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.
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.