Rosemarie Umetsu

Color is perhaps the trend that excites me the most.


Rosemarie Umetsu was born in Sri Lanka and moved to London UK to study music at Trinity College. Afterwards, Rosemarie moved to Toronto, Ontario to complete her studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music and later graduated from the International Academy Fashion Design and Merchandising.

Rosemarie Umetsu began her career in fashion with a job at Holt Renfrew working her way up through the ranks of the Buying office. She subsequently joined Club Monaco as a Product Developer. While at Club Monaco she established her own Fashion Design consulting firm where her first client was Votre Nom, a label out of Paris France.

Rosemarie’s husband, Wayne Umetsu, encouraged her to develop her own fashion label where initially it was Ready to Wear designs under the “r.u.” moniker. This eventually evolved to a haute couture luxury brand designing primarily for performing artists under the house of “Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu” where she is the President and Creative Director.

Rosemarie’s designs are staged all over the world including Carnegie Hall in New York City, Royal Albert Hall and the Barbican in London UK, the Philharmonie in Paris France, and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, just to name a few.
Additionally, Rosemarie earned a nomination for a Dora award in theatre for her costume design.

Where did the idea for Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu come from?

Initially, my first company was a Ready to Wear wholesale company. As we evolved and realized that our niche was custom formal wear, I decided to focus on developing that aspect of the brand and it naturally gave birth to a luxury brand. It was then that I re-incorporated and named the company Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

It depends on the day and what the priorities of the day are. This often shifts through the week. Being a business where we dress many performing artists, we sometimes have to re-prioritize everything based on construction needs for a gown or suit from start to finish as it often needs to be shipped to various parts of the world in a very short time.
Every Monday and Friday we start with a staff meeting and layout a priority list with deadlines for production.
The keyword to your question of “how” we make it productive, is “organization”.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Having a fabulous fabric from one of our European mills is often a great starting point, I then usually play with how it can drape for form and shape and then I sketch what I envision with it. I then work with my patternmaker on the specifications of how I see it coming to life and the small technical details. Next is that my team will create a muslin or prototype of what it will look like and then we tweak together as a team to fine tune it for both. This ensures the actual garment when constructed is both visually impactful, but practical as well from the point of view of comfort and maintenance.
When it is being custom designed for a specific classical artist, the process is slightly different in that I often start with what their repertoire is for that Season. The colour I pick is often reflective of the composer they are performing.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Colour is perhaps the trend that excites me the most.
The fashion industry is always in flux and representative of zeitgeist of the day. I am more excited about creating pieces which are modern and stand out, yet will stand the test of time, more so than following trends.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Organization. Being organized is critical for business success as time is money.

What advice would you give your younger self?

You really can be anything you want to be, but you need to be bold, fearless and believe in yourself, no matter what. You will make mistakes and it may be very hard at times, but what does not break you really does make you stronger. Feel your fears and do them anyways. Make sure you surround yourself with like minded people who are always in your corner.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

Well, I will tell you something that 99% of the people I have met have said, that being in Fashion particularly in Canada results in failure within 3-5 years. While this is true, you can be successful despite the odds as I’m in my15th year with my business.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Aside from organization, never be complacent. The company continually needs to be nurtured and you will find that it will eventually have its own inertia and personality. Be ahead of the curve and don’t be afraid to make changes and evolve with your company, as it grows.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Use a secondary marketing platform to help market the primary brand. For instance, we have “salon nights” at our studio where we provide our venue so our clients can perform whether it would be a recital, CD release or cocktail party. Not only has this been a great platform for our younger clients to network with our established clientele, but it has helped widen our market.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I have had many failures and ups and downs but the key point here is if it’s worth it, you will find a way. Perseverance is critical to success.

One that specifically comes to mind, is that when we first started our business we were wholesale, and from a business model this did not work for us, particularly being financed organically. Typically, you develop a collection and sell it to retailers 12 months prior to it hitting the market floor. Not only did this take huge working capital, but you rarely saw a return on that investment until 15 months later (if you are lucky). As a result 3 years into our business we decided to change our model and go retail instead. This took us about a year to figure out and put into place, but we were willing to change and with patience, it has taken us to where we are today. Had we not taken the risk and changed our model we would not be in business today.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I would say that we all have strengths and weaknesses, so why not express yourself by having your own business so the world can see something that only you can do. Whatever your business may be, it would require a business plan, structure and financial resource.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Tickets to see the Broadway show Farinelli and the King.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Believe it or not I’m old school, so I still use Microsoft Paint for designs. I have mastered it to the extent that when I tried Adobe Illustrator, I found that Paint was better and gave me more latitude to be creative.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

It’s impossible to recommend just one, but perhaps “Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way” by Richard Branson

What is your favorite quote?

Oh so many…
Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Charles Swindoll
To be the best, you must be able to handle the worst.” – Unknown
The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty” – Winston Churchill
Tough times never last, but tough people do.” – Robert Schuller

Key learnings:

● Organization and Perseverance and critical human resources to be successful
● Detract the company and yourself from negativity and the naysayers and be surrounded by the positive
● Look at failures and setbacks as an opportunity to reset and comeback stronger
● Like in life your business will go through stages of development so if you are a startup have realistic expectations and goals as the company evolves and matures


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