Carla Rockmore thought TikTok was just a dance app, so why on earth would she get on it? It’s April 2021, and the Dallas-based designer has spent the past year posting fashion and styling videos to YouTube for her 91 followers. Those videos had started as way to keep herself busy during the pandemic. She needed to do something creative, and her friends had said, “entertain us, please, because you’re funny and we are miserable.” Now her kids are saying, “let’s put you on TikTok.” She gives in and lets her teenager post. Rockmore goes from 91 followers to 250,000 in a week.
Fast-forward to August 2022. The 55-year-old Rockmore now has 1.6 million social media followers across TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. She’s cultivated a loyal following of all ages, thanks to her light-hearted, comedic videos; her Ms. Frizzle-meets-Carrie Bradshaw persona; her 50-plus styling tips; and her enviable two-story closet.
“I found it a blessing,” Rockmore says of her overnight social media stardom, “because all of a sudden, I had all this stuff to do and talk about and share.”
In addition to the videos, Rockmore’s also launched a fine jewelry line with Stanley Korshak last July, and has a costume jewelry line in the works for the fall. She designed and launched a capsule collection with Amazon’s The Drop, which sold out in hours. Her second The Drop collection launches today, August 24.
We caught up with Rockmore to discuss her style, her video production process, and her fabulous closet. (You can also read more about Rockmore’s design history and Stanley Korshak collection in D’s October issue.)
In additional to your style, you’ve become known for your funny, Ms. Frizzle-like personality in your videos. Do you ever feel like this persona you’ve cultivated online isn’t reflective of who you are offline?
No, I am pretty much that same person that you see. Like a lot of my girlfriends are like, “Oh, Carla, it’s just you!” Especially my older girlfriends. One thing that people don’t see, which is not the easiest, is the amount of time. The amount of time it takes. This is not just a fun little skip through the park. I worked very hard. And I worked very long hours.
How long does it take to make a video?
An average video will take about two hours, which is very different than posing for a picture. And it’s a very different process.
The idea I’ll have beforehand, but pulling all the clothes, making sure that the outfit…It’s funny because I should be more methodical about it. I should really get dressed in the full outfit and make sure I’m happy with it before I start shooting. And I don’t do that because I want to keep it a little raw. A little bit of like we’re both seeing where this is gonna go.
So how would you describe your style?
I don’t like to box myself in. I’ll wear Jil Sander Austerity today, and tomorrow go into full on Vivienne Westwood. I don’t bother myself too much with “oh, but is that my style?” I wear what resonates with me in the moment and in the day.
Do you have any go-to accessories or articles of clothing?
I never get tired of a white, crisp shirt dress because to me it’s a canvas, I can throw all my baubles all over it, whether it’s a belt or a bracelet, and it looks different. So, I guess anything that makes me feel like a chameleon.
I love a cargo pant, like an army-green military-style pant. And I have way too many of them in every different fabric, permutation, and combination, primarily because I find it such a practical piece or style or color. Army green, it works with every color. It’s a neutral shape and size. It’s kind of baggy and more comfortable. It has a bit of a masculine feel to it, which allows me to then wear a fuchsia frilly blouse to juxtapose against the masculine military style at the bottom. I like tension in a look. So, if I’m going full on fluffy and girly, I might do it with a really, rocker, spiky punk high heel. And if I’m going for something a little more edgy, then I might do a really pretty pink lip.
Why is it so important for someone to develop their own style?
We have to listen to those little inner voices in our heads more than we listen to the runway trends. Because if you just wear the status quo, what is coming down the runway every season, you’re never going to develop your own style. You’re only going to be developing somebody else’s brand. And there won’t be as much character for your look if you don’t mix it up with yourself in it.
You’ve said you found your now-iconic closet on Zillow. What were your thoughts when you saw it?
I saw its potential. And I was like, “Honey, I think we can work with this one.”
That was in 2014. We had about two years here where we were renting, trying to get our bearings, before we decided [to buy]. There was no plan to making this an iconic wardrobe. And now we’re like, “okay, well, how do we move?”
What did you do before you had this closet space?
Oh, I ran from closets closet in any house that I owned in my panties, running around, trying to put it all together. Both my husband and I were very pleased that I wasn’t running around in my panties anymore. But, like most people, it was like just throw a little bit [of clothes] into the heater closet, a little bit into the kids’ rooms, and a rolling rack at the back of a sofa and whatnot.
And one thing I really love about your videos is that you’ll bring out items that you’ve had for years. What’s your process for deciding which clothes to keep and which to get rid of?
If I really think it suits me, if it really speaks to me, I don’t care how old it is. If it has holes, then … I have that remade. Whereas if I’ve got a piece that’s very, very expensive, and I only bought last year, but I have not been wearing it, and it’s not speaking to me, I’ll get rid of it. It’s really about keeping the things that resonate with me. And also I know that things are coming back. So unfortunately, it’s only getting bigger because fashion is cyclical. And it will always come back. Everybody’s talking about the low-rise jean, and everything nowadays is low-rise. Well, I lived it. And guess what, I still have all of it.