Designer Michelle Rene’ Thinks in Pink


By Tara Cushing (@TheBravoBlonde)

When people think New York Fashion Week, they think of lofty, often sterile feeling, event spaces with lines of chairs. For Michelle Rene’s pink themed fall fashion show, the Pennsylvania based designer went a different route. Off the beaten path, it felt kind of like an Off-Broadway NYFW production, but upon entering the venue it made perfect sense. In a bar appropriately named Stitch that bore a large Singer sewing machine over the door, Rene’s models (whom she affectionately calls her “girls”) strolled a long path down a spiral staircase to that giant sized Singer and back, to music that sounded like a compilation right from my favorite Pandora station (dreamy, melodic, chick music…think JES). The girls, all different sizes and skin tones (Rene’ prides herself on showcasing “real women”), may not have looked anything alike, but they all had one very obvious thing in common. Each one was wearing pink. Rene’s latest collection is an homage to breast cancer awareness. Read on to find out more about (and see) this very special group of gowns, created by a very special woman.

TBB: What was your inspiration for this collection?

MR: Well, basically this collection was inspired by my belief in educating others about breast cancer awareness. I really wanted to do something that was fun and playful and, of course, pink. I’m hoping that the images and the gowns will help bring some awareness. I think (breast cancer) education is a priority. There’s a lot of (research) going on in finding a cure,  but I think the general public really needs to be educated about the dangers, the signs, and what they can do.

TBB: Have you, yourself, had experience with breast cancer?

MR: Yes, I have. I am a survivor for many years now. When I was very young I had a lumpectomy, so I’ve been battling it for quite some time. I’ve met some wonderful people along my journey. I’m inspired when I think about the friends that I have and the friends that I’ve lost, and the friends that I’m still going to meet. All that keeps me going.

TBB: Your dresses are very feminine. Who are some of the other designers that have inspired you?

MR: That’s a tough question to answer, because it really isn’t another designer or a genre. I’m inspired by the fabric. The way it moves, the way it talks to me, and the emotions it brings to me. It’s hard for me to pick just one designer because I love all the designers. Designers are just amazing people. The first designer that really caught my eye would have to be Betsey (Johnson). She’s kind of like my secret crush.

TBB: Your dresses are very beautiful and they are really special. What types of events do you see the pieces from this collection being worn to?

MR: I think they can be worn to any event. I think my esthetic is not about the dress itself. I think one of the things that irritates me the most is when someone comes up to one of my models or a client and says, ‘Oh my God that’s a beautiful dress.” I don’t want them to see the dress, I want them to see the woman wearing it. I want them to see how confident, how beautiful, and how poised she is. I think clothing has a great deal to do with that. When you look good and you’re confident in what you wear it just shows through. When people see my designs, or they see a client or a bride I love hearing them say (to the wearer) ‘YOU look so beautiful!’

TBB: How long does it take to put a collection like this together?

MR: It takes months. I will sit down and start something and then I will Tim Gunn myself. I go into my studio and I tear it all apart, and then I put it all back together. So anywhere from four to six months, but my wheels are constantly turning. I mean right now as I look at the (models) in everything I’m already thinking of next February, I’m thinking of Spring Fashion Week.

TBB: What color palette will you be leaning towards then?

MR: I think I really want to do something with blues and greens. Even though I know I’m supposed to be designing for the fall, you know Spring Fashion Week is all about the fall designs, I still can’t help but design for in the moment.

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To learn more about Michelle Rene’ and her designs follow her on Twitter and Instagram @michellerene5 .

Photos courtesy of Michelle Rene’ designs via Christopher Hann of Liquid Canvas Studios.

Awed By Twinning’s Shawn and Claire

Claire and Shawn Buitendorp at NYFW. Claire is wearing a skirt of their own design from their line Shock and Awww.

Claire and Shawn Buitendorp at NYFW. Claire is wearing a skirt of their own design from their line Shock and Awww.

By Tara Cushing (@TheBravoBlonde)

Fans of VH1‘s competition series Twinning, know Shawn and Claire Buitendorp, the fashion forward designing duo from the Midwest who have dominated the competition with their fair play and incredible knack for knowing one another. With one episode left, the girls are positioned to possibly win the grand prize of $222,222.22, money that would boost their company Shock and Awww, named for their opposing styles. Whether they win first place or not, however, these two are already a success in their own right. Grabbing internships with their idol, Betsey Johnson, right out of high school by forming friendships with the sales people at multiple stores, the twins have already had access to a wealth of knowledge from a fashion master. Ambition runs deep in their veins and their clothes have already been worn by Katy Perry. I spotted this dream team during New York Fashion Week when they came out to support fellow Betsey inspiree Michelle Rene‘s latest line (more on that next week!)

