Stylist Rubi Rockafella is Breaking Trends and Pioneering the Weird

Rubi Rockafella's fashion journey blends her mom's flair, childhood fascination, and Jamaican roots, shaping a unique style that's making waves in the industry's eclectic world.

Rubi Rockafella, a first-generation Jamaican-American artist hailing from Tampa, Florida, is making waves in the world of fashion and art with her brand Daisy Denim Co. Known for her eccentric, colorful, and deeply personal creations, Rubi’s artistic journey is one fueled by a passion ignited in her childhood, guided by her Jamaican roots, and influenced by the vibrant world around her.

In a recent interview with Arkive Media Co, Rubi opened up about her artistic journey and the roots of her passion for styling and fashion. “Definitely my mom,” she exclaimed when asked about her inspiration. “My mom is like a huge fashionista. She was a seamstress back in Jamaica and taught me how to sew when I was pretty young, so definitely her.”

Rubi’s unique style, characterized by a refusal to conform to trends, traces back to her early years. “I almost never conformed to the trends. I was like, ‘I’m just gonna do me. I’m just gonna wear the coolest thing I could possibly wear,'” she shared. This commitment to individuality and her love for the unconventional have shaped her brand’s identity.

How did your journey into the world of fashion begin, and who inspired your passion for styling?

Definitely my mom. My mom is like a huge fashionista. When I was younger, everything that she did was clothes. She was a seamstress back in Jamaica, and she taught me how to sew when I was pretty young, so definitely her.

Love that it runs in your family. Has there been a pivotal moment when you realized that fashion was your calling?

When I was younger, I went with my sister to a family friend’s house. Her daughter was coloring on these blank fashion silhouettes, and I was interested immediately. I asked her how she did it and then went home, printed out the silhouettes, and started sketching. I was nine at the time, and everyone was like, “Oh my God, these are so great! You should design clothes. You’re going to do this for Michelle Obama” and all these people. And in my mind, I could see it all so clearly. So I think that was definitely the moment when I knew I wanted to do it forever.

It’s really amazing that you’ve always had a support system, people hyping you up. In what ways has your style evolved over the years?

So I grew up with a pretty strict mom who picked out my outfits until I was in 9th grade. I would always get compliments. People would be like, “Oh my God, this is so cool!” and I would just say, “My mom picked this out.” Then, when I was finally able to start picking out my own outfits, Tumblr was big at the time, and I was like, “Oh my God, I can be weird!” My mom is really into antiques, and we would go thrift shopping, and while she was looking for cool knick-knacks, I would be over by the clothes and I would just pick up the craziest, most adventurous thing I could find and wear it to school. You know, I almost never conformed to the trends. I was like, “I’m just gonna do me. I’m just gonna wear the coolest thing I could possibly wear.” And yeah, I think I’m still the same. I don’t really think my style has changed too much. It’s definitely gotten trendier, though.

What aspects of your culture have influenced your personal style and design choices?

I’m originally from Miami. I moved here when I was 7. I was like an Internet kid. My family was very protective, so I couldn’t really go anywhere. Everything I did was online. I was on Tumblr, I was on Instagram. It was the early days of Instagram, and I would scroll through the old fashion blogs. I think that just seeing other people do weird things influenced me, and also being from a Jamaican household, Jamaicans are known to be extra, very extra and fashion forward, especially my parents. So I think my mom and my family have influenced everything for me.

So as a designer, creating a cohesive narrative in your collections can be challenging. How do you approach this aspect of your work?

Oh my gosh. I think cohesion is one of the things I struggle with. I have ADHD, and it flows through everything. So when I’m working on a collection for a show I’m like, “Okay, keep it together.” I buy the same fabric and try to put it together in a cohesive way. It’s definitely a struggle for me, but you know, after my last show, someone told me they loved that my collection had a story. And I think sometimes it’s more about the story that the collection tells and the cohesion of that story than the cohesion of the individual pieces. Like, as long as the story makes sense, I can roll with it. It makes sense how it goes down the runway. It’s all about the song you choose, the order you put the pieces in, and the fabric you use. So yeah, I think I keep it cohesive through the story more than the color or the fabric. Even though I would like to keep it more cohesive, I think my next show will definitely focus more on the color cohesion.

It’s a work in progress, okay?

