Woman of Substance

HOW THE WEST IS WORN

As a girl growing up in Dallas and visiting her family ranch outside the city, Lela Rose would watch her father in the outdoors. “My dad was really ahead of his time,” says the noted fashion designer from her present home outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “He was a semi-professional ornithologist and watching him watching the birds, I really understood the connection he felt to the health of the planet through the life of the birds. Both he and my mother never took things at face value, and from both of them I inherited a love of curiosity.”

Rose and her husband and children relocated to Wyoming a few years ago after living and working in New York City for many years, and she speaks now of having morning coffee on the banks of the Snake River that meanders outside her home, watching eagles circling the sky, and encountering a herd of thundering elk late at night on her property. It’s in this setting that Rose has finally been able to realize a long dream of hers as a designer—to create a line of women’s clothing that references both the American West and her deep Texas roots. “My mother grew up in Fort Worth, home to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and I always loved the iconography of cowgirls—how these women lived and the life of the homesteaders who moved West into the wild frontier.”

But in devising her select and, yet, ever growing Lela Rose Ranch Collection, the designer wanted to embrace a sense of glamour and refinement. “A cowgirl doesn’t have to be rough and tumble,” she emphasizes. “She can be very sophisticated, chic, and wear clothes that celebrate the look of the Old West. Years ago, when I first started to think about making these clothes, I kept seeing Western wear that was too costumey. With this line and with all of the clothing I’ve designed over the years, I’ve always been dedicated to beautiful fabrics and to the shape of items that make women look beautiful.”

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY LISA FLOOD
WRITTEN BY DAVID MASELLO

This story appeared in the Summer 2024 issue of MILIEU.