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Interview with Kelly Goss, Designer of Rock 'n' Needle

(March 31, 2010)
Interview with Kelly Goss
Kelly Goss is a 20 year old fashion designer from Swansea. She studied a two year National Diploma in Fashion and Clothing at Swansea College before progressing to the London Fashion Retail Academy.

Since completing a one year Diploma in Fashion Retailing in 2008, Kelly has set up her own brand named Rock ‘n’ Needle.

Inspired by tattoo artwork and rock ‘n’ roll culture, imagery is embroidered onto t-shirts and sweatshirts. In 2009 Kelly was invited to exhibit at the launch of London Clothes Show Live! Which led to Kelly winning ‘VQ Young Learner of the Year’ for Wales in association with The Welsh Assembly Government.

Kelly has been working with The Princes Trust in Swansea and 2010 has seen Rock ‘n’ Needle receive their first stockist being Ad Hoc, a famous celebrity boutique in Chelsea, London.  

Kelly has just won a place at the Drapers Magazine Next Generation Academy, where a select 100 people from the UK will represent up and coming talent and the future leaders of fashion retailing.

Excited by this design talent, Cymru Culture caught up with Kelly for an interview.

Kelly Goss 1
Rock 'n' Needle, at
CC ... When did your interest in fashion first start?
KG ... When I was around 14 I started going to Clothes Show Live in Birmingham. I loved the atmosphere and thought it must be amazing to have your own brand and sell your designs there. Over the years I became more interested in ready to wear, commercial collections as opposed to working freelance on bespoke designs. I have always customised my own clothing and experimented with techniques.

Kelly Goss 2
 Rock 'n' Needle, at
photo: Ryan Bater
CC ... Are there any designers or fashion styles which form part of your inspiration, or does the your inspiration for your designs come from other sources/ influences? You mention tattoo artistry as a source of inspiration ...

KG ... My inspiration comes from a wide variety of sources. I love tattoo artwork and this works brilliantly with embroidery. I am influenced by rock culture; my favourite designers include Vivienne Westwood, Gareth Pugh and Alexander McQueen. I look at new and old tattoos, imagery associated with punk and rockabilly. My embroidered designs were only released last May so I have yet to work on more than one collection. I  observe the trends, but don’t follow them religiously.
Kelly Goss 3
Rock 'n' Needle, at
photo: Steve Jones Images

CC ... How long does a typical design take to realise, in terms of from a sketch/idea to a finished garment?

KG ... It varies all the time. I rarely put my ideas on paper. I sample all my ideas before I make them so I test all the embroidered designs and fabrics. The embroidery can take anything from 20 minutes to an hour and a half. It depends on how detailed the design is. The T-shirt dresses and sweatshirts are a simple construction so are quite quick to produce.

Kelly Goss 4
Rock 'n' Needle, at

CC ... Setting up your own fashion label is a bold step for any designer. What difficulties did you encounter when you first got started?
KG ... 'When I first set up Rock ‘n’ Needle it was financially difficult as I wasn’t eligible for any funding or grants, because I don’t have a degree qualification. Luckily I found the The Princes Trust who have been invaluable and provide support at every level. It has been (and still is) difficult to produce collections without a studio, which is why I have transformed my bedroom.

Kelly Goss 5
Rock 'n' Needle, at 
Andy Espin Photography
CC ... Would you encourage other designers to start their own label and, if so, what advice would you give them?
KG ... I would encourage other designers to start their own label. I would advise them to start when they feel ready, not when other people tell them they can. Getting a part time job in fashion retail was a great help to me, it enabled me to save money for the brand and gain some experience. Be persistent and be confident. When I was styling shoots in London I never described myself as a trainee or young new stylist. I just advertised myself as a stylist which instantly gave me wider opportunities.

