Both Maggie Gyllenhaal and Milla Jovovich had a hand in Ryan Roche's move from designing childrenswear to women's apparel. "I actually did [Maggie's] daughter's dress for her wedding ... and then Maggie started saying, Can I get the cashmere cape in my size?" Roche, 34, told the Cut. "And Milla was the same — she was buying for her daughter and then started asking for stuff for herself." That's not a bad way to break into ready-to-wear, an industry that Roche describes as oversaturated and operating at a much "higher level" than kids' clothes. But that didn't dissuade her or her devotees — Jovovich bought Roche's first collection (for fall 2011) in its entirety, and it was picked up by Eva Gentry, Steven Alan, and Metier, among other stockists. Shalom Harlow is also a fan.
Roche got her start studying classic tailoring and couture sewing for two years after high school, before majoring in fashion design with a specialty in knitwear at San Francisco's Academy of Art University. In 2004, the Idaho native moved to New York and found herself in family mode. "I suddenly had two kids, and it just felt like there was this kind of a void in the market," she said, referring to the lack of conscientiously made, organic products, especially in tiny sizes. She launched her aforementioned children's line (called mor mor rita, after her great-grandmother), opening a boutique in Williamsburg and working with an all-women's cooperative in Nepal that makes cashmere knits — still one of her partners to this day. And she used organic cotton long before it was trendy.
These days, Roche makes some killer novelty knits in a neutral palette with pops of neon pink or electric blue, for what she calls "poetic flavor." She was signed by Goods and Services for spring 2013, a new showroom set up by Joey Laurenti (formerly of Opening Ceremony) and Cindy Krupp of Krupp Group PR, which means you'll only see more of the designer in the future. Click through our slideshow for a look at Roche's work and to read more from our interview.