If you're of a certain age — say, a millennial woman in her mid-30s — you may remember when all the cool It girls (you know, the ones regularly featured at the back of Teen Vogue?) were touting the appeal of sets from French childrenswear brand Petit Bateau. It felt essential to pick up a pointelle knit cardigan complete with a matching tank top, even if the only thing your local mall carried was a Gap Body knockoff.
Perhaps that fashion memory has lain dormant for you over the past 20-some years, but for friends Susan Korn and Doria Santlofer, that idea feels fresher than ever. Where, they wondered over drinks, was the grown-up version of that concept? Why couldn't they find something that was effortlessly comfortable, something that straddled the line between girlish and sensual? The answer: Because they hadn't made it yet.
"[The idea] came from us just talking about the fact that we felt we didn't want to buy anything new, clothes-wise, because there wasn't this thing that we wanted to wear every single day of our lives: in the daytime, going to work, going out. There just wasn't something that felt comfy, that felt sexy without being too much," Santlofer says. "This is what we grew up on and what we still want to wear."
And thus, the seeds that would grow into Rosette NYC were sown.
Neither Korn nor Santlofer are newcomers when it comes to the fashion industry: Korn has found viral success with Susan Alexandra, which has since grown from just handbags to include jewelry and home goods; Santlofer is a stylist with publications like New York, Allure and, yes, Teen Vogue in her portfolio. They were able to call in friends and connections made throughout their careers to help them get the resources they needed to launch a clothing line.
"We called in a lot of favors," Santlofer says. "Everyone kind of rallied behind us, which was really cool."
While Covid-19 slowed them down, delaying samples and production, Rosette NYC officially opened for pre-orders on June 21 with three key styles: a camisole (retailing for $68), a cardigan ($144) and brief underwear ($44), all finished with a satin rosette. Each piece is available in five different floral prints which served as the springboard for the whole brand. Korn and Santlofer sat down with a book of fabrics and went for what spoke to them.
"I think our first fabric was the rose bud, and then we were like, 'But we want to have color!,'" Korn says. "Color's a big part of this brand: Doria and I both love color — I only do color. That's the only way I think, so it was really fun to do our version of color in this, which is a little daintier."
Still, it was important to Korn and Santlofer that they keep the assortment small, hence the five fabrics and three styles. (We felt like there's enough difference between these," Korn says. "We didn't want to over-sort. We want to be tight, not put out too much, but put out only what we care about a lot."
That, at its core, is the ethos of Rosette NYC. It's much more a passion project for the pair than it is a hope that it might grow into its own mega-brand. The pre-orders on the first drop will give them an idea of how many overall SKUs to order, with enough to keep some stock in Susan Alexandra's shop as well, when they arrive in July. Once pieces are sold out, they're gone forever.
"I think that we have to not be too poetic about it. We have to be seasonal and just let it go after," Korn says. "We're not going to over-produce. There's a rarity to it. There's the specialness in the small quantity. I'm really into the idea of saying goodbye after one season."
There are already plans for a slightly-sexier fall collection — they tease the idea of sheer laces, for example — but beyond that, Rosette NYC will only have new drops when Korn and Santlofer find things which inspire them.
"We probably will get to some sort of regularity with it, but this is a project that we're doing because we want to do it and we love it," Santlofer says. "Its essence is that this wasn't something we have to do, because it's our work — this was something that we were like, 'We really want to make this,' so it has to be fun for us. We have to maintain the joy in this, because that's the whole point in doing this."
Ultimately, the duo wants to keep Rosette NYC as a small brand which appeals to its specific community. They launched relatively quietly — no splashy ads, no fundraising rounds, no blowout press placements and perhaps most surprisingly of all in 2022, no influencer gifting. There's no one to whom Korn and Santlofer have to answer for things like investments or scale, and they can pursue ideas as they have them, without having to send them through different channels of approval. If they want to launch, say, a floral tight or period underwear (both items that Korn and Santlofer floated as potential categories that would make sense for the brand), they can do so. If they want to expand sizing (which they say they would, having launched with a range of XS through XXL), they can. Every decision comes down to what sparks joy for the pair.
"We're having these conversations around wholesale because people are asking, and there's a certain level of misery that can enter your life with it," Korn says. "We have to be really focused on how much we're willing to sacrifice for this true project you love, because it's like, 'How can we keep it pure without making it miserable for ourselves?'"
The only thing that Korn and Santlofer are firm on is the idea that the Rosette NYC community is for everybody. As the brand grows and evolves, helping bring their own joy to would-be customers is it for them.
"This is not a women's line. This is not for just one body, one person," Korn says. "It's something that we hope everybody wants to wear."