Looking good in leather
Jenae Roseen meshes BDSM and fetish fashion with keen industry sensibility
Ask leatherworker, seamstress, artist, and sculptor Jenae Roseen what makes her design work special and she states matter-of-factly, "I do what I like. I give less of a fuck where it comes from so long as I just like it. DIY or die."
The fashion designer and collaborator left Atlanta a year and some change ago to work with the NYC brand Zana Bayne, making high-end leather garments for the likes of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, and a large demographic of gay porn stars.
Roseen's leather-and-latex aesthetic spans influences from punk music to fetish fashion. She was casually introduced to the BDSM community through a friend in Atlanta and continued designing for dominatrixes while in New York. Since moving back to Atlanta, she's brushed the grueling NYC grind off to return to doing what she does best: making cool shit happen in the local art and fashion scenes. Because of the flourishing TV and film industry, Roseen quickly landed herself a job doing costume design for local productions. She's also side hustling with her private leather label Rosewater Leather Goods, offering handmade essentials and custom orders.
What did you learn from the NYC fashion industry and why did you leave?
I think there are a lot of fashion designers and people who study fashion in Atlanta that have a dream to go to NYC. It's definitely the right fit for some people, but it is also a really screwed-up industry if you ask me. It wasn't for me and that's why I think I'll be happier here. It's oversaturated in NYC to the point that people are taken advantage of all the time. I was taken advantage of because they don't value your skill since there are so many people who can replace you. Sure, I could've stayed, survived, whatever, but at this point in my life I want to be able to chill and save money and travel and continue to be happy on what I work on. And to be honest, there were a lot of single older women in the industry in positions of power being overworked and alone. And that's not what I want.
What makes your work unique?
I do leather and I work a lot with latex. I think my aesthetic has always been different than other people's. I'm not limited to a certain narrow aesthetic. I'm influenced by music, punk, makers, nature, travel, collaboration. I guess I make more "edgy" stuff, like BDSM fashion. The BDSM community is definitely a lifestyle, but it's also become a popular fashion. I was opened up to fetish fashion through a friend in Atlanta who is in that community, and then working for Zana really put me in that world as far as the people we were making for and parties we were invited to. Also, dominatrixes make a lot money.
Any insight into the BDSM world that you can offer?
The BDSM community is definitely a lifestyle, but it's also become a popular fashion. Fetish is a booming industry, the more people I meet through that theme the more jobs that are offered. People have given me access, mostly on Cheshire Bridge. Also the drag/trans community is finally getting its voice in Atlanta, which allows for a more open leather-loving community. Fetish is such a fashion right now and there isn't even a leather/BDSM store in Atlanta. I am talking to people who want to open one, so we'll see if that takes off.
Can people pursue their dreams without moving to the grueling NYC fashion world?
It would be harder because a lot of it is getting your work seen and in publications. It's not just about getting a write-up. People need your pieces to style. It's harder in Atlanta because there aren't publications feeding the ecosystem and that's only a small outlet. There aren't as many stores, either.
Tell me a bit about your process. How do you source, design, make things?
My process is very raw. It always starts from nothing and I have to build everything from scratch. For most of my jobs I am given a general idea or theme that I then have to make a prototype for. I could be given random mood boards and pattern something out. Leather is more fun for me to work with because the tools are more exciting. It's so primal — literally animal skin — lots of hammering, dyeing, cutting, some sewing.
Now that you're back from NYC, how has your style changed?
Way more simple, functional, all black, almost survival-mode. My closet was three times the size it was before moving. I mostly wear black now because I'm dyeing black leather every day.
What would make Atlanta a more sustainable fashion ecosystem?
I think the main source of work in the fashion industry in ATL is TV and film. That's how I ended up with my current gig. As far as more sustainability, it's 100 percent the resources. It's not just the spaces; it's hardware, materials. There are only two leather-supply stores in Atlanta and are both OTP. In New York, the garment district has four leather supply stores on one block and I know exactly where the cow came from, where the tanneries are, all that stuff. It's really hard, honestly. I have to order everything online. You can get things done way faster if you have the resources around you.
What else is missing in Atlanta?
We need more resource stores like a garment district. There is also this complex with ATL where it's hard for things to make it outside of Atlanta and I think that would cause a lot of good — if more artists and people could show outside of Atlanta. The huge step to making it as an artist or designer is showing your work. If it's constantly the same places, it's just going to become oversaturated with the same people. If you can afford to make it outside the city to show and even sell in New York, that'd be a huge stepping off point.
Who are your style icons of Atlanta?
What is Atlanta doing right?
Factory Girls, Megan Huntz, just people continuing to grow their personal brands and that are making resources available. There are so many independent makers in Atlanta now, which is amazing. What I love about Atlanta is that if you truly want to do something in Atlanta creatively, you can do it. Of course you have to work to make it happen, but you can definitely do it. And even though the resources are less, a lot of making it happen is easy to execute in Atlanta. If I wanted to open a storefront right now in Atlanta i could do it, but there is no way I could do it NYC. I also love that there is lots of DIY, lots of makers that influence a lot of people's style, also really awesome hip-hop culture and fashion.