In early 2020, Rose Dexter was very much living in the fast lane, working in events in New York. Her final project in the big city was New York Fashion Week – a sparse contrast to her new creative venture back home in North Yorkshire.
Now, she spends much of her time between her home in Osmotherley and her studio space in Hutton Rudby. Her commute – a short, country road cruise from village to village, rather than a jostling train journey from her flat in Williamsburg to her high-rise office in SoHo.
Like many, things have changed significantly for Rose in the last year and a half; but as we sit down and reflect on a turbulent time in history, there are many positives to take away from the situation – one being her ability to enjoy a bit of creative freedom and allow her new business to flourish on home turf.
“I was living in New York before the pandemic hit,” Rose starts.
“I’d been there for two years, but I came back for the lockdown because it was quite scary over there. I worked in fashion and events and everything got cancelled quite suddenly. The whole city shut down. I was living in a tiny apartment with two other girls, and I just knew I needed some space.
“I came back thinking it would be a matter of weeks, but then, quite quickly, everyone at the company I was working for lost their jobs, so I kind of found myself stuck here. But I knew I was in the right place at the right time and just had to think of it as a way of opening up new opportunities and letting my creative ideas come to life.
“I have only ever worked in events, so it has been a little strange as there has literally been no work in the industry. It’s been a bit of a long year, but the upside is that it’s allowed me to start up a creative business that I would have never found the time to set up and enjoy.”
Swapping big city life for the rolling hills and countryside has quite literally given Rose the space to create; to remove herself from the rush of moving from one meeting to the next, then on to events, to rush-hour commuting and everything in between. The slower pace of life is not something she had planned, but it has allowed her to hone in on what it means to be creative; to strip things back a little, start with a blank canvas and let her imagination do the talking.
With all of that in mind, we’re delighted to introduce Repose Studio, a luxury interior product business with a focus on slow production, sustainability and sourcing unique fabrics that tell a story.
“Repose was a business born out of lockdown, which is the case for a lot of people and new businesses this year,” says Rose.
“Judith Stephenson, a close family friend, has incredible taste in everything. She is always dropping round unusual but amazing gifts. In the first lockdown she gave me my first bit of fabric and it kind of just naturally evolved from there. I made some cushions from the fabric Judith gave me and I thought to myself, ‘I can make something of this’.
“I love sourcing fabric and I had always missed doing something hands-on creative, so it was great to get back on the tools.
“I studied fine art at the University of Arts in London and since then I have found myself in creative jobs, but I’ve always worked on the production side of things.
“I’ve had a pretty varied career up until this point. A lot of what I did at university was based around working on your own and I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do; I wanted to do something that was more team-led.
“I ended up working for a company called Mad Ferret, which was a crazy few years. Our job was to create sets for festivals. My two bosses were only a few years older than me at the time, they were the founders of Parklife festival, so we expanded and started doing festivals across the UK, and also abroad. We would source and make everything decorative. I once had to make 16km of bunting in two weeks, or I’d have to create tents out of crazy fabrics – it was nuts! I look back and think, ‘Wow, that was a really bizarre time in my life’, but equally lots of fun!’
“I once had to drive across Europe to Croatia in a van, which I later found out I wasn’t even insured for!
“It was a bit of a ditzy lifestyle because we were all just young creatives moving from one job to the next. But it was a lot of fun.
“After that I ended up working on a project called Brixton Beach Boulevard, where we organised themed experiential events on a rooftop in Brixton – everything from live performances, to street food and DJ sets.
“Then I started working as the creative assistant for a set designer who worked on big live music events for the likes of Craig David. Between all of this, I would work for my mum, who has a catering business for bands on tour. I also did a couple of wardrobe jobs alongside that. I was just freelancing all over the place. It sort of just became my way of life.”
Following a stint of the ‘roadie’ lifestyle, Rose landed her dream job interning at a fashion events company in New York.
“I was just a bit sick of London,” explains Rose.
“So I found myself an internship over in the states, with a company that I’d always admired. They did set design for really big fashion brands for their Fashion Week shows.
“The plan was to go over there for three month to begin with, but then they asked me to work full-time and I ended up staying for two years. It was a really great experience; a very stressful, full-on role, but I really enjoyed it. We would do shows for people like Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci – big names, so as you can imagine, there was a lot of pressure, but I learnt a lot.”
