The Cultural Couturier

The classical stage has been slowly turning itself into a runway. Many artists including Isabel Bayrakdarian, Lang Lang and the TSO’s Peter Oundjian have given fashionable credit to one very talented designer – Rosemarie Umetsu.

AtelierRosemarieUmetsuJeanne Beker has named her a “designer extraordinaire” and I couldn’t agree more. Umetsu finished her studies in piano performance at Trinity College of Music (UK) as well as the Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto). Things did not stop there as she also graduated from the International Academy of Fashion Design and Merchandising. The fusion between these two worlds led to the launch of her label Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu. 

Known for supporting the arts, Umetsu has attracted a strong niche following of writers, actors, dancers, singers and musicians who have all adored the couturier for providing them with a very unique and exclusive shopping experience. AtelierUmetsu2

I’ve had the wonderful privilege to attend her salon evenings where musicians and enthusiasts from all over the city have gathered for recitals, CD launches and other related events promoting the arts. The moment that you walk in, gowns are surrounding you like artwork.

This past summer, I dropped by her trendy Yorkville location to chat about anything and everything.

1. You have a background in classical music originally. What drew you to design afterwards?

I always loved fashion and design. In fact, I graduated with a degree in interior designing, and shared many of my courses with fashion students. Also my grandmother was a couturier and I was familiar with fabrics and techniques at a young age from her.

Atelier42. The market you cater to is so unique and a very niche clientele – did you have any challenges approaching them in the beginning?

Not really. I did not initially go after the niche market of the performing arts, but in 2007 we realized that 50% of our client base were artists, and that was without us having pursued that market, so in many ways it was a symbiotic relationship that just happened. Possibly because of my love for the arts and association with the arts from the start.

AtelierUmetsu13. What kind of inspirations do you gather when you are designing for these performers?

It really depends – it’s more often than not the work or project that they need an item designed for that creates the inspiration point.

4. The list of clients is endless! You have designed for Lang Lang, Measha Brueggergosman, Frederica von Stade and more. Do you have someone that has given you goosebumps when they wanted you to design for them?

It was Flicka. I had been a fan of hers since I was very young and couldn’t believe that I would be designing for such an icon who I had long adored.

5. What is your creative process like when designing for someone?

It varies with each person. Ideally, I’d like to meet the person and consult so I get a feel for their personality and style not just their body type. As well as their general rep and upcoming projects, so what I design is in keeping with their personality, aesthete and artistic sensibility.

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