I never intended to be a designer. Ever. I graduated college with a double major in English and history and the assumption that I’d end up in academia. Ironically (and to the delight of my Caribbean immigrant parents), I landed a job as a computer programmer at a Fortune 10 company. It was 1999 and Y2K hysteria was in full swing. Desperate to avert the Millennium Bug, big companies were paying big bucks to train “promising liberal arts graduates” like me to add two extra digits to the year in old-school banking software. While initially elated to have a job after graduation, I soon realized I hated computer programming.
Though I would never have dared to call myself an artist at the time, I loved art and knew I needed a creative outlet from my respectable-yet-unfulfilling corporate gig. On a whim, I enrolled in a 3-day Intro to Fashion Design course. Day 1 was cool. On the second day, I realized that working in this industry might mean having to produce my design overseas in a “sweatshop”. Immediately, visions of child labor, pollution, and gross human rights violations danced in my head. I didn’t even bother to show up for Day 3. Certain that this cruel industry wasn’t for me, I put my embryonic design dreams on ice.
More than a decade later, I started hearing buzz about sustainable fashion, and learning that ethical sweatshop-free manufacturing was possible. Around the same time, I noticed that the patterns I saw on everyday items in my local Target and Nordstrom looked a lot like the stuff I doodled while bored at work. I also started getting strange and serendipitous signs everywhere I went (upon opening my passport, a Delta Airlines agent mused that my name “sounded like a clothing line”). I knew I was onto something.
Many Google searches, YouTube tutorials, and trade show visits later, I learned that the thing I’d been doing all my life was called “surface pattern design”, and that it was indeed an option for me. Gradually, I figured out how to turn my art into pattern designs that could be sustainably transferred onto products. I eventually launched my first e-commerce website with a small collection of organic cotton throw pillows bearing my prints, and like that, Rochelle Porter Design was born. We’ve since expanded to other product categories, and we’ve got a LOT more in store.
I count it a privilege to do what I do. The journey thus far hasn’t been easy and I’ve still got a long way to go, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.
At the end of the day, I hope my designs make people as happy as creating them makes me.
Bold color, pattern, and style converge in Rochelle Porter Design (RPD), an eclectic lifestyle brand and design house specializing in sustainably-made décor, apparel, and accessories.
Inspired by everything from her colorful Caribbean roots, to the stark simplicity of Scandinavian design, to the warp and weft of West African weaves, Rochelle’s hand-designed patterns give global traditions a fresh, modern twist.
True to our tagline, “design for abundant living”, RPD’s goal is to make life richer and more vibrant for everyone who encounters our line. This means designing the most fashion-forward prints using low-waste production methods and eco-friendly dyes, and partnering with ethical factories to pour back into our communities. In short, we aim to design the flyest possible products while doing the least possible harm.