Born: Jane Carolyne Smith in Kirksville, Missouri, 7 May 1951. Education: Graduated from Washington University, St. Louis, 1973. Family: Married Axel Roehm, 1978 (divorced, 1981); married Henry Kravis, 1985 (divorced). Career: Designer, Mrs. sportswear by Kellwood Co. for Sears, Roebuck & Co., circa 1973; designer, Oscar de la Renta licensees, including Miss "O" line, New York, 1974-84; launched own deluxe ready-to-wear firm, New York, 1985, added couture line, 1988, footwear, 1989, closed house, 1991; launched mail order clothing, accessories, and gift collection, 1993, with related in-store boutiques at Saks Fifth Avenue, closed business again, 1994; president, Council of Fashion Designers of America, 1989. Awards: Pratt Institute award, 1991. Address: 550 7th Avenue, New York, NY 10018, USA.
A Passion for Flowers, New York, 1997.
Summer Notebook: Garden Hearth Traditions Home, New York, 1999.
Carolyne Roehm's Fall Notebook, with Alan Richardson (Photographer), New York, 1999.
Carolyne Roehm's Winter Notebook: Garden Hearth Traditions Home, New York, 1999.
Spring Notebook: Garden Hearth Traditions Home, with Melissa
Davis, New York, 2000. Seasonal Notebooks: Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring, New York, 2000. At Home With Carolyne Roehm, New York, 2001.
Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, New York Fashion: The Evolution of American Style, New York, 1989.
Steele, Valerie, Women of Fashion: Twentieth Century Designers, New York, 1991.
Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York, 1996.
Kornbluth, Jesse, "The Working Rich: The Real Slaves of New York," in New York, January 1986.
Jobey, Liz, "Vogue's Spy: Carolyne Roehm," in Vogue (London), September 1987.
Gross, Michael, "Roehm's Forum," in New York, 7 November 1988.
Mehle, Aileen, and Karen Radkai, "Carolyne Roehm: An Opulent Aesthetic for the Designer's Manhattan Residence," in Architectural Digest, September 1989.
Menkes, Suzy, "Couture's Grand Ladies," in the Illustrated London News, Spring 1990.
"Those Gilded Moments…" in Esquire (Special Issue), June 1990.
Howell, Georgina, "Roehm's Empire," in Vogue (New York), August 1990.
"The Designers Talk Passion, Whimsy and Picassos," in ARTnews (New York), September 1990.
"End of a Dream," in Time, 23 September 1991.
"Carolyne Roehm," in Current Biography, February 1992.
Ginsberg, Merle, "Henry and Carolyne Hit Hollywood," in WWD, 28 May 1992.
Norwich, William, "Roehm's Return," in Vogue, March 1993.
——, "The Roehm Report," in Vogue, December 1993.
Bowles, Hamish, "Paris and Roehm," in Vogue, June 1996.
"In Full Flower," (interview) in Vogue, October 1997.
Mehle, Aileen, "Carolyne Rohem in Manhattan: The Fashion Designer's Rooms on Sutton Place," in Architectual Digest, December 1997.***
Carolyne Roehm is an American designer who created clothes for men to love and women to find flattering. She is a person with a passion for designing beautiful, feminine clothes in luxurious materials, who took great care with the details. She opened the doors of her own ready-to-wear and couture design firm in 1985, only to close them six years later.
Designing clothes was a lifelong passion for Jane Carolyne Smith Roehm. After studying fashion design at Washington University, she spent a year designing polyester sportswear for Kellwood Co., a supplier for Sears, before working for Oscar de la Renta, holding pins and serving as his fitting model. She learned the details of classic couture from him and later designed the Miss "O" line. After 10 years with de la Renta, she formed her own design firm known as Carolyne Roehm, Inc.
Roehm designed for women, like herself, who had money and an active life, involved with benefits and social events, but who might also work outside the home. She is known for well-detailed, finely constructed, feminine clothes created to make women feel elegant. Fabrics were rich: cashmere, satin, velvet, and suede. Details might include trapunto stitching, embroidery, or leather trim. Roehm's eveningwear was glamorous, fairytale-like, to be seen in at social occasions and photographed at charity events. The dresses could be cut full and made of rich fabrics, reminiscent of those worn in the aristocratic portraits of the artist Franz Winterhalter, or sleek, sensuous columns recalling John Singer Sargent's Madame X. Although best known for her glamorous eveningwear, half of her design work was in everyday wear. She created sporty separates, dresses, coats, hats, and shoes. In all circumstances, Roehm's design work was known for quality and fit. She was numbered among the working rich; her second husband, Henry Kravis, financed her design firm before they were married. After their marriage she certainly didn't have to work, but she was driven. She designed her collections and used her organizational skills to support charity events. As president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Roehm guided the organization as it became a major supporter of AIDS research. She also served as her own fitting model and appeared in her own advertising campaigns.
In 1991 after the death of stepson, Roehm closed her design business. Afterwards she maintained a small office and staff, creating a mail-order business, produced an exclusive catalogue for Saks Fifth Avenue, and designed clothes for private customers. In 1994, despite her success with Saks, Roehm again closed her business.
In the late 1990s Roehm turned from fashion to flowers and began publishing a number of books on flower arranging and garden design. Her first, A Passion for Flowers, instructs the reader on arranging flowers in a way to accentuate their beauty. She organizes flowers by season, to make the reader aware that flowers can be enjoyed at any time of the year. Roehm has also written a series of "Notebooks," one for each season of the year. Each book comes with graph paper, pockets for notes or clippings, tips for flower arranging, recipes, and photographs. Roehm includes projects and decorating ideas for seasonal holidays in the books as well. It remains to be seen whether Roehm will return to glamorous, feminine clothing she so beautifully designed in the past.
updated by Andrew Cunningham