Henry Roth (right) with his very proud parents Joseph & Aneta and model.
When I walked through the foyer and waited for the lift to take me 20-something levels into the sky over Kings Cross, I began to get a little nervous. Nervous about the fact I was about to enter the home of inspirational Couture Bridal Designer, Henry Roth.
I arrived at his door, and was welcomed in with a glass of wine and an introduction to his two wonderful close friends. A beautiful redcurrant scented Vovito candle fills the air and Alicia Keys‘ acapella of ”New York” playing in the background. All my nerves dissolved and I instantly became a welcomed into the party of three, now four. Henry was hospitable and kind, and he set up a quiet area on his balcony overlooking Botany Bay, for us to have a conversation so I could get to know him.
After only a few minutes of talking to Henry, I instantly felt comforted, clear and inspired. Henry is a pure and humble person, who speaks what he thinks and feels. You will understand why Henry has grown up this way and become the success that he is, as you read this conversation I had with him below.
I hope you will take something away from this as much as I have…
What projects are going on in the wonderful world of Henry Roth?
I have just launched the affordable Couture Bridal Collection, which is basically launching wedding dresses from the price of $800 to the maximum price of $2000, it’s all about fashion forward gowns, without compromising quality and are extremely well priced. I continue to run my two fashions businesses in both New York and Sydney, traveling back and forward. I’m also starting to do alot of free to air work for Channel 9, it’s fashion commentary and I was the official fashion anchor for the Oscars, which was fantastic!
I’m also creating the the next collection for August, and I’ve just got back from Hong Kong from visiting my design workshop, then back to New York at the end of March till the end of May where I will do the launch for full couture in New York and doing designer days. There’s just so much going on!
What do you do to keep your mind busy and energised, away from designing and and your hectic career?
I do love writing poetry, I write alot of Hip Hop poetry in New York, where I do readings and write – have a look at Nuyorican, I’m a member of this group.
Who influences you in fashion?
With regards to my wedding dresses, what influences me is definately the brides. Brides today have taken us down the aisle, in so many different ways, so we design a very different way. Normally designers will create a very signature look, but that holds you to not being as diverse, so I design for garden weddings, beach wedding all the way to ballroom weddings. This makes it very diverse. So it’s the brides, weddings, red carpets and people on a day to day business. My sister Michelle who I work with is also my biggest influence, she is based in New York.
What is your favourite accessory?
My glasses – without a doubt! I have many pairs, I am a fashion ambassador for Specsavers which is actually very cool because you can indulge in your personalities when you go there. I can’t live without them!
What foods and drinks most excite your taste buds?
I’d have to say Indian. I love Indian. I also love traditional Israli food, as I am Jewish I love that. I’m not a huge drinker, but I do love to wake up to fresh juices in the morning, like apple, spinach, parsley, ginger, mint and lime juice.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Scented candles. I think it’s my real extravagance, I really do. They are very expensive, but my favourite at the moment is Vovito in redcurrant, it is my New York candle, it reminds me of New York. Also buying Canali suits at Bloomingdales in New York!
Greatest lesson learnt?
Don’t presuppose what somebody is thinking, and don’t jump too quickly to conclusions. Have the confidence to just let a situation lay for a little bit and you will find that instead of guessing why a person has been, maybe not in touch as much as normal, or maybe seems a little bit off, that will unfold. The minute you impose your fears onto a situation, then you can ruin a fantastic thing. That being a friendship, a business relationship, a fantastic thing moving forward and I’ve really learnt to just bite my tongue and let it pass. The biggest lesson for me by far.
What advice can you give fashion designers here in Australia?
The best advice I can give any designer is know what your niche is, know what you’re designing for, know who you’re designing for. My only minor criticism is sometimes young up and coming designers in Australia just need to think and be really clear in what they want to specialise in and then make sure what you are creating and designing are at the right price point, for the right market, for the right niche of who you’re designing for. There’s no point designing a gown or a garment or a piece of clothing that’s mis-targeted and mis-priced.
I’ve met your adorable parents Aneta and Joseph, they are absolute amazing and gracious people. What is one thing that they always told you?
My father always told me, respect and love people equally. Especially that they are survivors of the Holocaust, it doesn’t matter about the colour of your skin, your sexuality, your religion, everyone beats with the same heart. Respect people equally and expect the same respect.
My mother has always told me to keep my feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars. No one is better, and no one is worse then you. No one is.
If you were the Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, what would you inject money into fixing?
That is such an easy answer, and I’ve thought about it so much! The city of Sydney is dying. The soul, the passion and the meaning of our city is dying because George Street has basically become a two lane highway. It’s crap! I would immediately close down George Street, and I would immediately put tonnes of money into creating a tunnel underneath the city to get the traffic off the streets and turn it into a giant plaza.
I’m very worried about Westfields encapsulating the bubble of Wesfieldness, the city, and all the other shops around it, almost not competing, which is what happened on Oxford Street in Paddington and the death of Double Bay. It would be the closure of Town Hall, to Bridge Street. All the way down.
What are your thoughts in regards to fur and cruelty to animals for fashion, and the environment in general?
I don’t think I would ever use it in fashion, but I do think fur within reason is important, water conservation is essential, free range is important, organic is important, and I think caring about our planet. I do believe we are going through a crisis about our planet. But I think Australia is so ahead of the game, and I think it’s a shame the politics have got in the way of Australian really being the first to embrace carbon reduction.
I’m not political at all, but I want this to go on record – I think Rudd is a big talker, he has great ideas, he’s a great talker, but has done very little. Building broadband is ridiculous. The schools are a mess, the ideas were good, but the implementation is shocking. But his carbon reducing program reminds me, as a kid when they brought in Medicare. Imagine if we didn’t bring Medicare into this country in 1972. We would be going through the struggles that Americans are going through now.
What are your three pet hates?
Where do you prefer to live and work – Sydney or New York?
Alot of people ask me this question and I did live in New York eleven years full time from 1997 to 2008, and in that period of time I only came back to Sydney three times, for periods of only four or five days. Very short visits because my parents always came to visit me. I’ll answer it this way. I think the world has gone flat, it’s not round anymore, and you know it’s all the same goal posts. All influences are the same, the websites, internet, blogs, Blackberry, iPods, whatever it is. I’m amazed at how much Sydney has grown up, I think the Olympics actually globalised us, and also got rid of the inferiority complex which was very evident before I left.
I love both cities evenly. I really do. The thing I love most about Sydney and about Australia generally, is our humanity. We treat eachother with respect, we treat eachother with human dignity and the day that changes we will become un-Australian.
Favourite place to go for coffee, dessert, food, whatever!?
Favourite places for coffee, Cafe Le Monde, which is downstairs from where I work on Foveaux Street, and also Dolchetta. Angela there on Victoria Street, Potts Point is a doll, she is amazing and she makes her cappuccinos with love.
Best juices is definately at “Juice Me” in Kingsgate. They make awesome juices and they are super fresh!
For a great meal? Fratelli Fresh. I vary in my local area. My obsession at the moment is WOWCOW, they are amazing!
I would go to Hugos for a cocktail, I like to be close and in my zone. I feel like I’m in New York being close to everything.
I really hope you can appreciate this conversation I had with Henry Roth. After walking out of his home, many hours of talking about our lives, dreams and aspirations, I have built enormous respect for this atistic, creative, kind and generous man.