TBB: I’m particularly interested in twins, as a mother of twins myself. Tell me what advice, as twins, would give to parents of twins.

SB: I have the perfect answer for this! I think the best advice is to give a parent of twins is to make some choices for your twins about how close they are, but also let them discover that as well. My parents originally had us in school together, and then they said, “Girls, do you want this? Do you actually like this?”, giving us the freedom to make our own decisions. We ultimately decided that we wanted to be together. Many people think twins need to be separated to grow and become individuals, and I understand that, but again, many twins need to be together to find and realize their potential.

TBB: Why go on a reality show about twins?

SB: I have an answer for that one too.

TBB: Are you always the spokesperson?

SB: Yes, I am!  (both laughing)

CB: She is…

SB: When else do you get to be around twins in that capacity? We were surrounded by eleven other sets of identical twins and for once you’re not (feeling like) the oddity. You know, you’re “the norm” which is an amazing feeling because you can see how everyone else gets the questions you do. (They) get the reactions to their closeness that we do, and it was nice to be amongst our kind. Plus it was the first show of its kind. There had never been (other) shows dedicated solely to twins. Though it may have an underlying theme of a competition series, we were very interested in the fact that it was brand new and very fresh. And again, when do you have the opportunity to win $222,222.22?

TBB: There are a lot more multiples being born now because of fertility treatments and women having children when they are older. Do think that created a need for twins to have a greater presence on television?

SB: I think that’s a very interesting concept. I think that if you bring twins more into the…

CB: forefront and the limelight…

SB: it will give the public more of an awareness and acceptance of them.

TBB: Be honest, is there any kind of bias, or competition between those who are identical twins and those who are fraternal twins?

SB: I don’t think it’s a bias, but I think the public has a perception that identical twins are more similar and get along better than fraternal twins do. Obviously as an identical twin, I can speak for myself saying that we do get along very well and that we are very similar, so in many ways I can’t speak as being a fraternal twin, but I think the public does have that perception. Within the realm of twins, I don’t think so, because we all understand that being born together is different than being a singleton and there are always differences that will come with that. (Turns to Claire) Do you think so?

CB: I’m not saying that one is better than the other, simply that because we share so many genes, that there is a bond that is very special, it’s very apparent. It’s very special in that the way that we were given a very amazing gift to be so similar to each other.

SB: You just said very a lot!

CB: Very…very very very…you say “ummm”

SB: Okay, fine.

TBB: What is the best thing about being a twin?

SB: The best thing about being a twin is that I always have someone to have my back. I know that that’s a common answer, but it’s genuinely the truth that I have a partner in life already. In some ways that’s also the worst thing about being a twin, because as we get older, we’re 25 now, it’s hard to find another partner in life. It’s very difficult, because I already have one. I want to spend my life with another person, but luckily she fills the spot for now.

CB: I would have to say an extended wardrobe…

SB: That is true, there are more clothing choices!

TBB: What was your favorite thing about being on Twinning?

SB: I think my favorite thing about being on the show is that Claire and I are very competitive individuals and I love to prove the strength of our twin-ship. I love to prove that we are very close, that we are very in tune, and because of that, we’re able to win numerous challenges and overcome obstacles and dominate thus far. I mean we have three episodes to go, but we’re doing very well.

TBB: Would you do it again?

SB: In a heartbeat!

CB: Yes! I would say while there are certainly days where I was down, believe me the overall experience was very positive so I can’t complain and I would do it again.

TBB: So you’re 25, you’re both very young, what are your future goals?

SB: Future goals are enormous! We have our own clothing line…

CB: …which is called Shock and Awww…

SB: Shock and Awww, yes because I’m the edgy one, she’s the more feminine one, and we hope to broaden that, make it more mass market. We’d like to have a fashion show to start…and then of course world domination!

CB: We’ve started in the realm of making clothes for celebrities like Katy Perry and Little Mix and I think we’re looking to make things available to the general public because while people may like to see what Katy Perry’s wearing, they may not want to wear it on a daily basis.

TBB: Are you wearing looks that you designed?

CB: I am.

