Haute couture, Reno style

Roxanne Jitomir left New York’s high fashion world and headed to Reno to design and market her own clothing line

Fashion designer Roxanne Jitomir made Jane’s Addiction’s New Year’s Eve show costumes.

Fashion designer Roxanne Jitomir made Jane’s Addiction’s New Year’s Eve show costumes.

Photo by David Robert

It’s a classic story of gamble and pluck: Big City Girl has it all—cutting edge artist friends, a gig as design assistant to Betsey Johnson, access to New York’s haute couture empire—but sells the glamour and security so she can buy the dream.

Big City Girl moves to Reno, where high fashion begins and ends with the sequined shoes on display at Reno Hilton shops, to start a clothing line bearing her own name.

Roxanne Jitomir moved to Reno almost three years ago to be near her mom and step dad, who promised her financial help in starting a business. She now sells her line of sexy urbanwear to fashion boutiques across the nation, including local shop Venus Envy, and designs costumes for theater companies, MTV and the occasional rock star. She recently dressed Jane’s Addiction for its New Year’s show in Los Angeles.

“This blouse was on MTV about a month ago,” she says, indicating the slinky pink number she wears, which bears the signature Jitomir synthesis of cheeky attitude and old-fashioned romance. Long ribbons hang from its sleeves, adding an element of flirty femininity to its clubwear sass. She mentions her love for “irony or juxtaposition;” Jitomir often will take thrift store dregs and sew on ribbons and lace, resulting in what she calls “tattered opulence.”

“I love the Victorian era, the 1930s,” she says. “It goes back to that irony, you think it shouldn’t go together, but it does.”

You could say the same for everything about Jitomir: Her long black dreadlocks are somehow completely congruous with her wide, disarming smile and soft, girlish voice; she wears the slinky MTV shirt with a yellow homespun scarf made to look like the turtleneck of a sweater—and that works, too. Her pants are black and shiny. To say she stands out amid the other lunchtime patrons at Dreamers Coffeehouse is an understatement. She admits that she misses New York’s vitality and diversity.

“Everybody’s always pushing the envelope in New York, and you really soak that in. Here, you don’t have as many people daring to be different, but I try to combat that with thousands of foreign fashion magazines.”

Networking is also tough here, but Jitomir makes frequent trips L.A. to buy fabrics and to schmooze with its fashion world. She hopes to move in the direction of costuming and couture—producing more daring, one-of-a-kind items.

“I never just think of [fashion] as clothing; it’s a little more like conceptual art for me,” she says, adding that most of her friends are figurative painters, mixed media artists, musicians—not fashion designers. She says that it’s artists, those who don’t care about trends, who just wear what they want and always look good without effort, who motivate her.

“Those are the people I want to dress," she says. "It’s self-expression. Like their bodies are walking art forms."