In an industry that moves as fast as Instagram loads, 24-year-old Rosa Halpern is pumping the brakes on the process with the birth of her leather atelier, Namesake. But before understanding Halpern’s newborn brand, one must understand Halpern herself.
Thoughtful and complex, Halpern’s body of work has been greatly, if not entirely, inspired by women. At the School of the Art Institute Chicago, Halpern first explored the sexual liberation of female rappers in the ’80s and ’90s before delving into a collection inspired by the Bōsōzoku, a Japanese biker gang. “It was very much a study of how women band together and the protective devices we employ,” Halpern reflects.
It’s this mindset that clothing can serve as armor that gave way to Halpern’s foray into leather and the rebellious world of slow fashion. “I love the power of a leather jacket… But on a deeper level, I’m interested in doing something slower. I want to perfect the craft of making a leather jacket.”
And so, after a handful of high-profile mentorships and positions (her Rolodex contains names like Olivier Theyskens, Jurgi Persoons, and Yoshi Fredisdorf) Namesake was born. “Olivier’s business influenced me quite a bit because he ran it like a traditional European atelier. We had model fittings and drapings and that’s the part of fashion that I’m really enthralled with.” Halpern’s fascination with the process has resulted in a line of completely customizable jackets, the cornerstone of Namesake itself.
Offering private appointments out of her Toronto studio, appropriately situated in the historic Foundry Lofts, Halpern is providing a truly tailored experience, and not by coincidence.
“Mainstream fashion has tried to shroud the process of creating clothes. There is a big mystery around it, but I love sharing that with clients,” the designer explains, growing more excited about her brand’s mission. “It’s a step back to the original history of bespoke fashion, which is making items for an individual by hand.”
With a foundation of seven jackets, each ready to be molded to a buyer’s exact specifications, Namesake offers what typical retailers and brands simply cannot. And as multi-dimensional as her portfolio proves, Halpern’s brand is an experiment in not only bespoke fashion but in the power of a name, as each jacket has its own namesake. From Emmeline Pankhurst, to Frida Khalo, to Grace Jones, the jackets take after some seriously revolutionary ladies.
Ever passionate, the designer croons about the material she has declared her love for. “Every day you wear it, the better it gets. It soaks in its environment, forms to your body, gets worn in, scratched, and takes on a life of its own.”
To order your Namesake or schedule an appointment, visit www.bythenamesake.com. Styles start at $625.
Photography by Louisa Nicolaou