10 Questions: Indiana family law attorney has a second career in high fashion
If there were an official list for show business success, it would be topped with these two must-haves: an elegant evening gown and a good divorce attorney. Fortunately for starlets, singers and anyone else seeking both glamour and conscious uncoupling, there’s Mark Roscoe. From his home base in Valparaiso, Indiana, Roscoe heads both a thriving family law and mediation solo practice and a haute couture atelier, where his clients include Hollywood A-listers, a Carnegie Hall pianist, a Las Vegas headliner and even a young cancer patient who wanted to rock her senior prom. Family law and fabulous clothing are an improbable career combination, but Roscoe pulls them together, seamlessly.
Q. You’re essentially running two very different businesses. Do your law clients know that you could be in trial one day and then doing a fitting for a celebrity like Keegan-Michael Key the next day?
A. For many years, I kept my practice and my designing separate. I am in Indiana, and I thought people wouldn’t understand it. My fear was people wouldn’t see me as a credible lawyer if I also had a design side.
Q. Had anyone ever expressed a concern?
A. No. I’ve been really blessed in that respect. When you start doing red carpet events and you start dressing celebrities that are more notable, it brings a level of credibility to your brand, and people accept it.
Q. They should be celebrating it! I mean, you just did costumes for a movie starring Robin Givens, Malcolm McDowell and Iyad Hajjaj; fans of your neckties include actors Michael Keaton and Carl Weathers; and you’ve dressed actresses Bai Ling and Alice Amter of The Big Bang Theory. Two years ago, you won three Emmy awards for a Mark Roscoe Design marketing video. With all of this success, are you ever tempted to put your law practice on hold and see where fashion design takes you?
A. Not at all. I get so much satisfaction from the work that I do as a lawyer because of my ability to mediate and to help people through difficult times. But I also receive equal gratification through designing. As long as I continue to derive joy from what I am doing, I will continue to do both.
Q. Tell me about your mental process—do you keep law and fashion compartmentalized, or is it more of an integrated flow of ideas?
A. My mind is always flowing back and forth. If I am working on a divorce case, I process it while I am in the studio working with my hands. When you calm your mind, that’s when the magic happens: Ideas come that inspire you. Designing is like architecture—it’s how things work together. In the same manner, a divorce case or a mediation is like putting pieces together: How can I help this family through a difficult time in the best possible way? I am always processing my cases, thinking of ways to approach them and resolve them. I am never just a designer, and I am never just a lawyer.
Q. Have you ever thought about going on a reality show like Project Runway? I would totally tune in to watch a lawyer-mediator who could also design.
A. I had the opportunity to audition for it, but I decided I didn’t want the drama to be associated with my brand. If the focus were truly on skill and artistic value, I’d do it; but the behind-the-scenes cattiness is not me. Oftentimes you leave the season remembering the drama and not the talent.
Q. You probably see enough drama in divorce court. How did you get into fashion design?
A. My mom was a plus-size woman, and for many years, she would go out on shopping trips and come back empty-handed and with tears in her eyes. I thought: Why aren’t there designers out there creating garments for curvy women? This was 20 years ago, and back then, it was just about covering the body. There was no style or sense of design. So I purchased a sewing machine, and I taught myself to sew so I could make clothes for my mom. As she started looking better, she started taking better care of herself. When you look good, you feel good. One thing led to another, and I started designing for other women.
Q. How many people work for Mark Roscoe Couture?
A. At the moment, just my loving family that donates their time and energies. My sister, Valerie, and cousin, Ginger, are my extra hands and motivators that keep me focused. My secretary, Juanita, maintains my schedule and appearances, and Chef William keeps us all well-nourished during sewing marathons!
Q. And you have a great in-house counsel!
A. That’s the benefit of being a lawyer! I handle the entire business end on my own.
Q. You’re building a fashion brand from small-town Indiana. Is that a challenge?
A. I do maintain a satellite studio in Chicago. That’s where I conducted the fittings with Keegan-Michael Key when I dressed him for the Emmy awards. But if I need to meet a client in Los Angeles or Las Vegas or New York, I just fly out there. You don’t have to be physically located in the city where the work is performed, so long as you get your brand out there. It’s been really nice to have those opportunities from little old Valparaiso.
Q. Do you have any goals or dreams for your practice and your atelier?
A. Fortunately, I have been living my dreams. I try to stay in the moment and realize the full benefit of each experience without looking too far ahead. There is still so much to learn in my law practice and as a designer. Every lesson learned is important in my personal evolution and in creating that final picture. It’s interesting: When you give yourself emotional permission to do something, things just seem to happen. When your heart and your mind are in the right place, and your motivation is to help and to heal, opportunity flows.
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: "‘Putting Pieces Together’: From family court to haute couture, this Indiana solo helps clients present their best."