Designer Carlos Rosario keeps on the right side of destiny. After all, this is a guy who shows up in Hollywood with stars in his eyes and tinsel in his hair, can’t speak a word of English, searching for a job — and ends up on a big-budget movie for his first gig. And this past March, when he debuted his eponymous women’s wear line — a strikingly elegant mix of contrasting textures and shapes — there was Vogue doyenne Anna Wintour sitting front and center, attending her first-ever L.A. Fashion Week show.
When Rosario came to town, he wasn’t even sure exactly what kind of job he was looking for other than something artistic. Not that it mattered. He simply wanted to be in Hollywood — the center of the world, the dream factory, his fascination since childhood.
Now the funny thing is, he’d come from a place that bills itself as the center of the world — a small town in France called Perpignan, where his family had moved from Spain just before Rosario was born. Anyway, armed only with desire and a fax from DreamWorks saying they liked some drawings he’d sent, Rosario moved to L.A. from India, after spending nearly a year there following his graduation from Esmod, a fashion school in Paris, where he also interned at Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood.
Rosario made the studio rounds — a French fellow at DreamWorks admired his talent, then encouraged him to return to France, advising more success and less competition await there. He even attempted to meet Steven Spielberg, managing to bypass a retinue of guards and get inside the office of the director, who wasn’t there — but security was, almost immediately. All the while he’s moving around, living in cheap motels, basement apartments, another guy with a small suitcase and big dreams.
“You’re really close to life in those moments — open to everything. You’re less protected and just go for it.”
And go he did, the kid who was too scared to buy bread at the corner boulangèrie by his house in Perpignan. Who thought he’d be a lawyer like his father and grandfather, or maybe a doctor. But who had a revelation: “I was starved for knowing people, for traveling, for experimenting.” Fashion became his future. Maybe it was watching coverage of the haute couture shows on the news as a kid. “I was fascinated by those pictures. The models, the beauty of it, the incredible mystery, the energy and charisma.”
Eventually, he heard about the Costume Designers Guild, where an illustrator can present work before a jury — no previous experience in movies necessary — and be accepted in the union. He did and he was. A few days later he got a call from one of the jury members, who hired him as the costume illustrator on Batman & Robin.
After that, Rosario started working as an illustrator with powerhouse costume designer Colleen Atwood (Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, Chicago, Lemony Snicket), where he learned more about textiles, about the overall process of design, about how the world operates. He began making costumes for photo shoots, designing commercials, a video for Janet Jackson, the film La Femme Musketeer. Fashion was the past; it was all about costumes. “Costumes are about understanding the subtleties of the human being and creating characters — which helps me now as a designer.”
Then, last October, Rosario attended Showdown! at the Schindler House, a wild-style extravaganza that featured multimedia ensembles by designers, architects, musicians and artists. The theatrical presentation and the energy appealed to him. And just like that, he was back in fashion. “It makes sense that it would start here because this is the town that created me.”
His line provides a way to fulfill the two passions that define his life, costumes and fashion — inspiring a kind of delicate drama, exquisitely understated, wearable. The outfit should never be more than the woman. Clothes that help frame the soul.
“I’m not creating for any one specific woman. Creation is much more than a drawing and some fabrics you put together. Creation is research, architecture, knowledge about history, intuition. It’s about giving a woman the freedom to find herself.”
Carlos Rosario is available at www.carlosrosarioonline.com. CREDITS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY MICHAEL POWERS MODELS: JOLINE TOWERS (Photogenics) and HILLARY COE (Photogenics) MAKEUP: ALMA ANGUIANO (MK Artists) HAIR: KRISTIN SIVESIND (Luxe Lab)