I met Amanda Ross while we were both at Harper’s Bazaar under Glenda Bailey–I was the Fashion Features Director and she was the Market Director. (I came back to HB after I worked there with Andrea Linett, with a promotion.) Amanda is the kind of woman who infuses every detail of her life with style, from the lavender pens and notebooks she had in her office, to her impeccable, elegant manner of dress to her home decor. She reminds me of a modern day Lee Radziwill. Four years ago she turned her editor’s eye toward design launching ARoss Girl, first with jewelry, followed by clothing in partnership with the Soler fashion house in London. Amanda not only embraces color, she has a knack for creating vibrant, almost painterly mixes, and her line of dresses and separates are examples of her highly attuned aesthetic (they are also sold on Net-a-Porter). Her designs, which are classic and timeless, sync with my idea of buy better buy less because of their versatility. I met up with her pre-pandemic at her UES townhouse and it was like old times (we had SO MUCH FUN at the Paris shows, #memories). And if you’re wondering why this isn’t a Quarantine Questionnaire, well, Amanda’s is coming up as well.
Tell us how you started ARoss Girl: Four years ago, I created a platform to help sell the jewelry I designed, and used the mentality of a magazine editor to provide content and context, to help sell the product I was designing.
Through Google Analytics we found out that the product I was designing was much more interesting to the people that were following us than the content I was putting out, so we pivoted and focused on the product. The most successful part of that was the dress that we designed.
Where did that come from? I was thinking about “what do women want?”, “what do women need?”, and being thoughtful about what works on many different women across many different needs. The dress is easy, looks good on and is sustainable in the sense that it still works five years down the road. You just change your accessories.
It’s also about covered-up dressing. It goes back to being groomed, and having a modicum of respect. You can go to church in it, you can go to work. You can wear it to a cocktail. You can take it traveling. It packs well. Building on that concept, the dress evolved into a second dress in a different fabric, just as easy, and then it evolved into a collection of separates, there are probably now 25 different silhouettes.
What is this Soler part of of your collection? Alex Al-Bader of Soler has her own company and a shop that’s around the corner from my sister [in London]. I’ve been going there for eight years. It’s an old-school atelier that has the seamstress in the back, and you can go in and make anything you want, truly. I would go in and say, “That’s really chic. Let’s do it cerulean. Or I’d like it in pink with an orange belt, and let’s do blue with a green belt for my sister.” It’s a dress that she already makes, and so when I thought, “Okay, I really want to make this dress,” not being a manufacturer myself, I thought, “Let’s partner together and do this.” Collaborations typically are one item, and then you move on. This has now become its own brand between the two of us.
When you start to design a new collection, what’s your first step? What inspires you? Women and how they are living. I use my editor brain. I think that’s a training that’s so useful in all aspects of life.
What do you think is unique about being an editor? How do you think it lets you envision things? Whether you’re taught or you have it innately, you’re a sponge. You learn how to absorb what’s happening around you. You think big picture, and then you work within that. You absorb. You read. You study. You go out, you engage. You travel, and you bring all of that into what people want. I mean if I go into a store, I can decide in one second if there’s anything in there that’s interesting, whether it’s an idea or it’s something to buy, or it’s something to talk about.
I think that, again, back to the original training, the mentality of where we started is so informant on what products you need. It’s really organic. It’s real life. I bring my experience and my day-to-day life into what women want, and so far that’s been successful.
How do you think fashion has changed, because it’s been changing a lot, and with that in mind, what’s important to you now as a woman, and as a designer? The fashion industry is not the industry we grew up with, or we worked in the heart of our career. It’s changing. It’s hard to analyze that. It’s in turmoil. It’s forcing us to change the way we approach design.
I think it’s really about product. I think it’s about the body. I think it’s about need, and I’m of the mindset to design product to fulfill that. Women need dresses. Dresses are smart because they’re not that complicated if you get overwhelmed by style, and what to put with what. Keep it simple. Plus, it’s really about time. How much time in the day do you have? I have other priorities, so it really came out of a desire to get dressed quickly and look good. The most important thing is it’s really about making women feel good. Making women happy. Making it easy to achieve that allows them to go out and accomplish what they need to do.
What do you want women to feel when they put on one of your dresses? Happy and confident. My cousin, Elissa Slotkin, who’s a Congresswoman in Michigan, in a very important state in the new election coming up, gets help from my other cousin, Jane [a stylist in CA], and she’ll send her my dresses and Elissa tells me, “I went to Washington today and I just want you to know how great I felt in a dress and a coat.” I love that touch tone access to women’s voices. At the end of the day, we want to feel good and look good.
