Paper Napkin Interview: Dishing with Lela Rose

We sat down with this Texas-born fashion designer to talk Southern frocks and her favorite spots in her hometown of Dallas.
Interview by: Caroline McKenzie

Have your Southern roots influenced your fashion designs?
Absolutely. When I first started in the business 20 years ago, black was the new black. Then charcoal. Then navy. And so forth. But growing up in Dallas, women were turned out and dressed in color. Lela Rose clothing is known for being elegant, put-together, and playfully colorful. That asthetic harkens back to Texas.

Have you ever had an over-the-top commission from a Southern client?
One Texas bride had us create five different dresses–one for the rehearsal dinner, the bridesmaids luncheon, the ceremony, the reception, and the after-party. I frankly adore a girl who is willing to go for it like that.

What's your ideal day in Dallas?
I would start by going for a run on the beautiful Katy Trail. Then I'd hit up the funky shops in the new Bishop Arts District. From there I'd head to Neiman Marcus–home to many wonderful mother/daughter memories for me–for shopping and popovers with strawberry jam at The Zodiac. I'd end the day at my family's ranch in Italy, Texas (about 45 minutes outside the city) to watch the sunset. The proximity to solitude and wide-open spaces is one of the things I love most about Dallas.

What's a don't-miss in Dallas?
The Dallas Museum of Art. They do a great job of showcasing both old masters and cutting-edge, contemporary artists. And if you go to the DMA you also have to visit its next-door neighbor, The Nasher Sculpture Center–a 1.5-acre world-class sculpture garden.

What makes a Southern woman?
We're glamorous, but not prissy. We grow up around ranches and hunting and farms and, as a result, we are Can-Do Girls. Anything that comes our way, we say, "Yeah, I can handle that." And we can look pretty darn good while doing it.

What brings out your inner Southern belle?
A few margaritas. My accent definitely gets stronger after I've had a couple of Herradura tequila and fresh lime juice margaritas at Javier's on Cole Avenue.

Do you have a hidden talent?
I can still do the Texas debutante bow–where you dip so slow your nose brushes the ground–without teetering.

What's the last thing you scribbled on a paper napkin?
A V-neck cocktail dress with rose details. I'm constantly designing dresses on napkins and paper towels. In fact, I don't think I've ever done a sketch on a clean sheet of paper.