Designer Nishika de Rosairo Discusses Women Empowerment, Ethical Fashion & Human Trafficking
The words “cool” and “corporate” don’t usually co-exist in women’s fashion. The same often goes for “made in America” and “high-end.” Nishika de Rosairo is determined to change both paradigms. A consultant for nearly a decade of major brands like Apple, Cisco and Levi, she quit her traditional corporate career to apply her business acumen to launch her new socially-conscious label dE ROSAIRO (pronounced 'day ro-zai-ro'). A fashion lover from a young age, she has been sketching designs since she was a little girl, growing up around the globe in Zambia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Recently, I met de Rosairo in San Francisco, wearing her brand’s Power Slacks (which have become my must-have winter staple), to chat more about the young label and its robust vision for women.
JustLuxe: Silicon Valley to style? Why did you make the leap from the comfort of the corporate world to the frenzy of fashion?
Nishika de Rosairo: I made the leap for a few different reasons. First, I had always dreamt of owning and running a fashion brand since I was six years old, so how cool is it that at age 33 I was finally able to have my own namesake brand? Dreams aside, the truth is I did it because I wanted more in my life. The corporate world was incredible to me for so many reasons, but I got to a point where I wanted to set the vision, set the strategy for change, and make an impact in the world in a way that was much more meaningful and deeper. The psychology of clothing and the reasons why we chose to wear what we wear is fascinating. I love being able to [create confidence in a woman] because of how she looks, which translates into how she feels, and how she leads. We use our Look Feel Lead model in effecting change in the non-profit world as well, and specifically in the space of human trafficking. Our ability to evoke emotion through fashion with women of all walks of life is very powerful, and this is exactly why I left a secure and successful career behind, so that I could make a real difference in the world.
JL: The new normal, you advocate, are women leaders. How has this directed the vision for dE ROSAIRO?
NDR: I love this question and your affirmation that the new normal is about women leadership, because it is. We manufacture all our clothes in New York and San Francisco, not only because we get to employ ethical and safe work standards, but also because the clothing manufacturing industry in the U.S. is mostly women-driven, and by manufacturing locally we get to provide employment to a women-driven sector of the economy. I also write a leadership series called dE ROSAIRO Woman where I feature powerful and amazing women, with the goal that when we each tell our stories, we provide a space for women to come together and celebrate our victories and successes, all while joining forces and supporting each other. I’m really excited about our next release, which features a woman CEO of the Household. It’s about time we paid just as much attention to the importance of this key role, which is often shunned as not being as important, which is obviously quite the contrary. I also spend time speaking at conferences and on panels, because empowering other women leaders through their dreams and successes is key to me. And of course, we dress amazing women in our clothes every day, and I love seeing the different types of women who embrace, love and wear dE ROSAIRO on a daily basis because it makes them feel confident and empowered to take on the world.
JL: Your Fall/Winter 15 collection has a mix of travel staples. What was your inspiration for that?
NDR: Traveling has always been a key part of my life, and when I do travel, I long for convenience, ease of portability and versatility. I know all women feel the same. When we travel we want to carry items that can be worn multiple times and that can transition well from day into evening wear. Our travel staples are designed with this in mind, and also with fabrics that require minimal to no ironing. I really don’t enjoy ironing so whenever I can eliminate that as an action, then the fabric moves to the top of the list for me to work with. My favorite must-have travel pieces from our Fall/Winter collection are the 5-Way Cardigan and the Power Slacks. These two are an absolute must as they are supple and powerful all at once. The Gild Dress is fantastic as well, as are the new t-shirts we have coming out in a few weeks.
JL: Tell us about the non-profit work you are doing in the space of human trafficking and why it matters to you and the brand?
NDR: The more we keep plugging into the human trafficking space, the more we keep learning about the insane black market that exists as a multi-billion dollar industry. How can anyone possibly turn a blind eye to one person’s profit being another person’s soul and freedom being stolen from them? I know I certainly can’t. This is why we are partnering with Not For Sale, which is a non-profit organization based in San Francisco and with offices around the world, whose mission it is to end human trafficking and slavery. I go in every quarter to spend time with these women survivors and I teach them what it means to build confidence and live the life they want to live. I teach them how to move away from the less-than-dignifying clothes they were made to wear on the streets, to how to dress a certain way to change first impressions, get the jobs they want and live the lives they deserve to live. It’s our model of Look Feel Lead that I work with the girls on. We are also in the process of designing a basic and beautiful silk tank that everyone woman should buy, since the proceeds will go towards these women survivors of Not For Sale. And I promise it won’t be another ugly t-shirt that you think you’ll wear to the gym, but still never do. Similar to our dE ROSAIRO aesthetic, this item will be a beautifully designed and tailored tank top that can be worn under a jacket or by itself. Did I say everyone woman should own one?
JL: What is the direction of female empowerment or leadership in terms of fashion?
NDR: I think fashion plays a huge role in establishing and defining your brand, whether you want to acknowledge it or not. I sometimes meet women (especially when I was in the corporate world) who thought fashion was too superficial and “not for me,” when in reality they didn’t understand how their lack of desire to brand themselves was hurting their ability to move forward in their careers. I can’t tell you the number of times someone in my client organization didn’t get promoted because they didn’t have the brand required to climb up the ladder—didn’t dress for the job they wanted, didn’t carry themselves with confidence and poise, and couldn’t execute at the next level of leadership. These are all very real factors. We live in a world where we embrace beauty and beautiful things, so we owe it to ourselves to always look our best, so we can feel our best, and lead with our best foot forward.