Wrapped up in a fashion success story

Functional fashion has been important to Rosie Miller since she was a teenager.
Stacy Squires/ Fairfax NZ

Functional fashion has been important to Rosie Miller since she was a teenager.

Fashion designer Rosie Miller's career began with a coat.

Made from blue and cream wool, the flared, knee-length design was part of Miller's final collection for fashion school.

The Christchurch 31-year-old describes that coat, and those that have since become her trademark, "labours of love".

At the time, Miller declined requests to sell the prototype, which still lurks nine years later in the design studio of her Hoon Hay home.

But the coat had made an indelible impression.

Three years after its debut on the fashion school runway, Miller's flatmate at the time came home with a curious tale.

A customer had come into her shop, talking about a coat she had once seen - Miller's.

And that, Miller says, is where it all began.

Functional fashion has been important to Miller since she was a teenager.

Standing at 180cm, she says it was difficult to find clothes that fit her or that she wanted to wear. So, she learned to create her own.

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Now, she is sewing coats for customers in Australia, England, Ireland, and the United States.

Miller worked as a design assistant for Kathmandu for almost five years before committing full time to her eponymous label - the only one in her class to start one.

"If you ask any fashion student, that's probably their end goal … But how many do it? I have no idea."

Miller says her time at Kathmandu imparted a love of working with colour and taught her how to deal with overseas manufacturers.

"I knew I needed to do my time somewhere," she says. "But by the end of it, I was unsettled in myself and needed change."

Today, a modified version of the original coat is one of eight made by Rosie Miller Designs, mostly from merino wool with a waterproof layer.

Seasonal colour changes and whimsical linings keep her elegant designs interesting.

"Trends come and go but with a coat, you want it to last a long time," she says.

"I think it should have more classic styling, but you can still have fun with it."

As the sole person in her production line, Miller has learnt to pace herself since starting out.

Each coat takes two days to sew. A size range for a shop takes her almost two weeks.

"It's not easy but it's what I enjoy, so why would I do anything else?" she says.

In winter, Miller says she has two or three orders on the go at any given time, allowing three weeks from the initial inquiry to a coat's completion.

When she went full-time, Miller worked round the clock and at weekends, variously supplying shops in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, before she realised this approach was unsustainable.

Now, her profits are split evenly across her Christchurch stockist Where The Fox Lives and online stores on Facebook, Etsy and her website, where she models her own designs.

 - The Press

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