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Rachel Roy Shares How Her Mixed Ancestry Shaped Her Style in an Exclusive Excerpt From Her Upcoming Book

Rachel Roy Shares How Her Mixed Ancestry Shaped Her Style in an Exclusive Excerpt From Her Upcoming Book
Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Diane Von Furstenberg
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In her upcoming style-centric tome, designer Rachel Roy reflects on her early days in fashion, launching her label—and how her mixed ethnicity became a catalyst for her collections. Plus, a first look at the cover.

"Being the daughter of a statuesque Dutch mother and an Indian immigrant father cov­ered in tattoos taught me how to blend, mix, and integrate influences and styles like no design class ever could. I always felt a deep sense of attachment to both sides of my family and a pro­found identification with both cultures. Wearing influences from both sides of my genetic land­scape always seemed to be the most natural way for me to celebrate my mixed heritage and pay homage to both my Dutch and my Indian roots.

Rachel Roy Design Your Life
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I quickly found that seemingly contradictory staples from both of my cultures actually complemented each other in an incredibly interesting way. I found ways to incorporate my tan leather Indian-inspired sandals with long, traditional peasant skirts I’d seen in pho­tos of locals in the Netherlands. It was eye-opening and inspiring to realize how much beauty can be found in atypical pairings, and the eclectic combinations not only connected me even closer to my biracial identity, but were more interesting than the likely pairings I could have opted for. Today in my designs, I mix prints that comple­ment one another, which I feel adds life, depth, and vibrancy to an outfit. When done right, blending is extremely flattering, and any fear of clashing is quickly quelled by the sight of how certain prints and shapes actually accentuate just the right curves and camouflage the rest. The trick to brilliant blending is, as with everything in life, to always incorporate balance. When going bold with a crisp graphic style, even out the overall look with something delicate or ladylike, such as a floral or washed out tie-dye. Do not underestimate the importance of color and tone: the easiest way to mix and match is to settle on a hue that works with your skin tone and plays up your best features. For example, play up eye color, go for a complementary tone; same for your hair and complexion: Beautiful mocha complex­ion? Try a shot of cobalt to complement your skin tone. Once you have your color palette down, which really requires holding things up to you in a mirror and being honest about what highlights and what does not, select pieces in varying shades of that hue to create a more current, layered look. If you have a hard time stepping out of your neutral-tones-only comfort zone, and the idea of blending prints and patterns seems overwhelming, start small with a floral shoe or patterned purse. Just a little pop of pattern goes a long way, and once you feel comfortable flaunting a bit of personality, you may be emboldened to go bigger and brighter.

When you are ready to mix your prints or stripes, I have a few rules I let loosely guide me:

Balance a graphic with something lighter in feel. A graphic could be anything with direct harsh lines or shapes, from grid stripes to polka dots. Lighter-feeling prints are just that: washed-out animal prints or painterly florals. If you want to mix like prints together, such as stripes with stripes, choose similar-colored pieces and mix the width and size of the stripes. Same for mixing similar prints together in one look, like florals; choose colors that go well together and just mix the scale of the actual flowers in the print. Once you feel confident in those choices you can move on to more risk-taking print combinations."

Design Your Life: Creating Success Through Fashion and Style is available for pre-order at rachelroy.com and will be released on March 15, 2016.

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