Heads turn as GraceRose Bauer walks into her Sherman Oaks studio on a Tuesday afternoon, wearing a colorful floral dress of her own design.
“Hi GR!” says the in-house seamstress. The fashion designer smiles excitedly as she continues walking through the fabric-filled rooms, where she is checking on samples of her latest designs. This is a familiar routine for the 13-year-old designer and CEO of RosieG Style.
Bauer was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) at birth. Despite two hours of at-home treatments daily, not to mention regular doctor visits, Bauer has managed to breathe life into her youth clothing line, and has become a fashion phenomenon in young Hollywood. She carries herself with the sophisticated elegance and intelligence of a successful fashion designer, though if you peel back the layers, you’ll hear the same text-talk colloquialisms and goofy laughter of your typical eighth grader.
“Having Cystic Fibrosis has stopped me in some ways, but it’s also helped me!” she said. “It’s the reason I have this clothing line. It may stop me because I’m sick and can’t go out, but then I’ll just design from home or the doctor’s!”
She attends Millikan Middle School in Sherman Oaks, where she is a member of the Musical Theatre Academy. She dances, sings, acts, and spends lots of time with her close group of friends, several of whom she uses as models for RosieG. Many of her friends do not even realize that she has CF, though she does not hide her ailment. She has been taught that there is nothing embarrassing about having Cystic Fibrosis, which causes mucus build-up in the lungs and can be fatal if not properly treated.
“There should be no taboo,” said Leah Bauer, GraceRose’s mother and greatest ally. “The more we talk about CF, the more people will know, the sooner we’ll find a cure.”
Leah Bauer, who has raised GraceRose as a single parent, with the help of her supportive family, had been designing clothes professionally before GraceRose was born. The pair lived in Leah’s hometown of New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina, which left Leah and 2-year-old GraceRose homeless. They decided to move to sunny SoCal, where much of Leah’s business was conducted.
Because Bauer had been treated for CF for two years prior to the category 5 hurricane, she had to find a new team of skilled pediatricians, doctors and internists after relocating. However, there was one constant in the Bauer girls’ lives that made the cross-country move along with them: fashion. Leah had begun orchestrating fashion-show fundraisers for GraceRose’s cause immediately after she was diagnosed as a newborn. She would use her expertise as a designer to raise money for the GraceRose Foundation, a non-profit started in GraceRose’s name that uses fashion to raise funds for Bauer’s treatments and CF research.
By the 10th annual fashion fundraiser, 10-year-old GraceRose made it evident that she wanted to be the boss, and RosieG Style was formed, earning its name from the alter-ego GraceRose would assume while dressing up in her mother’s clothing as a little girl.
“No one is forcing me to do this,” said GraceRose, “I love fashion! This is something I want to do. It’s different because I’m designing to help my own cause.”
Bauer, a voracious drawer, designs all of her clothing, which is sold online through her website and the Nordstrom website, and will soon be sold in a handful of Nordstrom retail stores nationally. She caters mostly to her peers (her line carries youth size 7-14) and designs everything from graphic dance t-shirts to red-carpet gowns. She is in command at her studio in Studio City, where she models samples while posing dramatically for herself in the mirrors. Once she decides which samples her friends would most likely buy, they are sent to her downtown LA factory, where they are produced for retail.
Halfway through showing me her sketching notebook during our tour of her studio, she screams excitedly, “Mom! I just thought of a new shirt!”
“Draw it while it lasts!” responds her mother from the next room over.
Her creativity is evident in the pages of her sketchbook, and her infectious energy settles when her pencil hits the paper.
Leah adores watching her daughter fulfill her passions, and finds herself being the boss’ boss. Since 2013, she has been her daughter’s greatest supporter and friend.
“For me, it’s everything I’m doing anyway! I’m doing fundraising, I’m hanging out with my kid, and I’m designing, so it makes sense that I’m going in this direction with it, and really kind of helping her feed this engine,” said Leah, who also supports GraceRose’s school shows, assists her with at-home treatments, and buys her her beloved Starbucks lattes.
It is not uncommon for GraceRose to see her classmates donning her latest designs, and she often makes custom creations for young actors and actresses to show-off on the red carpet. The fashion shows that her mother began back in New Orleans to raise money for her daughter have exploded into the pinnacle event of the RosieG calendar, and are held each summer to raise money for CF research.
On Aug. 20, the CBS Radford backlot will be teeming with pint-sized fashionistas, models, actors and circus performers. At the “purple” – which represents the color commonly associated with Cysistic Fibrosis research – carpet kids, teens and adults can take photos, while educating themselves about what CF truly entails. Proceeds will go towards CF research, and the acronym “GR4CF (GraceRose for Cystic Fibrosis)” will be circulated widely on social media, in an attempt to raise awareness about the cause and the clothing.
“I want to be one of the really big brands that everyone will know, love and buy! I think I’m going to definitely help cure CF faster through fashion,” she said.
The brand symbol, a purple rose, is naturally representative of Bauer’s name, and also symbolizes the common nickname for Cystic Fibrosis – “sixty-five roses.”
As GraceRose continues to march towards a cure, you can rest assured that she will be in style.
GraceRose’s 2016 fundraiser will take place on Aug. 20 at the CBS Radford backlot, and will feature a live youth-centric fashion show, young circus performers, and a silent auction. Proceeds will go to the gracerosefoundation for CF research. Tickets can be purchased here: https://squareup.com/store/grace-rose-foundation/