York, she quit her day job and continued to freelance as both a full time designer and stylist. Each position helped one another.
As a stylist she was able to include her own collection into various photoshoots and campaigns.
The “Rochelle Carino” collection is known for its young, flirty and feminine style. Many critics had referred to the line being too young however, Carino is proud of her collection and believes that “you’re never too old to play dress up.” The collection consists boldly printed dresses, stylish two-pieces, edgy jackets and more.
“If you want something fun and unique, that’s what my brand is for,” Carino said.
“That’s just me, I would wear sequins through the day and not a blink an eye. My friends and I wear what we want and it makes us happy.”
Her personality is one of the hugest inspirations for her collection: girly, sweet and fun. Even during her work, she encourages her models to keep the same spirit of the collection on the runway.
“I remember the first time I walked in a runway show for Rochelle, she told us (the models) to smile,” Nikiya Palombi, model and friend, said.
Palombi met Carino two and a half years ago when she was modeling for the look book’s photo shoot. They collaborated on many projects before but since walking for Carino’s show on Los Angeles Fashion Week they have been friends ever since.
“She said she wanted us to look happy and alive and that we should enjoy ourselves on the runway. I remember thinking "I freaking love this woman".”
Carino believes in creating clothing that brings the confidence out of a woman. Her clothing is also made to show the shine that is within a woman through her clothing.
Palombi’s closet is covered with original pieces from Carino made ethically with heart, passion and women hood. She loves wearing Carino’s affordable and unique clothing pieces with unicorns, glitter and the most comfortable bomber jackets she has ever encountered.
“I'm a girl that likes Star Wars and unicorns,” Palombi said.
“ Sometimes I want to wear black and kick some ass and other times I want to wear a tutu skirt and glitter. I feel like Rochelle's brand is about embracing your own weirdness and having fun with that.”
As her line increased so did her resume. Her work was featured in British Vogue as an emerging artist, Teen Vogue, Bullet Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine and People Magazine. She also participated in the Los Angeles and London Fashion Week. Her styling career has also been successful by styling women for various red carpets, editorials, videos and ad campaigns.
Currently, Carino is working, planning big things and loving life. Participating in this year’s award season, Carino worked on stylings from the Golden Globes, Sag Awards and the Oscars. She also has been putting together various pop up shops and is working on top secret commercial custom pieces.
For the future of her collection, Carino wants to open more boutiques to get her brand out there. especially in New York. She also wants to create campaigns to call awareness to local brands.
“Sometimes, she is so overly modest, she doesn't believe a lot of potential opportunities that arise are all down to her; but, they are,” ONeill said.
“ One can be the most talented designer in the whole world, but one has to let the world know that you design.And for me, honestly, the world is far brighter, happier, more colorful and wonderful because of Rochelle Carino- the designer and the woman herself.”
Advice for the Fashion Industry
Being a seasoned designer in the city she loves, Los Angeles, has made her both wise and accepting to learn new things about the Los Angeles fashion scene. She is currently loving the industry she is in and is completely happy with her work. When receiving critique for her brand’s youthfulness, she almost considered changing her brand’s style. Luckily, she continued her vision and learned valuable lessons along the way.
The first advice Carino would give to designers is to be a nice person. Carino is known for her fun energy and admired for work ethic and love for fashion. One of those admirers is ONeill.
“As for her work ethic, she works harder than anyone I've ever met and I don't know how,” ONeill said.
“She could be up until 4am working on a piece, altering, making changes, adding flair and style and then be up at 6 or 7am to pack up the car and race off to a job or a pop up shop. And she goes through the day with a big infectious smile and genuine enthusiasm which is contagious.”
Carino’s second advice is to to not get caught up in who is who or what is the hottest trend.
“The spotlight is for five minutes. If you only do it just for that, you will not last long in the business,” Carino said.
Chasing the same thing is how people fall in the industry, Carino has stuck to her guns and is continuing to shine as much as the women who wear her clothing.
“ Now, I do what I feel is right for my brand,” Carino said.
“I don’t consider it work anymore. I can keep going, regardless of the rejection, because it is still fun.”
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