It is. It’s a work in progress. It’s only my second show. There’s more to come.

"Stay true to who you are. My sister and I were the only ones in school with high-waisted pants and vintage windbreakers. We looked crazy in 9th grade. But by our junior year, everyone was doing it. Don't doubt yourself. Just keep being you, and it will pay off. It might even become a trend."

With your last collection crafted in a studio apartment, what does your ideal workspace look like, and how does it enhance your creative process?

Oh my God, a loft studio with windows and a view of some cities is my dream! I used to live in a loft apartment in downtown Dallas, and I was so inspired. But at the time, I didn’t have a machine or resources. I sewed everything by hand. I was also tie-dyeing, hand-sewing, and painting. I wish I could go back to that place with the tools I have now. So definitely wood, brick, high ceilings, big windows—that’s my ideal space! I’m a small-town girl with a big city heart.

Staying authentic in the ever-evolving fashion industry is crucial. How do you navigate trends while maintaining your unique voice?

I feel like when you’re yourself and stay true to you, and you know, stay weird, you’ll always be on trend. I know it’s a big cliché, but it’s true. I struggled a little bit with my last show. I was like, “Oh my God, it’s not trendy enough.” Actually, my last show last year and this year were right before Fashion Week, and I saw a lot of the same things that I did turn into big trends during Fashion Week. Like last year, I closed with a wedding dress, and everybody else closed with a wedding dress at Fashion Week. Or this year, I did ruffles and crochet, and then I saw a lot of ruffles and crochet. And I was like, “See, I need to stay true to myself.” I think I just have a little fashion forecast meter.

I love that! You’re starting the trends! What advice would you give to stylists and designers who are facing those challenges in their creativity?

Stay true to who you are. I’ve always been the weird one, you know? My sister always says that. My best friend and I started this whole shift in high school because we were just weird. At first, people were like, “What the heck?” We were the only ones in school with high-waisted pants and vintage windbreakers. We looked crazy in 9th grade. That wasn’t in style at the time. But by our junior year, everyone was doing it. We were like, “We did that!” Maybe it was the internet, but lowkey we did that. So don’t doubt yourself. Just keep being you, and it will pay off. It might even become a trend.

Since you’re actually out shopping for a client right now, can you provide a glimpse into your daily routine as a stylist and designer?

I tell a lot of stylists, “Don’t put too much of yourself into your client. Definitely take them into consideration. But people do seek you out based on your vibe.” And I realize how a lot of people just give me creative range and say, “You know, do what you want to do.” I usually make a mood board. I just need the general idea. I make a mood board even for my shows as well. I also thrift a lot. I’m all about sustainability. I actually just signed a contract for a deal with Avalon Exchange. I do believe in sustainability in my designing. All my fabrics are thrifted or sourced from vintage stores. A lot of the things that I style with are from resale shops or thrift stores. I do come to the mall sometimes if I have a higher paying client. Today I’m shopping for a realtor. But most of the time I’m thrifting or sourcing from resale stores.

Again, I know I keep saying this, but if you’re being authentic to yourself, people are just going to seek you out and be like, “That girl knows what she’s doing. I like that outfit.” I do a lot of shoot styling as well, like editorial styling. People see that and they’re like, “I want to wear that every day.” And I’m like, “You should! I got you.” And so securing that deal with Avalon recently has been a huge help because now I’m able to rent their pieces for shoots and things like that. People can try them on, and I can let them keep what they want to keep or return what they don’t like. It’s a lot easier than coming out of pocket. But I tell a lot of people when they’re just starting out, you’re going to have to come out of pocket. You’re going to have to do a lot of free shoots. You’re going to have to work with a lot of clients that don’t want to pay. But it pays off in the end.

It’s a journey for sure.

Art is a journey, and you may have to be a starving artist for a while, unless you get lucky. Sometimes you do get lucky, but it pays off. I’ve been styling professionally for about four years now, and it’s starting to pay off. So I think it’s just a journey that we all kind of have to take and, you know, just stick to it.

What exciting projects do you have in store for the near future?

So, I am working on a project with a photographer I work with, Mind of Junior. I am also dropping something at the end of the year for my styling service. I had a dream last night that it went really well, and someone told me I shouldn’t say anything until I have it. But yes, I do have exciting things coming up, and I am really excited to share them with everyone.

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