It’s one of Roger Canamar’s earliest memories — getting lost in the racks of dresses at Frost Bros. in his native Texas while his mom shopped. But it was at age 16, while watching Diana Ross in Mahogany, when he fell in love with design. “I was enamored with the high-fashion,” he says. “That was instrumental in my choices from that moment on.”
Fast-forward a few decades, and Roger Canamar Couture is dressing Orange County’s most discriminating women of style in divine looks that embody elegance and sophistication, with details like billowing sleeves, flowing wraps, and artful touches (think cascading silk chiffon and organza overskirts) that are as alluring as the feminine mystique. His newest offerings ($1,095–$6,000) are a spot-on translation of high-fashion trends for the holidays, with winter white, all shades of gray, aubergine, and of course, classic black taking the lead. “Marsala is a great color to mix with winter white and black,” he notes. “Aubergine is spectacular with gray and beige, which makes these colors a perfect standout for Orange County.”
His line launched in 2011 with five staple pieces. (A wrinkle-free sheath made of menswear fabric has become one of his most popular signature items.) Clients book private appointments with Canamar at his design studio — which is a far cry from where he made his first couture sale. “I overheard a woman saying she needed a cocktail dress,” he recalls. “I got it out of my car. She tried it on. And it was sold in a matter of minutes. To this day, she’s a loyal customer who purchases two or three pieces a month.”
But success didn’t come overnight. He landed his first job in retail back in 1980. That’s when he began learning about fabrics and textures and was introduced to the work of Ralph Lauren. After six months on the job, he was tapped to sell the designer’s womenswear at his South Coast Plaza boutique. “I quickly picked up the lingo, knowing the difference between a dolman sleeve and a set-in sleeve,” he says. “And I knew how to dress women so beautifully.”
With his parents’ support, Canamar soon opened Nina Cie Couture, a boutique (named for his mother) that grew a cult-like following among the fashionable Orange County crowd. After closing the store a few years later, he pivoted in a surprising direction and opened Notorious Model Management. His clients appeared in national campaigns for Versace, Saint Laurent, Abercrombie & Fitch, and, in a full-circle moment, Ralph Lauren.
Yet Canamar still felt the ache to create, so he decided to pursue his passion: design. He worked for a private label in L.A. before moving on to a European luxury brand. The only thing he hadn’t done was launch his own clothing line. And so Roger Canamar Couture was born. He still draws inspiration from his original five-piece collection. “It’s a line that celebrates femininity and feels empowering,” he says. “It’s certainly not for someone who isn’t confident.”