BELIEVE IT OR NOT, I get to drive through this wonderfulness twice a week to get to work and I always always think about how beautiful it would be to shoot. Last Friday, my friend Yoon came out and we wandered around Redlands and Oak Glen and finally the canyon to shoot some styled looks for Rennes before making some jewelry for the shop with my friend Cindy. It was a really really great day.
Rennes is the Boston-based brand of talented designer Julia Okun. Named after a city in France, Rennes' designs are centered around beautiful textiles like linen in wearable silhouettes and lovely details, as you can see in the leather contrast pocket of the dress and the cross back of the cropped Alexei tank. I love both pieces so much, both of which will be spring and summer staples this year. Read on for an interview with Julia about her brand and design process.
Photos by Yoon Kim (You can click the smaller images to see them full-size).
How did you get started in design?
I've always sewn as a hobby throughout my life. I remember as a kid digging through my mom's fabric scrap bin (she made quilts) and making all kinds of things. In college, I was mainly a painting major, but I took a few pattern making courses on the side and continued to pursue it outside of school as well. When I graduated, I started selling a few things online on my days off from work, and slowly I managed to make enough money to just cover living expenses. I love being creative and problem solving. If something doesn't work for a design, I like trying to figure out how to make it better. Sometimes I enjoy technique more than I enjoy designing; process is important to me.
What, if any, are your design inspirations in terms of other designers?
I've been enjoying the work that Christophe Lemaire has been doing. I love his silhouettes; I also like his idea that clothes should be timeless, simplistic, and be more about complimenting the person rather than clothing being about having nice clothes. I love the leather bags they have been doing, too, because they are all molded and there are no seams-- it's really creative and unique.
How does Boston influence your design aesthetic?
Living in Boston makes me aware of how different all the seasons are. Summers can be hot and humid, and right now we are having one of the snowiest winters on record. Because of that, I think about layering a lot. I think about how something can be worn with a coat or leggings or a sweater or how many sweaters I need wear at a time to stay warm. For my clothing line, I think that most of the pieces are versatile year round and can be worn by alone or layered with other pieces to stay warm.
What is your mission statement for Rennes?
I like the idea of anonymity. We want to make simple and well-made items that aren't necessarily brand focussed. With any brand, there is an aesthetic that is associated with the brand, but I like to think that you don't have to put a name all over something to make it worthwhile.
What other creative outlets do you have? Describe a typical day at work and also a day off.
I work so much! I usually work 10 hour days and then work when I get home too, I'm a workaholic but there is so much to do, and there's never enough time. An average workday would entail getting in around 8:30/9am, begin by checking emails and responding to as many as I can. Then I package orders for any in-stock inventory. At this point, I have my labor split between my factory (for all leather goods), a seamstress (who sews 2-3 of the clothing designs) and me, who sews the remaining clothing designs. As needed, I will sew orders throughout the day, I can do 1-2 pieces of clothing per day. Other days I will spend entirely at my leather factory (about 40 minutes away from Boston) working on things there.
On my days off, my husband and I will usually relax around the house and run errands. We recently traded in our old car and got a Jeep, which I'm really excited about. I'm looking forward to taking the top off it when it starts to get warmer and going to the beach. We enjoy doing home projects too, we built a bed a few years ago and a coffee table more recently. I love music. I used to play a few instruments and still play the piano, but I'm very out of practice.
What's next for your line?
Recently I started carrying other brands in my shop, so I think I will be devoting some time to that in the future. I was trying to find a way to grow, but I didn't have enough man power to be constantly putting out new products myself, so this seemed to be a good opportunity.
For rennes specifically, I hope to continue adding more clothing and bag styles and develop an entire line of goods. I have considered the idea of opening a brick and mortar, so there's always that possibility, too!