In this edition of Chit Chat Tuesday, Junior Style London talks shop with the multi-talented, multi-hyphenate photographer, mum, musician, and owner of Little Rags and Riches boutique Julia Rozenfeld on life before kids, bucket lists, and of course, kid’s fashion.
JS: What was life like before you opened the store? Did you have another career?
JR: The store is what I call my third professional life. I was raised and groomed to be a classical pianist. I started playing the piano at age three, played my first concert at six, and played with an orchestra for the first time at age eight. I spent my entire childhood up until age 15 with future orchestral musicians from around the world, conductors, and singers. By the age of 16 knew that I wanted to at least see what life was like for non-musicians—and while at Juilliard I did an extra major, outside of music and outside of the conservatory.
My second career started straight out of Juilliard—I went to work in technology on Wall Street where I spent 15 years, at various banks, investment firms, and hedge funds. I “retired” after the Lehman Brothers demise. Immediately after I retired we faced a tragedy—my son was diagnosed with leukaemia on his 7th birthday so we spent years stuck between home and the hospital. I was the nurse, the teacher, the entertainer—and when things started looking up I needed an outlet to get myself out of four walls. And that’s how LittleRagsAndRiches came to exist—as a creative outlet.
JS: What sparked your interest in kids fashion specifically?
JR: Growing up on stage, and then living near Lincoln Center, sparked and necessitated an interest and knowledge of fashion very early for me. It also heightened my awareness of what outer presentation does for an individual’s presence. Once my kids were born it became very obvious to me that there was a large discord between fashion for young adults/adults and lack of such available for the masses in the kid’s world. To find quality AND design for kids was an adventure, which honestly became easier once internet shopping took off, yet still, it’s overwhelming and often disappointing. I also strongly believe that personal style and taste can be formed early—almost as a habit. I love photography—lifestyle photography especially—so my interest in fashion, especially a high fashion/street fashion fusion, naturally formed, given I have a tiny ready subject almost always at hand. And everything looks better smaller—always!
JS: What kids fashion photographers do you most admire?
JR: I absolutely admire Vika Pobeda (@pobedavika) her crisp minimal style. Love Olesja Mueller (@loesjamueller), Maya and Renata of The Descendants (@pics_missmaya), Olga Filenko (@olga_filenko_photography)
JS: What accounts inspire you the most on Instagram?
JR: The answer is…a lot of different things. I find amazing designers like @mabellemademoiselle and @airfish_official and I follow the creative processes of brands like @raspberryplum and @efvva. I also follow a few Insta diaries, for example, @littlekidnyc and @scoutfashion. I’ve become friends with accounts who inspire me—and there are lots of them! I also get information, read memoirs and much much more. If I were to choose four accounts I could not live without it would probably be @smudgetikka for the endless source of discovery of new and amazing things in the kids world, @annelindetempelman for a daily dose of fun, and @littlekidnyc because that kid’s account is like THE GUIDE to what to do in New York City and around town Oh, and @enfantsterriblescollective for exposure to what childhood in Europe looks like.
JS: What are the unique challenges of operating a brick and mortar shop in a digitally-driven landscape?
JR: Bricks and mortar store serve an entirely different clientele and operate on an entirely different schedule. Unfortunately, high-fashion online kids stores in the US are somewhat forced into adult-like collection scheduling—with introductions of the new season’s collections in the middle of opposing seasons. So, for example, the winter collections are all shipped by September and are “old” by November, summer starts in late December, etc. But bricks-and-mortar shopping, especially for kids, follows the seasons a lot more closely. There are also geographical limitations – as a store based in Westchester County, NY—30 miles away from New York city—I can’t rely on an abundance of fashion-forward parents willing to travel the distance to shop the latest, but rather a wealthy and somewhat conservative crowd shopping for upscale, understated clothing.
A big challenge is that there aren’t many ways to make locals aware of your store’s existence other than becoming a community fixture, a centre, sponsoring non-stop events which often do not profit the store itself in any way but help with visibility. It is always harder to say “no” in person and it is harder to keep boundaries; digital keeps one more anonymous almost without a risk of ever coming into your client’s face. The presentation is everything—so merchandising is a must, a certain level of cohesiveness, and the need to carry certain items which I would normally not buy for my curated online selection.
JS: What is your shooting schedule like with Sophie? Can you tell us about your process?
JR: My main principals are: do not force anything and do not actually make it into a job. A picture always tells a story and I prefer to tell a story other than just sitting pretty in a cute outfit. Modern fashion brands try to introduce themes into their collections, so my job as a photographer and as a curator of my store’s collection is to interpret these stories visually, within a certain space and with a subject.
We really do go out to explore museums, spaces, towns, parks all the time—so when things need to be shot, they get shot while we do whatever we are doing and when I see a window of opportunity. Yes, Sophie normally doesn’t walk around in princess dresses (not that the store has too many of them), but she is usually put together head-to-toe and if there is something in particular that needs to be done, in the trunk of my car, I always have bags with whatever could be the next outfit. I find it’s always easier to shoot within a studio, on paper, and if I am pressed for time and JUST need to shoot the outfit itself, I will, but I always end up feeling afterwards as if I cheated, going the easier way. I admire playful and artfully staged pics, but I find for myself that when kids’ fashion photography goes into the realm of the unwearable, the ridiculous, dysfunctional or shocking, it loses its appeal and audience.
JS: What are you reading and listening to right now?
JR: I am reading Haruki Murakami’s ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” and eagerly awaiting an English or Russian translation of his latest book. Listening to complete Bartok quartets by Emerson String Quartet and Prokofiev’s ” L’amour des Trois oranges’.
JS: Any bucket list experiences that you have crossed off the list?
1. Performing on stage with my own child! My son—Sophie’s older brother—plays the clarinet, and last year for the first time I accompanied him on stage at the Purchase College Performing Arts Center. It is an amazing experience, such feeling of joy and pride—and a unique performing episode when as a mother I could literally feel through my bones what his intention, phrasing and mistakes would be—and as a professional pianist, I had to concentrate on guiding and assisting his performance in the most musically appropriate way. We are now looking forward to Sophie having to choose an instrument soon—in addition to piano—so maybe we can eventually have a little family trio!
2. Seeing, as a child and in person, and listening to Horowitz’s historic Moscow Conservatory performances.
3. Hearing the last performance by Pavarotti at The Met in Tosca.
4. Learning how to shoot with a rangefinder camera (without auto options) and lastly, reinventing myself professionally—entirely—and achieving success.
To explore Julia’s beautiful photography and styling with her muse, daughter Sophie, follow along on Instagram @littlemisssophiescloset.
View Little Miss Sophie’s latest post featured on Junior Style, with all images by Julia Rozenfeld – In Anticipation Of Holidays To Come, here or In the Name of the Rose featuring Monnalisa. You may also like Fashion Pop Art, with images by Julia Rozenfeld.
Top & Second image: Sophie’s Blouse is by Nikolia, Julia’s Dress is by Asos White.
Middle Images: Pink Dress with stars is Little Marc Jacobs SS18 collection.
Last Image: Tulle Dress is by Nikolia, Chocolate Hat with fur pom poms by Carbon Soldier.
Photography courtesy of Julia Rozenfeld, all rights reserved. Styling by Julia Rozenfeld.
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