Q&A with Rosemarie Umetsu

Toronto-based Canadian fashion designer Rosemarie Umetsu designs concert-hall clothing and has been working in Ottawa in advance of the National Art Centre’s annual gala. She’s a classically trained pianist but her interest in fashion led her studies at the International Academy of Fashion Design and Merchandising. In 1995 she joined Holt Renfrew as women’s contemporary Fashion Buyer, and then went on to Club Monaco, prior to opening her own fashion design consulting firm in 2000. She launched her own eponymous label in 2004. As a toast to the gala, we asked her to answer our weekly Q&A.

OCS: Who are your style icons?

RU: Diana Vreeland, Ninalee Craig, Iris Apfel

OCS: What’s on your bedside table?

RU: I’m in a Baroque headspace hence I’m immersed in two books from the period:

Antonia Fraser’s Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the life of the Sun King and Carolyn Weber’s Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette wore to the Revolution (which I should have read a long time ago).

OCS: Best accessory?

RU: My custom-designed amethyst ring by Toronto jewelry designer Cameron Alexander Shahbazi. It is a checkerboard-cut amethyst set in Italian rhodium-plated sterling silver.

OCS: Best recent fashion find?

RU: Baroque inspired Lambskin, Japanese Grosgrain ribbon and brass gloves from Rosalind Robertson. They are $225 and only available by custom order here.

OCS: Whom would you invite for dinner if you could choose anyone in the world?

RU: Bill Clinton

OCS: You can see the debut of any piece of music in history. What would it be?

RU: Beethoven conducting the premiere of the 9th Symphony in 1894 in Vienna. At that particular concert there was also a performance of the first three parts of Missa Solemnis.

OCS: What’s your earliest memory?

RU: Music

OCS: Your biggest fashion faux-pas, when, where and how?

RU: Wearing a top on the wrong side out to a TSO concert, and not realizing I had even done it till I got back home. Obviously, no one noticed what I was wearing that night or, I had surrounded myself by very polite friends.

OCS: Proudest moment?

RU: The first time one of my dresses was worn on the stage of Carnegie Hall.

Pinchas Zukerman wears Umetsu's fashions while performing in Salzburg.

OCS: Favourite piece of furniture?

RU: I would own anything Ron Arad if I could! My favourite piece of furniture which I own, is a brushed stainless steel and purple parachute silk chaise longue which my husband and I designed together in 1992.

OCS: Qualities you most admire in a person?

RU: Loyalty, humility, generosity, and a self-deprecating sense of humour

OCS: Who would you most like to dress?

RU: Kate Royal and Lady Gaga

OCS: Describe a perfect day off (it can be anywhere in the world).

RU: Sleeping in, followed by a day that is the perfect mix of pampering and culture with time spent with great friends amidst wonderful food and wine.

OCS: Favourite visual artist, living or dead?

RU: Anish Kapoor

OCS: Best book you read in the past year?

RU: Thanks For Coming by the legendary Jim Haynes, founder of the first paperback bookstore in the UK as well as Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre and World Writers Festival 50 years ago. An insightful autobiography which is a colourful tell-all (about) Pink Floyd, John and Yoko, Mrs. Gandhi and the infamous dinner parties Jim continues to host at his home in Paris, and which we’ve had lots of fun at.

OCS: Favourite food?

RU: Caviar, oysters and lobster!

OCS: Most-oft-played song on your iPod or MP3 player?

RU: Richard Strauss Four Last Songs

OCS: Wine, beer or both?

RU: Wine

OCS: Mac or PC?

RU: PC — although my brain is perhaps more Mac

OCS: Fine dining or plain old diners?

RU: Fine dining

OCS: Best restaurant in Ottawa?

RU: Not as familiar with restaurants in Ottawa, mainly because I’m never in Ottawa for long enough. That being said, I’ve had a great time at Luxe Bistro. Recommendations are welcome!

OCS: Person, place or thing that makes you happiest to visit Ottawa?

RU: My dear friend, 13-year-old Sasha Sorger-Brock, who lives in Ottawa. He’s a superb photographer, a purveyor of the arts, from fashion and architecture to music, who I’ve known ever since he was six years old. He always inspires with an enthusiasm like no other kid I’ve known. So proud of him!

OCS: Fave blog or website?

RU: As a classical music nerd (who particularly supports and loves the Canadian classical music scene), the blog site I start my day with is John Terauds’ brilliant and informative Musical Toronto  (which in many ways should be Musical Canada)

OCS: Twitter, Facebook or both?

RU: Both! Perhaps Twitter has a slight edge. @RosemarieUmetsu

OCS: What’s your guilty pleasure?

RU: Champagne and Shoes — but not necessarily in that order!

OCS: Favourite place to spend time?

RU: In a bookstore.

OCS: How would you like the world to remember you? What would your eulogist ideally say?

RU:For changing fashion in the concert hall. Epitaph: “She proved that practise doesn’t always get you to Carnegie Hall, but designing stunning clothes does!”

Isabel Bayrakdarian wearing Umetsu (Photo: Bo Huang)

Yuja Wang wearing Umetsu while performing at the Echo Klassik Awards 2011. (Photo: BVMI / Monique Wuestenhagen)

Connect with Jennifer Campbell |Google+|Jenn@Jenncampbell.ca