Kelly Goss 6
Rock 'n' Needle, at
photo:Andy Espin Photography
CC ... You studied Fashion and Clothing Design at Swansea College. Do you think it's important for designers to have both formal training and natural ability?
KG ... When I left school I felt I needed to be taught how to sew and pattern cut. I wanted to learn about garment construction, to develop and see what opportunities there were to do something different. Some people can teach themselves to sew, in which case formal training isn’t essential. I think it depends on how the individual feels. You have to have a positive approach and build on the ability you believe you have.
Kelly Goss 7
Rock 'n' Needle, at
CC ... Your use of embroidery is inspired by tattoo artistry. Why did you choose to express yourself in the medium of embroidery?
KG ... I chose embroidery because I wanted to do something that was different to print. I liked the texture and the look of embroidered motifs. I hadn’t seen a clothing brand with rock ‘n’ roll embroidered designs and felt tattoos would be cool to embroider onto clothes. I didn’t want to buy wholesale vests or use T-shirts which is why I created the T-shirt dress which can be worn either way
Kelly Goss 8
Rock 'n' Needle, at 
photo: Steve Jones Imag
CC ... Embroidery is often seen as a traditional craft. However, your designs are fresh and very modern. Did you consciously use this medium in a more modern style than that with which it is most commonly associated?
KG ... My original collection consisted of dresses and skirts, which I started to make, but I didn’t see anything interesting about them, so I scrapped it all. I went to my local sewing shop for some inspiration and when I saw the embroidery machine it reminded me of tattooing and I realised I could design whatever I wanted. This was exciting for me, as it fitted brilliantly with the name Rock ‘n’ Needle and I don’t think embroidered designs on clothing, used in a modern way, is a saturated market. If I had stuck to my original dresses I don’t think anybody would have looked twice!
Kelly Goss 9
Rock 'n' Needle, at
CC ... In recognition of your design talents you were asked to showcase your work at the Clothes Show Live, in London in 2009. That must have been an amazing experience.
KG ... It was amazing. It was extremely exciting driving into the Excel with a van full of stock! Setting up the day before was really inspiring as I saw brands such as Rimmel setting up and had the opportunity to chat to other brands. Clothes Show Live always has such a great atmosphere. It was a really fun experience and I can’t wait for the next one. One of the most surreal experiences was being at the Martini Bar standing next to Erin O’ Connor!

CC ... Your pieces have also recently started being stocked by fashionable boutique 'Ad Hoc'. This must have been really pleasing, after so many years hard work, to get such recognition from people who work in the fashion industry?
KG ... It is a great start for Rock ‘n’ Needle and I am delighted that my first stockist is Ad Hoc. I had to take the collection to the store and present it to the buyer/owner. To walk away with an order was a great moment. It would have been extremely disappointing if I they hadn’t have wanted to buy anything.
CC ... How does it make you feel to have your pieces supported and stocked by such a respected boutique?
KG ... It’s a huge achievement for me as Ad Hoc was in my top 5 for the country where I would love to see Rock ‘n’ Needle being stocked. It has a long history having been there since the 70’s, formerly the iconic Boy Store. Its a few shops away from Worlds End, Vivienne Westwood’s shop. It’s a brilliant location as lots of stylists for magazines drop in to view pieces to use.
Kelly Goss 10
Rock 'n' Needle, at
CC ... You've recently won a place at the Drapers Magazine Next Generation Academy. Tell us about this position and what it will involve.

KG ... Drapers ran a competition where 100 people in the UK would be selected to represent up and coming talent and the future leaders of the fashion industry. I entered and won a place. I will be attending a one day event in Soho, London where I will meet leading directors, buyers, merchandisers etc. The event is sponsored by, The Arcadia Group and Aurora Fashions. This will be highlighted in the magazine and online.
CC ... Were do you see your label in the next 12-24 months?
KG ... I’m looking for more stockists for Rock ‘n’ Needle and continuing to work with The Princes Trust. I want to keep exhibiting at Clothes Show Live, London and hopefully at  Clothes Show Birmingham, as the brand develops. My long term goal is to have a concession in Topshop, Oxford Circus, ASOS and a few stockists abroad. I think my designs would work really well in Japan! I’m developing a design to work in conjunction with a charity as I would like to give something back.

Between 12-24 months I aim to outsource manufacturing and work with a PR Agency. I would like to see if there are any opportunities with The British Fashion Council.'

CC ...  Kelly Goss, thank you.
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