For a young, twenty-something arriving into JFK with two suitcases and no real indication of where this experience was going to take her, it was an incredibly exciting yet daunting experience. But for someone like Rose, who flourishes in a buzzy, collaborative approach to work, it was another match made in heaven.
“It was a totally mad experience in New York,” Rose smiles.
“I went over on my own, I didn’t know anybody, I turned up to a flat that I found on SpareRoom – it was all very surreal, but it soon felt like home and I loved every minute of it. I miss it quite a lot actually; it’s a very liberal city – you can literally walk down the street with a tutu on and a bag over your head and nobody would bat an eyelid. It’s a very creative place.
“I lived in Williamsburg, just on the water when you go over Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a very cool neighbourhood – there’s a lot going on, but it’s also very chilled.”
The creative communities are at the heart of hip neighbourhoods like Williamsburg, and it suited Rose to a T. That being said, you can take a creative anywhere in the world and if they have that flair, they’re able to flourish.
“The creative influence back home is a whole new ball game, but it’s definitely there,” explains Rose.
“When I first came back, I honestly felt like I was recuperating,” she adds.
“Life was just mad over there and the prospects of being stuck in a flat just didn’t sit well with me. We’d just finished Fashion Week and I’d just been non-stop, so I definitely felt like I was on a recovery holiday when I first came home at the start of the lockdown.
“I have found it quite difficult. On one side it’s lovely to have the space to do creative stuff, but on the other hand, I’ve been used to such a fast pace of life, so it’s definitely taking some getting used to.
“But I would never have been able to start this business in a city – you need a lot of space, time, headspace, and, of course, the money to be able to take the plunge and do it.
“I’ve always worked in really ‘hustly’ jobs where I’m constantly on-the-go, so it really has given me that breathing space.
“Also, I think that things are born out of necessity and that’s when creativity can really come to life – when you’ve got that drive to do something else when there’s nothing else to do.
“I’m very grateful for it, it’s just a huge lifestyle change for me.”
As Repose grows and picks up momentum across the country, overseas and with some really influential interior designers, Rose is keeping a close eye on the market and expanding her offering to suit. With that, comes new fabrics, new products and the need for more space to create.
“I’ve recently just moved to a friend’s studio space in a nearby village,” says Rose.
“It’s actually a garden annexe where I spent much of my teenage years at parties,” she laughs.
“So it really has come full circle. There’s still graffiti on the walls and what have you, but it kind of works – it’s cool, it’s got a good vibe (and a lot of memories), I like it.”
After finding a gap in the market when it comes to creating high-end cushions using fabrics that tell a story, Rose is finding her place in other interior product markets, including hand-painted ceramic lamps and shades, bed heads and tote bags.
“For me, it’s all about the fabrics – they form the basis of my products. They’re all sourced from vintage, designer pieces. The sustainability factor is also huge for Repose – I’m upcycling fabrics that are not being used or have been sat in someone’s basement for 20 years.
“I like the idea that we can give fabrics a new life. Now is the time to capitalise on sustainability, for sure. It just isn’t such a big thing in the interiors world, but obviously people fill their homes with materials in everything from clothes to decor, and when you think about where it’s coming from and why it’s so cheap, it just isn’t doing the world any good.
“The fast fashion world gets a lot of press, but for some reason, it isn’t highlighted so much in interiors, so I wanted to bring that side of it into my business because I’m quite an eco-conscious person.
“I work with a company called One Tree Planted – a wonderful non-profit organisation with a mission of global reforestation in the fight against climate change. For every sale through Repose, a tree is planted. Because fabric derives from the earth, I just thought it made sense to give back.”
Sustainability is key for Repose, but another element that really sets this brand apart is the quirky style. It’s a far cry from the high street products you’ll find on the shelves. You know you’re getting something different.
“I just look for fabrics that are really interesting,” says Rose.
“Ultimately, influenced by that iconic British style, with many far reaching inspirations in between.
“I’m really attracted to narrative prints – things that transport you to another time period or mystical land. Things that will be kept, treasured, and passed down the family. I don’t think there’s that much stuff out there like that.
“People want to find standout pieces that really stand the test of time and that nobody else has, and because that’s the way that I source the material – I can only get two or three metres of any one fabric, you know you’re going to get that something unique with Repose.
“I’ve always been attracted to an eclectic style, which I think was reflected in our family home growing up.”
For the curious and the conscious who wish to ‘slip into repose’ and bring luxe, limited edition items to the home, check out the Repose Studio Instagram page (@repose.studio) for inspiration, or shop online: studiorepose.co.uk