SB:  She is today, unfortunately I am not, I was a bit more practical, but Claire is wearing our skirt today.

September Raves

By Tara Cushing (@TheBravoBlonde)

It’s fall ya’ll, and as much I try to protest the end of every summer, I always surprise myself with how much I really do enjoy this season. There are some wonderful smells, foods, events, and fashions that just don’t feel right any other time of year. On that note, here’s what I’m raving about this month.

Harry & David Pumpkin Macaroon Candle

Harry & David Pumpkin Macaroon Candle

Nothing is more fragrantly fall than anything pumpkin. It’s mandatory to burn pumpkin scented candles in my home each night from mid September to Thanksgiving. This year my pick is this pumpkin macaroon (yes macaroon, not macaron) scented candle from Harry & David. Even better was the price. I picked it up from Home Goods for $5.99. It has kept my home smelling perfectly pumpkin. I may have to go pick up a second one, just because.

Rare find on Facebook!

Rare find on Facebook!

Speaking of Home Goods I’d like to give a special shout out to them and Pier 1 Imports. I recently moved and both stores have been my go to for decorating my new space, without overdoing on decor and dollars. If there’s anything I’m raving about this month it’s minimalism. I’ve always been a minimalist, but moving gave me the best excuse to purge. I got rid of so much stuff that I didn’t use via Goodwill and Facebook sale groups. I’m totally raving about Facebook sale pages. Not only was I able to get money for and recycle things I no longer needed, but I also found some great furniture that I did need. I picked up a fabulous sleigh bed for my son and an amazing (possibly one of a kind) entry table with mirror set. Check out your local Facebook buy/sell/barter pages. You never know what you might earn…or find!

Eve's Tree hoodies clockwise from top: The Sophie in Evergreen, The Ashley in Sienna, The Lisa Golden

Evy’s Tree hoodies clockwise from top:
The Sophie in Evergreen, The Ashley in Sienna, The Lisa Golden

Finding things is awesome and my favorite recent find is a small company (that’s growing larger by the minute) called Evy’sTree ( I purged I made a vow to never again buy ANYTHING unless I absolutely NEEDED or LOVED it. I just can’t take having unnecessary stuff (or spending) in my life. Well, I may not need everything from Evy’s Tree (though I have convinced myself that I do), but I LOVE everything they make, and when I love something (as evidenced by the throw blanket on my couch that I bought in college) I’ll hold onto it forever, getting more than my money’s worth. I found Evy’s Tree on Instagram while I was doing work for a social media client. They make fashionably addictive and comfortable hoodies with feminine touches like ruffles and patterned lining. I purchased one and commented about it on Twitter. After that they asked me to test run two of their products. Brilliant of them, because I’ve bought two more since. They release new hoodies each month and offer them at pre-sale prices. I can’t wait for my next two to get here. I finally can feel like I’m wearing sweats all the time, but look polished and pulled together. Prices range from $79(intro) to $119 (full). Follow them on Instagram @evystreeofficialTwitter @EvysTree and find them on Facebook. Tell them I sent you, and then thank me when you are luxuriating in the highest quality, most comfortable hoodie you’ve ever owned.

Dare Maple Leaf Creme Cookies

Dare Maple Creme Cookies

Fall flavors are fantastic. Say that one ten times fast. Costco makes a pumpkin muffin to die for. It’s one of my weekend cheats, as you all know I eat clean Monday-Friday (I need to write about that again as it’s really working, people keep asking me how I’ve gotten so slim). Another fall treat in my home are Maple Creme Cookies by Dare cookie company. I dare you to try these and not get addicted. I first had these maple leaf shaped treats on a trip to Vermont many years ago. They are extremely popular there. They look beautiful in a glass cookie jar. Tasty, and fall functional.

The Skinnygirls await my housewarming party.

The Skinnygirls await my housewarming party.

For those of us that can’t let summer go, you can enjoy the perfectly peach taste of summer year round with White Peach Margarita from Skinnygirl Cocktails. My awesome friends over at SG sent me some samples of their line to taste test on a few friends (a Skinnygirl “sponsored” housewarming party is in the works). I held a small unpacking party and this flavor went very quickly. It’s got just the right amount of sweet, which I think compliments any dessert, no matter the season!

So those are my current obsessions. Let me know what you think of them and tell me, what are YOU obsessed with? If there’s something you think I need to try for my next Rave Page give it a shout out in the comments!

Regards and hugs,