My mother Ann Rouse, who has died aged 90, was a fashion designer who helped reinvent Welsh wool with her elegant modern designs inspired by Celtic culture.
In collaboration with Araminta, Lady Aldington and Holywell Textiles in North Wales, she was instrumental in rescuing the rare Jacob sheep, turning the unique but rough wool into beautiful garments in natural tones, which were featured in the famous Anna Rose Jacob collection (honoured by her) as Anna’s professional debut. She used a name).
Anne was born in Blackheath, South London, to her father Muriel (née Richards) and Ralph Patton, who worked for the Mazawatte Tea Company. Her younger sister was Jane Paton, a successful children’s book illustrator of the 1960s and 70s. At the start of the war the sisters were evacuated from London and stayed with relations first in Wales and then in the Shrewsbury area.
While Anne and her sister were at school, their father was reported missing, they assumed he was dead, and their mother eventually remarried. However, in the mid-50s, Ann received a phone call when she appeared in a newspaper article about her work. She immediately knew it was her father. After meeting again, they had a warm relationship. But what happened was never revealed to Anne.
Anne attended Shrewsbury High School, transferring to Croydon High School after the war. She showed great talent for art and, in 1946, after her school leaving certificate, was sent to France to continue her education, on a student exchange arrangement with families in Paris. The first family were active communists, which was no less shocking to Anne than her family – then based in Purley, Surrey – when it was their turn to respond.
As a student in Paris, Anne got her first taste of the world of high fashion and met Coco Chanel. On her return to England, she enrolled at St. Martin’s School of Art. After graduating, she was hired as a designer for a London fashion company, which sent her to haute couture shows in Paris. Each night she returns to her room to draw the designs from memory to take back to London.
In the year In 1954, Anne married Richard Rice, who worked in human resources. She soon combined an increasingly successful business with raising three children in a sprawling Arts and Crafts house in Oxted, Surrey. The door was never locked, with the children’s family and friends – and later, the grandchildren – always welcome at Sunday lunches around the large Welsh farmhouse dining table. In later years Anne and Richard moved to Rye in East Sussex to be closer to me.
Even in retirement, Anne kept busy making clothes – often in wool – for her grandchildren, whom she adored deeply. Jacob’s sheep are now well-known in the British countryside.
Richard He died in 2009. Ann is survived by her children, Anthony, Simon and I, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.