Yello Interviews: Fashion Designer Rotchelle Parris, Founder of Pink Lemonade
by Karen Rollins Sep 16, 2019
Self-taught Barbadian fashion designer Rotchelle Parris launched her Pink Lemonade clothing line in 2010.
The resort wear label has a truly Caribbean feel, with vibrant colours and flowing fabric, and a ‘simple but elegant’ design aesthetic that appeals to women of all ages.
Even though Rochelle is juggling Pink Lemonade part-time, alongside her full-time job in brand management, she’s set her sights on increasing international sales and establishing her brand as a hallmark for style.
Yello met up with Rotchelle and asked her to share her inspirational business story.
Describe yourself using three words.
Welcoming, fun, and talkative!
Please share a bit about your childhood.
I went to Westbury Primary School and St Michael’s Secondary School.
I have an older brother, who’s passed now, and a younger brother and sister.
I have fond memories from childhood. I grew up in a neighbourhood called Frere Pilgrim and I remember there being about 10-15 children around my age, so there was always someone to do things with like rollerblading, riding bikes or picking fruit.
Everyone was close. It was fun, up to now all of us are still in touch.
I also used to dance and was on dance teams. I started that when I was about six but stopped for a while, before restarting in secondary school right up through to when I was in college in the US.
Tell us about your time in America.
I did my senior year of high school in Boston in 2003 because my step mum was living there. Then I went to college in Miami, Florida, because I wanted to be somewhere warm!
I studied industrial and organisational psychology, which is about helping people in the workplace, and is similar to human resources. I chose that subject because I’ve always been interested in people and trying to understand how they think.
I came back to Barbados in December 2007.
Have you always been a creative person?
When I was younger, I remember being creative with clothes. You know as I got older and wanted to go out more, I couldn’t buy new clothes every time, so I’d put different pieces together or wear something backwards.
I also enjoyed doing batik and tie dyeing, so I guess I was already into fabrics.
Obviously, dancing is also creative, and I studied art at secondary school. I’ve also always enjoyed looking at art in museums and exhibitions.
When / how did you start your brand Pink Lemonade?
Pink Lemonade started in 2010. Originally it was me and my friend Daisy and both of us are self-taught designers.
I bought a sewing machine and my landlady taught me how to thread it! After that it was the ‘University of YouTube’, I bought some books, and it kind of went from there.
We debuted our first collection in 2010 at Barbados Fashion Week. We got a good response and because of that we were invited to Tobago’s Fashion Week in 2011.
After that we went our separate ways because we had different visions and I just continued with the business.
It’s had its ups and downs and I’ve had times when I’ve wondered if I should even keep doing it. It’s a lot of hard work.
Who are your clients?
It differs. I would say mainly people in their late 20’s up to 40 something.
I make to order rather than mass produce and try to give everyone a personalised, tailored and customised touch.
Sometimes people will see something on the website, but they want it in a different colour, so I will accommodate that. I’ve also had people come and try a dress sample and then I’ll adjust it to fit them.
Depending on the style of dress a person chooses, I can usually make it from their measurements, which they can send to me, or I can meet them somewhere to do it. I provide the fabric, and make recommendations, so all that is included in the price.
The process usually takes a week. My clothes are simple but still make a statement. They’re what I call ‘throw-on-fabulous’, so the turnover time isn’t long.
What fabrics do you like to work with?
Cotton, stretch cotton, African print, and piqué. I’m a tactile person, so I use a wide variety of fabrics.
I like to touch it and make sure it feels good on the skin. I like fabrics that flow and drape nicely.
How has Pink Lemonade been evolving?
I’m a designer not a seamstress so demand tends to be more seasonal for certain events like Crop Over, Christmas or a special occasion.
Right now, I’m pushing to get the brand recognised outside of Barbados. Most of my sales come from here, but I’d like to get more from overseas.
Which local and international fashion designers do you admire?
Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs. In terms of a benchmark for inspiration I would say I enjoy Cushnie for its aesthetic and the easiness of it.
My friend Kim Angoy who owns Suga Apple Swim. Her swimwear fits into my aesthetic because her designs are printed and bright.
Jamila Sokunbi who does hand painted t-shirts for her brand Plain Jane. When you see her shirts, they look like they’ve been printed.
Those are a few but there are many, many others!
What has been your proudest achievement so far?
A dress I designed was worn by Kerry Katona (former member of the British girl group Atomic Kitten) and featured in OK! Magazine.
She was in Barbados for a photoshoot and a friend of mine was doing her make-up, so she asked me to bring some pieces for Kerry to try.
I also took her some of Kim’s Suga Apple swimwear, and some items from another friend who creates jewellery. It was great to be featured in an international magazine.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Don’t give up. Sometimes you’ll wonder why you’re doing it, even I still feel that way sometimes, but just keep going. If you keep going, then the right people will eventually see.
If you research most people’s backstories, you’ll see how much work they had to put in before they were discovered or got recognition. It’s very rare for anyone to blow up quickly.
Keep going at it, especially once you know you’re putting out your best work.
Also, try to take advantage of any opportunity, no matter how small, and help other people whenever you can because it’ll come back around to you.
What do you love about Barbados?
The beaches, although I don’t go that often!
I also like the easy-going nature of the island. There’s a lot of freedom here that you don’t get when living in the States. It might seem like nothing, but things like parking where you want to, without being issued a ticket, that’s something you notice when you live abroad.
Where do you like to hang out with friends?
Nishi restaurant because I love sushi. The owner is friendly and makes you feel at home and you get great customer service. That’s our place for girl time. We go there for most special occasions or if we haven’t seen each other in a while.
I also like Josephines Café (in Bridgetown) and hole in the wall type bars, or bars that are part of someone’s house. We’ll also just relax at a friend’s house and lime.
What’s your philosophy in life?
Treat people how you wish to be treated. Be polite and kind. I try to be that way most of the time. It takes nothing from you to be nice to someone.
Tell us something only a few people know about you.
I don’t like swimming when there is seaweed or rocks. I can swim but I don’t like going through dark patches when I can’t see what’s in the water!