Alumni Profile: Maggie Rosseter (BFA Fashion Studies) is Customizing a Career in Fashion
Posted February 27, 2019
image courtesy of Maggie Rosseter
MAGGIE ROSSETER Store Manager/Designer Duncan Quinn New York, NY (’17, BFA Fashion Studies)
Less than two years after graduation, Maggie Rosseter is already well on her way to living her dream. As the right-hand woman to one of the fashion industry’s fastest-rising stars, bespoke suitmaker Duncan Quinn, she’s building a multifaceted career that balances creative expression, technical execution, and business savvy. First at KCAD, and then through the Fashion Studies program’s opportunity to spend her senior year at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in NYC, Rosseter’s immersive experiences have empowered her to forge her own path.
How did you hear about KCAD? I started out majoring in fashion merchandising at another school, but I didn’t have any connection with my faculty there and I felt like I was lost in a sea of people. My Aunt Anne Norcross, an Art History professor at KCAD, suggested that I might enjoy the Fashion Studies program there, so I decided to apply. My mom actually graduated from KCAD with a degree in Illustration, and she always had such amazing things to say, so it seemed like a good fit.
How did the Fashion Studies program help you grow, both as a designer and as a professional? KCAD faculty really care about getting to know you as a person and as a student. Before I came to KCAD, I was very shy and uncertain of myself, but my professors helped me develop creative skills I hadn’t even considered before. The Fashion Studies program really emphasized the creative aspect of fashion design, which helped me understand how to develop a unique style and stand out as a designer. In one course, I worked with fabrics I had zero experience with, such as leather, and had to combine materials that on the surface wouldn’t seem to go together. The collection I created in that class is what ultimately got me into FIT. I think it turned out as well as it did because my professors pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged individualism and creative freedom.
Also, a lot of my experiences were collaborative, and that really helped me develop teamwork and relationship-building skills, which are some of the most valuable skills you can bring to any professional field.
Rosseter at Martin Greenfield Clothiers in New York measuring a client for his wedding (image courtesy of Martin Greenfield Clothiers)
What collaborative experiences had the biggest impact on you? In my sophomore year, I volunteered for the Fashion Studies program’s annual Capstone Fashion Show, and I loved it so much that as a junior I took an entire class dedicated to the event. It was mind-opening and a lot of fun, and helped me to get a taste of how the fashion industry operates in the real world.
I also got to design costumes for Opera Grand Rapids, create historically-inspired garments for an exhibition with the Costume Society of America, and design prototypes of reflective sportswear for a local startup. I really felt like the program went the extra mile to organize all of these collaborations, and that shows how different KCAD and the faculty in the Fashion Studies program are. They care about exposing you to things that give you real life experience and encourage out of the box thinking.
You took advantage of the program’s opportunity to spend senior year studying at FIT in New York City. What did you gain from that experience? It was an amazing opportunity and totally affordable. New York City is an incredible place to study fashion, and I knew if I passed I would regret it forever, so I decided to apply and got accepted. The experience was incredible; it was a ton of work, but also great fun, and to see myself develop and succeed over the course of that year is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. As it turns out, employers really take notice of students who do the one-year accelerated program at FIT, because you have to be dedicated and driven to make it.
How did FIT build on your KCAD education? At KCAD I developed the creative skills you need to succeed in the fashion industry, whereas FIT is very technically focused. Through both experiences, I learned the ins and outs of everything in the industry down to the last detail. I feel like I got the best of both worlds.
You've since stayed in NYC and launched an interesting career in the fashion industry. How did you get your first break? Shortly after graduating from FIT I was contacted about an open position at Martin Greenfield Clothiers. They hand-make bespoke suits in the same building they sell them out of, and they are entirely self-contained: the measuring, pattern making, cutting fabric, stitching, everything down to the last hand-sewn buttonhole happens there on-site. Their clients are everyone from your average Joe to actors and actresses on TV shows and movies like Gotham, Boardwalk Empire, The Good Doctor, Younger, and the Wolf of Wall Street. They’ve also made suits for every U.S. President since Eisenhower.
(above and below): Rosseter with two of Martin Greenfield's wide array of celebrity clients: actor/hip-hop artist Method Man (above), who was being fitted for a suit for his role on the HBO series The Duece, and actor Ben McKenzie (below), who was being fitted for a suit for his role on the FOX series Gotham (images courtesy of Martin Greenfield Clothiers)
I started as a coordinator, managing relationships with customers, filling orders, and doing billing and quality checks. From there I transitioned to working with customers on the front end, helping them select fabric and lining and other details for their order. I was able to learn how to measure bespoke suits, and even learned some of the different hand stitching techniques that go into the actual construction and finishing. Before long I was holding about four different positions and was involved in every single step of the process, from the time someone walked in the door until they returned months later to pick up their suit.
You’re now working for another bespoke suiting heavyweight, Duncan Quinn. How did that opportunity present itself, and what’s the experience been like? After about a year and a half at Martin Greenfield, I was contacted by Duncan personally. He found me on Instagram, and was impressed with my work. He’s been called “Savile Row Meets Rock ‘N Roll” by GQ, and has been featured in countless other magazines, from Esquire and Maxim to Forbes and Town & Country. Like Martin Greenfield, Duncan makes suits for some of the most wealthy, powerful, and well-connected men in the world.
Here though, I’m the only employee aside from Duncan himself, which has opened up a lot of different opportunities. I’m measuring, styling, and designing bespoke suits, but I’m also managing the business, selling our retail items, working with vendors, and managing our website and social media. I’m also starting two women’s lines under his name, one bespoke and another that’s ready-to-wear, to reach a whole new market, as well as a small collection of women’s accessories. So just like in school, I’m getting the best of both worlds—creative and logistical—and that’s really appealing to me.
(above and below): Custom suit jackets Rosseter designed for Duncan Quinn (images courtesy of Duncan Quinn)
How do you find yourself leveraging what you've learned at KCAD in this kind of work? When most people think of suits, they picture a basic navy or grey two-piece, but the bespoke market is so much broader than that, and that’s where my creative education at KCAD really comes into play. A lot of people come to a bespoke tailor because they’re looking for something unique, so those creative skills really come in handy when I have to be able to think outside the box.
At Martin Greenfield, for example, we had to make a suit for the character The Joker on the show Gotham that combined traditional bespoke tailoring with this wild, crazy, creative fabric pattern. And at Duncan Quinn, we’re currently making a three-piece suit out of pink tweed with accents of purple tweed on the cuffs of the pants for a female client. The whole idea is that the suit is custom-made for the individual, that it accents the parts of themselves and their personality that they want to show the world.
Recreation of a suit jacket produced by Martin Greenfield Clothiers for the character of The Joker on the television series Gotham (image courtesy of Martin Greenfield Clothiers)
What professional accomplishment in your career thus far are you proudest of? I’m so proud of everything because I never once imagined this for myself. I’ve developed so many valuable skills and come so far in just a little over two years working in the industry, and I’ve already worked for two of the industry’s most well-known and well-respected companies. At Duncan Quinn, I am being given complete freedom to help run the business and even build a whole new part of it–that’s a rare opportunity and I can’t believe I’m doing it!