Since 1951, Rockcastle Florist has been Rochester, New York’s go-to place for quality flowers and service. Recently one of the shop’s employees—Mary Rockcastle, daughter of owners Wendy and Keith—spun off with her own fashion line. Dubbed “Little Lamb Studios,” her designs will hit the catwalk at Rochester Fashion Week, which kicks off tonight.
Florist 2.0 caught up with Rockcastle to learn more about her endeavors, how her two disciplines intertwine and what community events like fashion weeks can do for small businesses.
F20: What are you doing for Rochester Fashion Week?
MR: I’ve created an eight-piece collection for the all ages show called “Our Rochester on the Runway.” It features models from age 4 to 25 showing off the work of local designers. I’ve never participated in Fashion Week before and I’m thrilled to be included; Rochester has a really breathtaking amount of talented artists and makers.
F20: Can you tell me about Little Lamb Studios?
MR: Little Lamb Studios is my passion project outside of the floral world. I moved back to Rochester after I graduated from Parsons the New School for Design in 2015 and was working in retail to fund my creative habit. I was mostly sewing and painting in my parents’ basement and making a ton of product but I wasn’t sure what to do with it.
My best friend is a ceramicist in Rochester and she introduced me to the community of artists in the city, especially those in the Hungerford Building, where I set up Little Lamb Studios. There, I make clothes for all ages, accessories, home wares, and illustrations. Everything I make is related to my family and in that vein it’s related to the family business and flowers. It wasn’t until starting Little Lamb that I realized the value of my work and had the confidence in myself as a maker, a seamstress, and a florist.It wasn’t until starting that I realized the value of my work and had the confidence in myself. Click To Tweet
F20: Are floral elements in a lot of your designs?
MR: Flowers are extremely influential to my designs. There are a lot of floral prints featured in my collection and all of my illustrations are very feminine and floral. I think they play off of each other a lot, especially when it comes to color theory and silhouettes.
F20: How long have you worked with your parents in the flower shop? Did that influence your current endeavors?
MR: I’ve literally been in the florist business my entire life. I came out of the womb, they put me in one of those baby backpacks, and I was in the flower shop all day. I started washing buckets for quarters when I was a kid, making ugly arrangements from people’s scraps and sweeping my mom’s spot. In high school I processed the floral shipments and did your basic greening and production work until I went to art school in New York City. When I came home from school I worked in retail for a long time until I sat my parents down and basically asked them if they would let me try being a real deal florist.
I thought it was funny because as a kid everyone asked, “Do you want to be a florist? Will you take over the family business?” and I think the idea of it was so alarming that my instinct was always to say “no.” But now I have such incredible respect for my family and my florist family for what they do as an art form. They’re artists, business women, mathematicians, and engineers. They make it work every day and that inspires me so much.
F20: Have you found that the flower shop drives customers your way and vice versa?
MR: It’s a bit of both. I always have fresh flowers in the studio on first Fridays when people come to tour the space, and they’re always curious about how my two careers interlock. I think you place so much trust in both your local florist and the person who makes your clothes that a lot of customers immediately understand the relationship between the studio and the shop. A lot of our customers at Rockcastle Florist have watched me grow up in the store and they like to see what I’m doing now, post college.
F20: How do events like fashion week help small businesses with brand recognition?
MR: Fashion week has done incredible things for my brand. I’ve gotten involved in the Rochester artist community on Instagram and Facebook, especially by networking with the Instagram account @rocgirlgang. They showcase women makers and small business owners in Rochester.
I have struggled to define my brand, especially when it comes to marketing myself and my clothes as a “line.” I’ve had issues with what to call myself. Am I a fashion designer? Am I a florist? Am I an illustrator? I’ve learned that I’m a person who makes things, and it’s okay not to have a one-word answer for the question, “What do you do?” But fashion week has helped grow my confidence to walk into the room and demand respect for what I’m making and who I am.
For more behind the scenes coverage, follow Rockcastle on Instagram (@lookwhatmarymade).