As published in LAKE MAGAZINE, Resort Lifestyle On Lake Michigan
Text by Barbara Rolek
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Some people stash bowling balls, tennis rackets and, well, coats in their hall closets.
Not Mark Roscoe.
The 49-year-old attorney uses his to horde shimmering silks, diaphanous chiffons and opulent brocades acquired on trips to the Far East and Europe.
That shouldn’t be surprising, though. Roscoe is also an haute-couture designer. After modeling and acting in Chicago for 20 years, he turned his talents to designing men’s ties in 2004. But creating women’s fashions began well before that.
“I hated seeing my plus-size, vertically challenged mother disappointed after unsuccessful shopping trips, so I started sewing for her,” says Roscoe, who is self-taught and uses no patterns.
His After-Five wear concept – comfortable, classic garments designed to each client’s preference – was born out of a dress hastily sketched on a napkin for a friend who couldn’t find anything to wear for a special event.
Roscoe’s face takes on the look of a visionary when he explains his philosophy.
“I’ve always been a fan or Armani, Valentino and Cassini, and I wanted to bring back that simple elegance and design wearable fashions that make a statement without uttering a word,” he says.
Roscoe’s hands fly over his work as he shows off embellishments like hand beading on both the right and wrong sides of the fabric.
“Just in case the wind flips over the edge of a stole, I want it to look good on both sides,” Roscoe says. “It’s all about the artistry for me.”
This meticulous attention to detail extends to fabric patterns that match on dart and seam lines, French seams, rolled hems, cloth buttons, hand-dying, foundations in low-cut dresses, and no break in the continuity of a scallop detail, for example. “We never repeat a fabric or design. When a woman walks out of my Valparaiso studio, she’s walking out with a garment no one else in the world has,” Roscoe says.
Susan Schiller, who has been sewing since she was 8, is part of the team at Mark Roscoe Design and regularly hand sews up to 2,000 beads on a garment without a thimble, while William Potts serves as color consultant to Roscoe, who is colorblind.
“Women who come to Mark Roscoe Design are looking for an attitude, the entire package, so we can create accessories like handbags, stoles and jewelry and suggest shoes, hair and makeup,” Roscoe says.
But Roscoe is choosy. He says he’s got to like the client before he’ll work with her.
“No matter how beautiful my creation is, a person’s negative attitude can spoil it. It’s very personal, what we do. It’s an intimate process,” he says.
Just ask Jill Schrage of Valparaiso, who owns two Mark Roscoe creations. “I first saw Mark’s work on a friend at her daughter’s wedding and immediately called him to design a dress for me for my own daughter’s wedding,” Schrage says.
The entire process takes about six weeks, she says. First there was a meeting with Roscoe and Schiller to talk about the event and help the team to get a sense of Schrage’s personality, style and body type.
“That first night Mark explained everything step by step. At our next meeting, I was shown a drawing of the prospective gown, my measurements were taken and fabrics were discussed,” Schrage says. The design team also took a trip to Chicago so Schrage could find the exact periwinkle color she wanted for the dress. Roscoe was then able to pick the fabric.
A series of muslin fittings comes next. One time it might be the skirt panels, the next time the bodice. Once the fit is perfect, the muslin pieces are taken apart and used as patterns to cut the fabric. Then the fitting of the actual garment begins.
“Mark is a perfectionist and his dresses reflect that. He’s northwest Indiana’s best-kept secret,” says Schrage.
But not too secret, apparently. Roscoe was invited to submit his portfolio to Bravo TV’s “Project Runway,” but he declined.
“That would take about a six-month commitment and I just can’t get away from my law practice (with offices in Portage, Ind.) for that long, nor would I want to,” he says.
His women’s wear ranges from $1,500 to $4,500 and are created by appointment only.