Designer Spotlight: Rozemerie Cuevas

A decade ago, in a move that raised more than a few perfectly plucked eyebrows, Jacqueline Conoir designer Roze­merie Cuevas abandoned her 15-year Granville Street retail location, merging her sales floor and studio space into a 5,000-square-foot warehouse on the East Side. The resulting Jacqueline Conoir Studio was a revival of the Parisian salon, a business model lamentably out of vogue since the 1960s. Her breakout success introduced to the city a new direct-retail concept and allowed her to host events, photo shoots, and fashion shows all in one convenient location.

Established in 1985, the Jacqueline Conoir label presented an aesthetic—chic, streamlined, and urban—that was markedly different from the hippy hangover in which the city was still wallowing. Cuevas, having just returned from studying fashion in Paris, realized that the swelling ranks of women in the workforce needed appropriate office attire. “I decided to work on their behalf.”

And so she did, for 25 years. But nothing in fashion stays still. Cuevas has now rebranded Jacqueline Conoir with a more youthful but still sophisticated look: “Women today just aren’t aging at all.” The tailored tweeds that marked collections past have given way to light tweed-style prints, while bold pieces, like bolero jackets, are softened with ultra-feminine ruffle details. The shift coincides with another move for the company: this time to an 8,000-square-foot retail-and-studio space divided between two floors. And Cuevas has given herself yet another project: Jac, a new, edgier line incorporating the designer’s love of contemporary European trends like box-cut tops, biker jackets, and retro-’80s touches like exposed zippers.  

“I’m a woman who wants to evolve and move forward,” says the unrivalled grande dame of Vancouver fashion, “and so are my clients.” A quarter-century into this fickle business, Cuevas welcomes the coming challenge. “I can design Jacqueline Conoir in my sleep,” she says. “It’s not that I haven’t loved what I’ve done up until now. It’s just that I’m really interested in something that is more international and hits an edgier market because I’m in that stage of my life as well. I’m not ready to pack it in yet.”