You love color. Where does that come from? Gosh, that’s such a good question. I grew up around vibrant, optimistic women in my life, and my grandmother in particular, and everyone–my mom, my step-mom, my cousins, my aunt, my grandmothers, not necessarily that everyone wore color, but there was a painterly aspect to life, whether it was appreciating the arts and culture, going into ballet, going to museums, and being exposed to that.
My grandmother bought me a purple turtleneck, and it was very significant. Alison [Amanda’s twin sister] and I had, it has a zip in the back and we both got the same color. It was so vibrant.
Do you think that’s why you love lavender? It was such an unusual color back then, that it stayed with me. I don’t necessarily wear purple or lavender, but everything in my world, like my pens, I had lavender files at Harper’s Bazaar, and notebooks. It’s something that I look at and brings joy.
How do you help women like me, who are color phobic? How do you encourage women to embrace color? I don’t know that I’ve had to do that. The first dress we designed was fuchsia; to me, it was like navy. I think because I presented it as, “This is the dress you need,” it was easy. I think, for someone who is color averse or scared, I would say color is easier to start wearing in the summer.
So if you’re going to purchase something, go for a color that you absolutely love, in a silhouette that you also love, because then you won’t be afraid of it.
Kate Middleton wore one of your dresses—that must have been major: It was unbelievable, I found out on Instagram. She looked so vibrant, confident, happy, and at ease and beautiful. Everything about it was perfection. It was one of the most exciting days. I screamed.
And the dress sold out? Yes. And it drove a lot of traffic.
Kate is a perfect example of the buy less buy better philosophy I believe in, because she wears the same thing again and again.
I think that there are certain things that you can wear again and again. Our dress is definitely that. That was the real focus of the design, that you can wear it time and time again. It’s the one thing I always want to put on, the Amanda Dress.
Three words that describe ARoss Girl: Feminine, elegant, wearable.
Three words that describe you: Optimistic, determined, straightforward.
When you launched ARoss Girl, what was the hardest thing for you, and then the opposite, what was the easiest? I think the hardest part, for me, was feeling overwhelmed.
In what way? I think learning a business while I was producing and distracted with other priorities was really challenging to keep up with.
What came easiest for you? Putting the idea together–from the product to the platform, to deciding what I think women want.
What motivates you? To be a good person every day, to give back, and to make people happy.
Women you identify with or admire? All the women in my family–there’s a lot of them–my cousins, my twin sister, my mother, my step-mother, my grandmothers. Growing up I was lucky. There is a work ethic in my family, I really admire women who work and I feel being engaged on that level, and challenging your mind, is great. Being productive keeps the music on in your life a little bit.
What is your go-to uniform? An Amanda dress, Manolo Blahnik Hangisi flats in a color or sneakers, my Hermes Kelly, and a cashmere sweater.
I never feel dressed without …My jewels—my wedding rings and anything my husband buys me.
Three writers or books that opened a new world for you: Milan Kundera, Stefan Zweig, any of the Russians–Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky….
A perfect evening is … Dinner with my husband.
A table is never set without … A silver tray. I have one from my great-grandmother. It’s an oblong tray and I keep salt and pepper, and little olive oil on it.
Favorite flower? Peonies.
Hand-written notes or email? Oh my god, hand-written notes in my colored pens. It’s a relic of a bygone era but it shows an effort, it’s still impactful. Though some people say they have a hard time reading my hand-writing!
Favorite artists: Picasso.
Five things that make a perfect room: A flower, a painting, an objet, something chic and comfortable to sit on.
Always on your bedside table: A silver Buccellati flower tray, Marie Christoffe wire lamp, this Evian bottle cover from Amanda Brooks, and photograph, me and my husband, and my sister’s kids.
Always in your handbag: A little silver locket of my and my husband, it was a wedding gift.
You can tell a lot about a woman by….That’s such a good question. How they say hello.
Why? Manners. Everything comes down to manners.
Do you collect anything? Trays; ammonites, quartzes and crystals; shells from around the world; photography; silver objects.
Biggest splurge you don’t regret? My Kelly bag.
Life goals: I wake up everyday grateful and excited to love my husband every day and every day that we have together forward. And I think life goals are to live as long as we can together and provide for our family.
Daily goals: I feel like I don’t have enough hours in the day, so although it’s getting better, meaning that I have more time to accomplish what I want. I get up everyday and I have goals to achieve.
How do you unplug? Walk in nature, travel, and sleep.
Hidden talents or hobbies: I think cooking, might be a hidden talent. I like to cook healthy everyday food.
Album currently on repeat: Playlist by my nephew Charlie Green, who’s a part time DJ.
Scent that brings back memories: L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci.
Favorite hour of the day: Lunch. I get excited to eat. I’m always hungry for lunch.
I love that answer. And last question, Sunday morning means? Being mindful and just taking a moment to think about the world, the problems, and say prayers for the greater good, mankind.
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